Friday 26 April 2013

The Young Siddhartha

Today is Wesak which is the day of the full moon when the sun is in Taurus. At this time the Buddha is supposed to have been born, achieved enlightenment and died, and so I thought I would mark the occasion with a little flight of fancy.

Prince Siddhartha had just celebrated his 15th birthday. He had received many gifts from his father and the courtiers who attended him. A gold bracelet, a necklace of pearls and rubies, new silk robes and a fine bow of wood and horn in the form of a serpent. Best of all was a white elephant calf given him by his father to remind him of the mother who had died in giving him birth.  Siddhartha had never known his mother but often felt he saw her face in dreams, and his aunt, who had brought him up as her own child, told him stories about her. “When we were young” she said,“ the whole court adored her for her beauty and simple grace, and, such was her goodness, I was never jealous. I loved her too.”

The presents had been given after the morning puja. Incense was burned, bells rung and flowers scattered throughout the palace.  At midday a great feast had been held in the main hall at which all the nobles of his father’s kingdom had attended. Great honour had been paid Siddhartha who was deemed shortly to be entering manhood. Indeed, his marriage was expected for the following year, and already the court astrologers were searching for a suitable bride. The rejoicing had been long but now, as the heat of the afternoon sun approached, all the guests sought shade and rest. Quietness descended on the palace with nothing to be heard but the buzzing of insects and the occasional snore from one of the more venerable members of the royal entourage.

But Siddhartha could not sleep. He should have been happy but he felt a discontent that no amount of presents or praise could dispel. “What is wrong with me?” he thought. “Why do I feel like this? I am ashamed of my ingratitude.” He looked about him at his sleeping companions. The friends of his childhood and the servants he treated as brothers were quite unaware of the shadow that fell over him. He loved them all but now he felt a distance from them that troubled him. They were content and satisfied but he, whose birthday it was, felt only a sadness made all the heavier for being unaccountable.

He wandered out into the gardens. The sun was hot and hurt his eyes. A watchful attendant who, even as he dozed, still kept an eye on his master, jumped up with an umbrella to hold over the prince but Siddhartha waved him away. He wanted to be by himself and undistracted so that he could focus entirely on what he was feeling.

He looked into his mind and tried to watch what was passing there. Thoughts came but he ignored them. The sadness rose up again but with a slight effort he dismissed it. He wanted to see what underlay these reactions of his mind to the outer world. "They are not me" he said to himself. "These thoughts and feelings are not me but what then am I?" He sat down beneath the shade of a large tree and gave himself entirely to consideration of this question. "If thoughts are not me then thinking will not show me what I am. If my feelings are external to me, which they must be because I am feeling them, then anything I feel cannot tell me the truth about myself. Thoughts and feelings are always changing but there is something else, something behind all that, which never changes. It is that I must discover and surely I can only do so when all external and internal activity comes to a halt". He sat completely still. He waited. His mind became like a deep pool with not the slightest ripple on its surface.

As if in homage to the intensity of his aspiration the birds in the garden fell silent. There was a quivering in the air that may have been the heat but might also have been occasioned by the solemnity of the moment. It was as if the whole of surrounding nature was watching, trembling with anticipation for the birth of something new.

And then Siddhartha's mind burst open. The entire history of the world up to that point and on into the future flooded into his mind and then out again in a single second. Torrents of light and colour streamed through him until he could no longer tell what was him and what was the light. He was seemingly lifted high above the world and caught up in a golden sea of blazing suns which enveloped his whole being but "This is not the end" he said, and with a tremendous effort he stayed detached from it all. He knew that this exuberant abundance of form was still part of the created world and if he reacted to it in any way, he would go no further. Then images of gods and goddesses appeared before him, some praising him for his wisdom and beauty, unequalled amongst mortals, others cursing him with terrible threats for his temerity in seeking answers beyond even their knowledge, but he remained unmoved, neither flattered by the praise nor fearing the threats.

The gods departed. Siddhartha sat beneath the tree, his mind still fixed on an unmoving point. The sun was now setting and night was drawing in. The silence deepened. Siddhartha was looking into dark space, absolutely pitch black. Within that space, he realised, was the answer to his questioning.The answer to what he was and what the universe was when all covering veils were torn away. And that answer was nothing. Pure, naked emptiness. Siddhartha understood. What else could it be? But then he hesitated. Could he leave his friends and family? Could he renounce the beauties and pleasures of the world? Before him was the void, absolute and infinite. Was he ready yet to enter? From the palace he heard his name being called. "Siddhartha, Siddhartha, where are you? Come back." He sighed and rose from his seat.

Not now perhaps, but one day he would know the truth.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Just Chemical Reactions in the Brain?

An extract from a book on the Daily Telegraph website by the geneticist Steve Jones makes clear the author's opinion that because what seem to be spiritual experiences can be chemically induced, they originate from within the brain and nowhere else. In other words, they are a figment of the imagination having no objective reality. As the article puts it, religious transcendence has a biological cause. This appears to be another example of scientists' inability to conceive there might be something beyond their power to investigate by conventional means, and that not everything can be explained by reference to the physical world alone.

It has been known for centuries that there are drugs which can give the impression of a spiritual experience to the partaker. For my generation LSD was the drug of choice. The question is does this tell us anything about the spiritual world? Does it mean that it has no independent existence and is a chemically concocted fantasy or is the drug facilitating the reception of the brain to something real beyond itself? I suppose if the answer to this could be settled to scientists' satisfaction it would have been by now but it hasn't so please let me offer my opinion.

I'll start by quoting a comment I left under the article. Apologies if you have already seen this.

'The fact that experiences we perceive as transcendent may be prompted by chemical or other physical means does not disprove the spiritual in any way. It means the barriers that exist in our brains to enable us to function effectively in this world have been temporarily bypassed.

While we are in the physical world the brain is the medium between the soul and the body and we experience everything through it. Under certain conditions it can be stimulated to receive impressions from the soul, and these impressions, while they may be (and often are) ‘corrupted’ by the brain, are real not brain produced.'

This article brings us back to the old (and very curious) desire to strip the world of meaning. Just because a transcendent experience can be initiated by physical means, we cannot reduce the transcendent to the illusion of a disordered mind. The brain is a physical thing and can therefore be affected by physical things which may make it receptive to what is beyond the physical for the simple reason that this already exists as part of the totality of our being. A part we are normally cut off from but which is nonetheless real. For we are not imagining what is not there. We are responding to what is already there, and the reason we can do this is because we are not just physical beings. We are spiritual beings in physical bodies and, when the restrictions imposed by those bodies are temporarily removed, something of our true nature can be perceived. To someone who has not had a spiritual experience this can't be proved any more than colour can to a blind person, but anybody who has will tell you that it was the most intensely real experience of their lives.

This is certainly not a recommendation to seek access to the spiritual world through chemical means. I added the following sentences to my original comment. 'It is worth noting that artificially inducing a spiritual experience will not bring about spiritual growth. It’s more likely to have the opposite effect as we may then become greedily concerned with chasing new experiences.' Drugs may give you a brief sense of the transcendent but what is unearned doesn't come for nothing. The Masters told me quite categorically that taking drugs damages the brain, and can also cause a rending of the aura or energy field that surrounds us which leads to a loss of vitality. The gains, which are transitory and largely illusionary anyway, are definitely not worth the cost.

I say the gains are illusionary and I do so because even if the drug taker believes he has broken through to a higher state of consciousness, that is not usually what has truly happened. Drug-created experiences offer an imitation of the spiritual state but not the real thing which is why I spoke of corruption by the brain. The brain may be rendered sensitive to spiritual impression by the drug but the resulting experience is contaminated to a greater or lesser degree by its artificial nature.

So in one sense the scientists are right. A drug inspired experience does partake of illusion and is, to an extent, determined by reactions of the brain to the stimulant. But in another, and much greater sense, they are completely wrong as this "illusion" is based on reality. It is just an incomplete version of reality, muddied and distorted by input from the brain.

No true spiritual teacher will ever recommend drugs as a means of spiritual growth for, quite apart from all other considerations, the spiritual path is not about acquiring experience. It is mainly concerned with the development of insight and compassion and what drug can help with that?

Friday 19 April 2013

Another Question about the Masters

Here is another question on the subject of Masters together with its answer.

Q. You say that some people who claim contact with the Masters are victims of illusion. How would you reply to people who might say that you were the victim of illusion?

A. That’s a fair question and one to which I can’t give a conclusive answer. I have described what I experienced but each reader must make his or her own mind up about that. All I can say further is, judge by the material. Subject what is said to your intuition and see if it rings true. See if it has the correct vibration. Bear in mind that my representation of the Masters, both in the book and on this blog, is my representation and therefore subject to my limitations. The words in bold type, however, are theirs and should carry something of their real presence. What's more, those words can nourish the soul if you let them. 

There’s a wider issue here. It is sometimes said that the source of a teaching doesn’t matter. If it makes sense and is found helpful, that’s what counts. And that’s true enough up to a point, but it is also the case that only what comes from a pure source truly is pure so, in that respect, the source very much does matter. Any kind of water will satisfy your thirst initially but, if you continue to drink, make sure you are drinking fresh, clean water.

I think it’s important to make people aware of the existence of the Masters but also to point out that there is the reality and there are imitations and counterfeits of that reality. and that these latter may sometimes have more immediate appeal in that they speak to the unredeemed elements in our nature, telling those parts of us things that confirm them in their beliefs and that don’t require too much sacrifice. The true Masters don't speak that loudly or that often and what they say is not always what we want to hear. However it is always what we need to know, and if we take their words into our hearts we will find them to have transformative power.

The real message of the Masters is radical, uncompromising but surprisingly simple. Abstruse occult teachings, predictions of the future and descriptions of the pre-historic past and the higher planes are unlikely to come from them. Such teachings normally emanate from discarnate beings on the mental plane who have an over-intellectualised approach to truth. But the Masters are only concerned with the budding and blossoming of the heart, and whatever comes from them is to the point and tailored to the needs of the disciple. There is no glamour to their words, and there is nothing sentimental about them. Their love, though, never fails.

A short extract from the book makes a good conclusion to these couple of posts about the Masters.

'Anyone who loves the Masters will become known to them. You may not encounter them in your outer life but you will, if you love them, assuredly meet them on the inner planes and the effects of that will filter down.  However let me sound a small note of warning. To be a pupil of the Masters demands hard work and personal forgetfulness. You will not have a constant stream of light poured down upon you but you will be required to soldier on in often trying circumstances, asking nothing for the separate self. You will not be taken on for your personal benefit but so that you may be the better equipped to serve. Having said that, there really is no greater joy than such service.'

Tuesday 16 April 2013

A Question about the Masters

I have received a question about the Masters which I thought I would include here (with its answer slightly adapted) as it falls into the frequently asked questions category. One of the main purposes of this blog is to establish the fact of the Masters' presence so any such questions are very pertinent to it.

Q. I expect that if I ask how to make contact with the Masters you’ll say it’s the wrong question so I’ll ask instead how do you get them to notice you and take you on as a disciple?

A. It is the wrong question because you don’t contact the Masters, they contact you. However you do have it in your power to initiate such a contact as you will be noticed and possibly taken on as a pupil, when you show yourself to be ready. In order for this to take place you must demonstrate the following qualities. A spiritual aspiration that is pure (you are not seeking personal power, fulfillment or advantage), a sincere love of truth, a desire to serve, and a reasonable measure of emotional detachment, freedom from prejudice and capacity to respond to spiritual impression. The intuition must be awakening and it must not be over-coloured by wishful thinking. All of that might seem a tall order, and it is a lot to ask, but the fact is the Masters do not take on as pupils those who are not in a position to benefit from their standard of training, and there are plenty of spiritual teachers to cater for people at earlier stages of the path. But don't feel discouraged by this because it may very well be that an impelling need to know the Masters indicates that you do already have an inner connection with them. Simple curiosity or desire will not suffice though.

A disciple does not always have to know that he is a disciple with the outer mind as it is on the higher planes that the bond is formed. But he will sense it in his heart. I don’t say this to encourage fantasists but to make the point that the true Master/disciple relationship is on the spiritual level. It is also the case that only those can be taken on who have some capacity for self-direction, and that means that an external connection may not be thought necessary. It might even be regarded as a hindrance in some circumstances.

I should emphasise that, to be noticed by the Masters, it is what is in the heart that is important. It's not how much you know or how effective you are in worldly terms. It is the quality of the light you shine. That is quite literally how you would come to their attention on inner levels, and then, once observed, it is likely that you would be put in the charge of one of their helpers, and your progress monitored by them, before the Masters themselves take you in hand. I mention in the book that the Masters have their helpers (who would be incarnate or discarnate disciples), and how these aid them in their work. The spiritual world is hierarchical and you can't expect to go straight to the top, though some people do expect just that. But such people should ask themselves what they could offer the Masters before thinking what they might get from them. And though I say above that effectiveness in worldly terms is not a criterion for admission to the Master's ashram, they will certainly be looking for people who can serve them effectively. So, if you wish to be a disciple, think how you might be able to help them in their work. 

The thing is if you truly love the Masters and would serve them in small things, unrecognised and unrewarded, you will come to their notice. If you just want to pick their brains or bask in their glory or feel you are one of the elite, you will have to wait until your attitude matures.

I am not trying to discourage anyone here but a would-be disciple must have a true sense of priorities, and that requires following the path not for what you might hope to gain from it but from a desire to serve the truth. 

In conclusion let me say this. Strive to raise your consciousness to the level of the Masters and you will know them. In the meantime rest assured that, if your heart is true, then, whether you know them or not, they certainly know you.

Friday 12 April 2013

The Meaning of Spiritual Experiences

Here is another extract from the book Meeting the Masters, which I include here as it follows on quite appropriately from the previous post.

'Not all my jottings down of the Masters’ words have dates to them. There are some isolated sentences that I extracted from talks for which I kept no fuller record. One such is the following statement given in response to a question about meditation. Do not seek to experience anything in meditation. That is not the true purpose of it. This is worth looking at in a little more detail.

When I first began to meditate, my aim was to experience for myself states I had read about in the writings of mystics throughout the ages, but which I also intuitively felt sure existed. In those early days this seemed to me to be what the spiritual life was all about, a progression to higher and higher states of consciousness, attainable merely by striving to attain them. Not long after I started meditation, I did indeed experience such states in which consciousness seemed to expand beyond the restricting confines of the mind and the ‘I’ dissolved (or appeared to dissolve) into a radiant sea of bliss. During those times I felt bathed in love and at one with the whole of life, potentially able to access the fount of all knowledge. Inevitably such experiences did not last long but I interpreted them as precursors of a more permanent condition that I hoped I would soon be able to access at will.

Just like me, those starting a spiritual practice frequently experience higher states of consciousness. They may assume they have entered samadhi or become one with God, or however else they may choose to express it, and that they are shortly destined to attain enlightenment. Some even set themselves up as teachers on the basis of this, thinking that one or two experiences of ego transcendence means they have transcended the ego altogether or will soon do so. The reality is more mundane. These experiences are usually more indicative of a soul beginning the path than one nearing its end.

The novice needs encouragement to begin his journey, some of which will necessarily be spent in the wilderness. He needs to find out for himself that there is a reality beyond his everyday consciousness, that what he has been told about really is true and not just the delusion of unbalanced minds so he is given these experiences by God, or by his teachers on the inner planes which amounts to the same thing. He has not earned them other than by opening himself up to the possibility of having them. So they do not reflect his attainment so much as his aspiration.

The key word here is experience. Any experience is outside oneself. Experience presupposes an experiencer and that is why I said that the ‘I’ appears to dissolve. In truth it does no such thing. Its borders may temporarily melt away but its core remains and, once the experience has passed, it can even be inflated if we react to the experience in the wrong way which, unfortunately, it is very easy to do, especially if we are unprepared and lack the guidance of a wise counsellor to keep us grounded. It is all too common for a seeker to regard as his personal possession a transpersonal state that he has experienced, and to think that because he has experienced it, he has become it, that he now, in fact, is it. To be sure, that is what he is in his essence but at this stage he has been granted but a taste and is still very much on the outside looking in. This is why it is said that the first lesson on the path is humility and the last lesson is humility too.

Many people have spiritual experiences of one sort or another. These may come through a spiritual practice or from contemplating the world of nature or at a time of crisis or just arise unbidden out of the blue. The problems start when we interpret them through the still unpurified mind/ego or when we think that such episodes mark us out as someone special.  We may jump to the conclusion that we know the truth when all we have done is seen the light shining through a door that has been left slightly ajar, a door that is still not properly open let alone one that we have passed through. Furthermore our ignorance of the hierarchical nature of spiritual states means we tend to regard anything beyond ordinary consciousness as cosmic consciousness.

What we experience in no way indicates what we are, what is known in the Sufi tradition as our spiritual station. What we are prepared to renounce, including outer happiness and inner joy, is a much better indication of our spiritual maturity. Consider this. If spiritual experiences were all that mattered there would be no need to be born into the material world but we come to Earth to learn the lessons of Earth and that we will have no incentive to do if we are bathed in bliss. It is said that it is only through separation that we eventually reach completion and it could equally well be said that only by being cut off from God can we ever truly come to know God in the fullest sense. We are like the prodigal son who had to leave home in order fully to appreciate it.

If you are serious about the spiritual path, do not seek spiritual experiences. If they come, welcome them. When they go, let them without trying to hold on to them. Do not regard them as saying anything about you personally and do not expect in this world to reach a permanent state of bliss. Sometimes it’s the least pleasant tasting medicine that does the most good, and often it is the greatest among us who experience the most inner suffering, not because there is any particular virtue in suffering per se but because the giving up of self is the hardest thing anyone can ever do and only the most dedicated are truly able to do it. Suffering is the solvent that dissolves the ego which is presumably what Jesus meant when he said that anyone who followed him would be required to take up the cross.

I am not implying that there is anything wrong with spiritual experiences or that they should be shunned or even regarded as other than wholly good if and when they come to us. They are genuine indications of our true nature and therefore should be welcomed joyfully. But they should not be sought. And if they do come it is important that we react to them correctly which is to say with reticence and humility. This, frankly, can be hard and it may be that sometimes they are sent to us precisely to provoke a certain reaction, to bring out whatever spiritual egotism may be lying dormant within us since only when something comes out into expression can it be properly eradicated.

There is nothing to be ashamed of if we do react to a spiritual experience with attachment or egotism. It would be better not to, of course, but this is probably the standard human reaction and we all react like standard (that’s to say, self-identified) humans until we learn not to. The greatest saints and sages have no doubt at one time made mistakes similar to the ones we make now. The only difference between us and them is they made their mistakes in the past whereas we are making ours currently. They overcame whatever it was in them that caused them to go astray and so will we once we learn to seek the good for the sake of the good and not for personal ends.

What then should our approach be to spiritual experiences? How should we best use them? What matters most with a spiritual experience is what you do with it and what you should do with it is seek to align yourself with the reality of which it is an expression. That means don’t seek to repeat it but seek to become like it. Look upon it as a message calling you home and so grasp the truth that it is first and foremost a summons to work. For the spiritual virtues do not come as a result of spiritual experiences. Rather that of which a spiritual experience is only a reflection will come when you have acquired the virtues.

And so, to return to the words at the beginning of this essay, what is the purpose of meditation if it is not to gain spiritual experience? It should now be clear that the primary purpose of meditation is to deepen our contact with the soul and allow its influence to soak into our mind so that gradually we may become it. However on this path motive is all and the reason we meditate matters as much as the fact that we do. By going into the silence we can uncover our true self but unless we do so with a pure heart we will just be constructing a metaphysical Tower of Babel and so will not succeed in this laudable aim no matter what we might experience.'

Monday 8 April 2013


I was recently asked a question about meditation and it was suggested I put the answer up here as it might merit wider circulation. I hesitated initially because I’m not a teacher of meditation and don’t feel I have anything particularly original to say about it. On the other hand, I have been practising it for thirty five years so maybe that counts for something. For twenty five of those years I sat in meditation twice a day, morning and evening, for up to an hour at a time, but latterly my approach is less formal, and I tend to meditate when I can and for shorter periods. But that just reflects my circumstances and is not intended to indicate any kind of pattern to follow. I mention it only to point out that meditation is an individual thing and, whilst a disciplined attitude is essential, we should never be rigid in our approach. That’s not to say we needn’t bother with meditation if we feel tired or lethargic since often the effort to overcome inertia will create its own energy. But I would counsel against a force-based approach. Meditation is not a military campaign. Practise with diligence but let things happen naturally and at their own speed.

I have no particular system or technique to offer but then I don’t really believe in systems or techniques when it comes to spirituality. Certainly, we need a method to practise and one that is based on a correct understanding of the spiritual path and the relationship of the mind to the soul, but it's the application of the method that matters. Equally important is the motive behind that application. So select a method that suits you but remember that with meditation it’s not so much what you do but how and why you do it.

Let’s start at the beginning. What is meditation? One way of looking at it is as a kind of fasting of the mind. The mind is the barrier to the soul. We cannot become truly aware of the soul while the mind chatters away like the proverbial drunken monkey. That is a fundamental principle of mysticism. So meditation is reducing external and internal distraction to a minimum until nothing remains but the essential. It is a stilling of the activity of the mind so that the spiritual presence behind mind can be known. Normally we are totally absorbed in the ever changing world of phenomena. This is the world of maya as it is called in Vedanta, illusion when looked upon as real but having its own relative reality when seen as the expression of what is truly real. Meditation is the attempt to perceive what is truly real. It is the way we move beyond the phenomenal world into the world from which phenomena take their rise and back into which they fall. But this movement requires us to go nowhere and do nothing other than to sit still in silence.

To some people this seems distinctly unappealing, an apotheosis of negativity. But the emptiness aspired to in meditation is only such when viewed from the perspective of a creature bound to time and identified with form. Time implies constant change, no rest; form demands restrictive limitation, no freedom. The meditative state is actually a state of plenitude because when you reach no thing you come to the root of all things. That primordial ground is perfect peace and total oneness with the source.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. That may be the goal of meditation but is not necessarily how we should think of it to begin with. The chief purpose of meditation is not to be bathed in bliss but to deepen our connection to the spiritual self so that awareness of the soul can permeate our everyday life. The eventual aim is that, instead of being personalities aspiring to the soul, we can become souls operating through the personality. With that in mind let’s turn to practicalities.

I said earlier that meditation is an individual thing and I can only tell you what my approach to it is. However there are certain basics that should be observed and I will set them out here, though I’m sure most readers will already know them as well as I do.

Start off by finding a quiet, peaceful place where you won’t be disturbed. If possible, use the same place every time and don’t use that place for anything else so you can build up a holy atmosphere. People say you should be able to meditate anywhere and that may be so but really the right atmosphere is important. Sit comfortably with the spine straight so that you stay alert. Sit cross legged if you prefer. Burn incense if you like.

Commence your meditation with a prayer or invocation to God, the higher powers or however you conceive the spiritual world. Dedicate yourself to that world in humility and reverence. You are not trying to gain anything. You are entering into a sacred space.

Breathe in deeply, imagining your body to be filled with light. Breathe out, exhaling all the impurities that clog up your mind and body. Avoid thoughts but if they come, don’t fight them, just try not to follow them as they flit across the screen of your mind. Focus on the rhythm of your breathing. Be calm, calm, calm. Feel gratitude and love as you breathe, and try to enter into the stillness and silence that are to be found when thought stops. As an aid to concentration you could focus on a spiritual image or holy person or maybe something from the natural world that reflects a higher reality such as a star, the sun or a flower. It need not be static. It could, for instance, be a fountain of light, gushing forth abundantly and without cease.

Visualisation is a technique favoured by some people whose normal life is so active that they find it hard to turn off. Perhaps in the past, particularly in Asia where meditation was most established, people led simpler and quieter lives so shutting down thought was not so much of a challenge. Today in the busy modern world it can be almost impossible for some people. Visualisation can either be concentration on an image as above or, if even that is a problem, it can take the form of an imaginary journey, though this should include traditional symbols as these have power to open the inner worlds. Picture yourself following a path. It stretches to the horizon. The sky above is vast and a vivid blue. Take that path and see where it leads.

In meditation you can ask your inner plane teachers a question to do with your spiritual practice. Hold the question in your mind and, as you do, attune yourself to the vibration of the Master. Keep your mind empty but alert and wait for a response to come. If you find yourself distracted while doing this then try the following exercise.

Imagine yourself entering a beautiful walled garden through an old, wooden gate. You unlock this gate using a key that you find in your hand. Roses bloom and you can smell their delicate scent. There is the humming of bees and the cooing of doves but behind that you are aware of a silence that almost throbs. A warm, bright sun shines. You walk deeper into the garden and the quietness increases. You come to a pair of seats, side by side but facing different directions. You sit down in one, close your eyes and wait. Presently the Master appears. Try to picture his face, wise and kind, with eyes that look right into you but which you know you can trust completely. Ask your question.

It is said that in the Kali Yuga, which is the time of spiritual disconnection we find ourselves in now, spiritual practice is so hard that all we have to do to make progress is call on the Lord’s name. When I was younger this seemed a little too devotional for my tastes, which inclined more towards the knowledge of God than the love of God. Now, a little more battle-scarred by life in this world, I see the wisdom behind it. Its virtue is simplicity. You choose a name that speaks to you and, as you repeat that name, you put your full focus on the spiritual energy of which it is an embodiment. Choose an existing holy name because holy names do have sacred power. Truth is beyond form but some forms do embody truth while others do not.

My correspondent expressed a concern about malicious entities that might possibly seek entry to the psyche during a period of self-emptying. I wouldn’t worry too much about malicious entities. They do exist but they can’t do much, especially if you sincerely consecrate yourself to the divine. Be aware of them but don’t be concerned. The Masters told me
to imagine an armour of light around me that would protect me from the evil influences. This armour of light, if firmly held in the imagination is a real thing which dark powers can’t penetrate because the vibration is too high. You don’t have to imagine it all the time but you could visualise it at the beginning of your meditation session and then again at the end as you close down. Regardless of malicious entities, it will attune you to the higher powers.

These are the basics of meditation. Don’t try to force the process, and if it becomes a struggle then just stop for the moment, but be persistent in your practice. Don’t complicate things. Stick with the simple. Stillness, silence, peace are the keywords and what could be simpler than that? You are not looking to experience a higher state or for anything extraordinary to happen. It may do but I would tend to be suspicious of extraordinary experiences in meditation which usually relate more to the psychic world than the spiritual.

Meditation should not be divorced from prayer. At a time when I thought they might, and that prayer was for people who weren’t ready for the inner path, the Masters reminded me that even the greatest saints prayed. In fact, prayer and meditation are not so very different. You might even regard them as active and passive aspects of the same thing. In both it’s the attitude of reverence towards the sacred that matters if you wish to make it a proper spiritual exercise and not simply a quest for reward. The Masters once told me that anything I prayed for in humility and sincerity I would receive. Of course, if you really are praying in humility and sincerity that will determine what you are, or are not, praying for, and perhaps the only thing truly worth praying for is the restoration of the link between the incarnate soul and God.

I'll leave the last word to the Masters. They may have spoken these words to me but they apply with equal truth to everyone.

Call on us during meditation and we will rend the veil that separates you from us.

Thursday 4 April 2013

The Buddhist Error

In the course of a discussion on karma recently the question of who or what experiences this karma came up. The answer is delightfully simple. Any karma I make now I will experience later. If this later is in a future life then the form that 'I' takes will be different, but the individuality behind it will be the same. Critics of reincarnation maintain that any future incarnation of a person cannot be the same person as the one in the current lifetime and that invalidates the whole concept. This may be true as regards the outer person, but there is a soul behind that outer person, referred to by the Masters when they told me that the greater part of you remains with us, and that is the same throughout the series of lifetimes. The person called William Wildblood was born at a certain time and will die at a certain time and that will be the end of him, though he may carry on for a spell in the psychic world. The soul behind William Wildblood, however, endures and will send down another aspect of itself to experience a new life. It will continue to do this until such time as that soul attains liberation.

According to Buddhism there is no 'I'. Our sense of self is an illusion based on faulty perception. An individual is no more than the combination of the five skandhas or aggregates of existence which can be summarised as 1) the physical form, 2) the emotions and sensations, 3) thinking and conceptualising, 4) habits, prejudices and will (grouped together as psychological formations), and 5) consciousness as reaction to the six external objects which are those associated with the five senses and the mind. These are regarded as empty, using the classic Buddhist term, in that there is nothing real (as in an individual) behind them. Rather it is they that create that idea. Buddhism is not nihilistic because it says that there is a reality beyond this (that's the whole point of it, of course) but the individual has no part in this reality.

This is very good theory and sounds intellectually rigorous enough to be true but it is not true, not the complete truth anyway. Where our individuality is concerned, the whole is not just the sum of the parts. There is an individual soul and that is not an illusion. It was created, so it cannot perhaps be said to be more than relatively real, but it is not unreal. Ultimately, of course, there is only God or the Unborn, Unmade and Uncompounded, if you prefer to think of it in those terms, but existence is not made up of the absolute alone. It is a combination of the absolute and the relative, and the two together make the whole. You cannot deny either one of them, even if you must see the relative as an aspect of the absolute and not real in its own right.

What this means is the following. Out of the Unmanifest Absolute comes the creator God who creates the manifest universe out of his own being. Why? Hinduism calls this his play (lila), Islam says that God was an unknown treasure and desired to be known. I would say that either there is no reason, it is just what is (if something is possible then it must be); or, less unhelpfully, that God desired to become more which he could only do by creating self-conscious individuals, that’s to say, multiplying himself; or again, that it is only through manifestation that there can be love, beauty and joy. So God created individual souls in order to achieve these things. They are real. You are real. But (and here is the critical point and one on which the Buddhist position is correct), you are only relatively real. Your goal is to outgrow your identification with the limited, individual self and realise yourself to be the Universal Self. But that does not mean that the dewdrop slips into the shining sea and is no more because if it did then what would be the point of creation? Identification with self is transcended but its quality remains as, unless we are to disappear into pure formlessness and no longer be, it must. It is seen in an entirely different light and is no longer the centre of our being but it remains as our expressed self. You might think of the realised soul as Janus-like in that it looks two ways, inwards to the absolute where there is no self or rather One Self, but outwards too where the individual still exists as a particular expression of the absolute, its focus on a unique point.

In the book Towards the Mysteries the Masters make the following statement. God made man Individual. Krishna was Individual. Muhammad was Individual. Christ was Individual. As, of course, was the Buddha. This was the raison d'etre of creation. One of the most repeated sayings of these Masters was that we should be individual without being individualistic. The Masters who spoke to me had the most wonderful individualities but they were not identified with those. They lived and moved and had their being in what they would sometimes call the Most High. Paradoxically they were more fully individual than anyone I have ever met, and it occurs to me that it is only when we have transcended our limited focus on the personal self that we can be a true individual. We need to go beyond the individual and not be bound to it, Buddhism is right there, but individuality  is not an illusion. It is, in fact, the basis of love and love is at the heart of creation.

I have no desire to get caught up in theorising about ultimate reality but I do think it important to get at the truth, and that is why I reject the Buddhist doctrine that self is an illusion. It is very possible that more souls have reached enlightenment through Buddhism in the past than any other way, but the introduction of Buddhist thought to the Western mentality is not without its problems, and the main one is the misapplying of ideas that relate to the plane of the absolute to the relative plane.

In a nutshell, I think there is confusion in Buddhism between the ego and the individual. The ego is an illusion born of identification with the mind. It is our creation. But the individual soul is the creation of God. God multiplied Himself to become More, this was why He created. Yes, in absolute terms there are no individual selves and we must come to realise our identity with that primordial state but, until the universe slips back into non-being, the so called Night of Brahma, the absolute is not all there is. Maya exists. It must be seen through, and we should not be bound by it (which is our current condition), but it cannot be denied.

If there is no self then who attains Nirvana? You might say that the realisation of the non-existence of the self is Nirvana but then you also have to ask what realises this non-existence? In one sense it is, of course, the Self realising the Self as, ultimately speaking, that is all that can ever be, but the Self knows itself eternally anyway. In terms of this realisation, it is a specific individual that has realised its oneness with the universal Self, and that individual is now for the first time truly undivided which, after all, is what individual actually means.

We are made in the image of God. God has individuality and so do we. There may be something beyond this but that does not mean that it is not real.