The Buddha’s One Noble Truth?

In his 1958 classic “The Philosophy of the Buddha” Prof. Archie J. Bahm analyses the most ancient Buddhist scriptures (“Sutta” and “Vinaya Pitakas”) and suggests that during his 40 year career as a teacher the Buddha only taught one single universal Truth: unfullfilled desire causes frustration and the rejection of frustration is the source of suffering. According to Bahm, all other teachings including the “Four Noble Truths” and the “Eightfold Path” must have been later added to the philosophy by “other minds” due to misunderstandings of what the Buddha was trying to convey.
Now, you may ask, what is so hard to understand about the fact that unfulfilled desire causes suffering? By digging into the problem of desire more closely one easily understands why.

If the cause of suffering is unfulfilled desire, the solution to the problem must be to stop desiring. Simple as that. Simple? Not quite. Basically there are two ways of stopping desire: one either gets out of sight of the objects of desire (seclusion) or one tries to beat desire (asceticism). However, neither of these two approaches really work as the Buddha found out for himself during his pre-enlightment spiritual seeking. On the one hand, some basic desires such as food and sex are not extinguishable as long as one is still human. On the other hand, the desire to stop desiring is still a desire, just a more subtle form of it. So, it is impossible to willingly not desire, because that would be a desire! Furthermore one could argue that stop desiring is not even really desirable as desires provide motivation and fulfilled desires provide satisfaction. By creating emotions, desires are life-affirming.

So desire, when not fulfilled, provides frustration. Stopping desire, though, is life-negating and actually impossible. Not so simple, is it? This is were the genius of the Buddha comes in. He discovered the “Middle Way” between desiring and desiring not to desire. Here is how it goes: if we always desired exactly what we are getting, we would always get satisfaction and the sensation of being alive. Or in other words, if we always accepted everything AS IT IS (within and without), which includes the suffering, we would be free from suffering and live in joy.

Hold on, you may say, how can one accept everything without desiring to accept everything? Of course you are right, accepting without desiring to accept is impossible. Whenever you want something, you desire it, and since trying to not want is also a desire, the attempt will cause endless frustration and suffering. It’s like trying to relax a muscle by forcing it to relax. It just won’t work.
Nevertheless, there is a way the get into the “Middle Way”. It’s a paradoxical way, though. Once the desire to get into the “Middle Way” (or any other desired state) is completely broken, one automatically falls into it. Again, because this “break” cannot directly be achieved by will-power, the way “there” is to either completely exhaust the will to get “there” by trying as sincerely and forcefully as possible (remember the Buddha had his sudden enlightenment at the moment of renouncing 7 years of hard-core asceticism!) or by thoroughly realising by other means that the YOU has no power or control over the process of accepting or desiring. The former way is nowadays practised in Zen (e.g. with “koans”), the latter in Advaita (“SELF-realization” aka “there is no YOU”). Both, the exhaustion of the will or “Self-realization”, leads to a surrender to WHAT IS, which paradoxically, yields exactly what one was desiring to get but what one actually prevented from getting by the very desiring (or desiring to not desire) to get it!
Now, to make the long story short, the surrendering to Samsara (the world AS IS) is the way to Nirvana (desiring WHAT IS). Samadhi is the complete willingness to accept the actual as the ideal. The crux, though, is that surrendering cannot be achieved by the individual (“ego”), one has to be pushed into it, as it were, by some sort of grace in the form of will-undermining insight(s).

Finally, why does Prof. Bahm conclude that this is the only Truth that the Buddha taught? First of all, the Buddha was concerned with one thing only: the cessation of suffering. According to the records he stated this very clearly. Then he discovered that the only solution to the problem of suffering lies in surrendering to the present moment (WHAT IS). So, everything that was not concerned with the present moment like concepts of the past (e.g. “karma”) or the future (e.g. “reincarnation”) or any other metaphysical speculation (e.g. the question of the “soul”) he did not deem helpful for solving the problem of suffering. Therefore in the ancient texts the Buddha never answered any questions of that sort. He neither denied nor affirmed these concepts. For the Buddha in the oldest scriptures, the existence or non-existence of metaphysical entities and ideas simply did not change the fact that to end suffering one had to come to surrender to whatever IS in this very moment no matter what the cause or effect of this present moment was. By implication, this also means that as long as one’s ideas lead one to align one’s desires with WHAT IS, any “Truth” would be as good as another.
For the very same reason the Buddha also refrained from stating anything idealistic or from proclaiming any sort of higher virtues (e.g. he never idealised a monastic lifestyle or compassion). Whatever IS is to be surrendered to to end suffering. That is the full story of the teaching in the old texts. All else, including all methods and “Paths”, must have been added later by disciples not fully understanding the full depth of “whatever IS” (on the other hand, though, one could easily conclude, that all Buddhist methods and concepts must have been created to completely frustrate the seeker and/or make him experience his lack of power to get to Nirvana in order to bring him to the very brink of it).

Additional personal note: the old-school philosophy of Buddha portrayed here can be criticised for the lack of moral outrage at the obvious evils like cruelty in the world. If one, for some reason or other, though, cannot surrender to the present-moment because of its monstrosity, and suffers as a result of it, one could still surrender to the non-surrender and the suffering, and therefore transcend the suffering. Hence, accepting “whatever IS” is not fatalistic. One can have an (unfulfillable) desire for a world without cruelty and not suffer, if (s)he can surrender to the frustration of this unfulfilled desire.
This little conundrum also explains the difference between before and after getting into “surrendering-mode”. “Before” one suffers over one’s frustration and because of that one starts suffering over the suffering, and suffering of the suffering over the suffering, etc. Suffering creates a downward spiral, a grip, if not surrendered to. “After” one may be frustrated (because of one’s unfulfilled desire) but one does not suffer over the frustration because the frustration is accepted. The spiral of suffering stops right there.
Furthermore, allthough I think that many of our desires actually stem from our fears and insecurities I see the Buddha’s point in not being concerned with the causes of desire, as the causes could be indefinite. Instead he went right to the immediate solution: accepting whatever IS includes one’s suffering caused by one’s fears. Quite smart the guy…
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Depression

I have lived with a depressed person for a while. And although I have only personally experienced mild forms of depression, my friends illness clarified a few things for me about the nature of suffering which I would like to share with you out there.

First of all, what is a depression? For me, it is the painful sensation of life’s “pressure” due to a person’s inability or incapacity to flow with it. Life happens but the person resists, tries to desperately hold on as (s)he does not accept the impermanent nature of life. And this resistance to life is what manifests as suffering as it creates contraction in the body-mind, shuts the depressed person off sensually from experiencing the wonders of being alive and sucks him or her out energetically.

If you read my blog you know that my mantra is to say “yes” to life, to first understand it and then accept it. The reason for resisting (saying “no”) is always rooted in fear and fear is rooted in misunderstanding life. We usually find it easy to understand the “positive” aspects of life but we completely misunderstand the “negative” and so our fears and our resistance arises (I call our tendency to resist and clutch “ego”).

So what is it we do not understand?

We think the “positive” is independent of the “negative”. As we take a stroll in the woods we may be enchanted by the beauty of nature ignoring the fact that “behind the scenes” organisms are continuously fighting for survival. But the beauty of nature precisely hinges on the principle of the survival of the fittest. If you say “yes” to nature but “no” to the darwinistic principle you are being contradictory and will be hopelessly confused about life. Same applies to human qualities. If human beings had no means of being aggressive, we would not be here now capable of enjoying the world. Let’s face it: whatever exists has its place and makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Everything (including the “positive”) is the way it is, because everything (including the “negative”) is exactly the way it is. Or “this is this, because that is that”, as the Buddhists say.

Because we fail to see this interdependence we think that the “positive” and the “negative” are engaged in an epic battle against each other and that the “positive” can (and must!) win. This is the oldest story ever told. The quest to get to this place where the “good” will permanently prevail within (e.g. new-age “enlightenment”) and without (e.g. “heaven”). But that’s an impossibility because the “positive” can never take over the “negative” as they depend on each other. Like one side of a coin can never take over the other. Hence, trying to win this battle will forever frustrate us. It can’t be done. Life is the whole works, it includes light and darkness. For how would we define “good” if we could not contrast it with “bad”? The sense of darkness gives rise to the sense of light and vice versa. Eradicating something must ultimately eradicate its opposite as well. Take away one side of a coin and you don’t have a coin anymore. So, as we go on tackling this futile task of seeking “heaven” while rejecting “hell” we roam in the cycle of suffering that the Buddhists call Samsara (consequently, thus from a Buddhist standpoint even the angels have not transcended Samsara but are only temporarily in heaven). Hence, depression is another word for being very tightly stuck in Samsara.

Sometimes, though, being stuck is part of the way forward. The spiritual literature abounds with people having awakened in midst of a depression as they got so exhausted that the tendency to reject the flow of life (“ego”) just stopped. In these situations the biblical statement “thy will, not mine” reveals its deeper meaning.

To conclude, some wise words from the Buddha, the first systematic psychologist in history. His whole teaching can be summed up as follows: as long as we are too ignorant to notice that everything continuously arises and passes away in mutual interdependence, we are caught in grasping and rejection which leads to endless frustration and suffering.

Let things be and you have arrived.

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Question & Answer (2)

Is the ego a mistake?
No. Its biological function is survival. First of all, if we had no concept that trying to stroke a predatory animal could be dangerous, our species would have died out long time ago. Since the universe runs on a constant amount of energy, life necessarily needs to live on other life. Every organism has to die, otherwise there would not be “room” for new organisms. However, to be able to grow old enough to pass on its genes (and raise its next generation to maturity), every organism is endowed with a survival mechanism. The psychic tension that is created when we experience something which puts our organism at risk serves exactly this function. The ego’s job is to react to the tension and find ways to release it (e.g. by getting out of the danger zone, eliminating the danger, etc). It is an automated mechanism by which the organism learns to survive long enough to continue in the form of its progeny.
The existential problem starts when we are conditioned to experience irrational fears (e.g. the fear of death, the fear of minorities) and thus develop a rigid set of “right” vs. “wrong” concepts (e.g. laziness is bad, thin is beautiful). Every such dual/ polar concept is a seed for irrational psychic tension to arise when it is triggered by inner or outer circumstances. Usually in our over-civilized and over-conceptualized world, by the time we are into our 30ties, our ego is almost constantly “active” trying to find ways to deal with these accumulated, irrational fears and out-of-touch-with-reality concepts.

Am I a puppet of the universe or am I the master? Is there free will or not?
Both, the ideas of fatalism (puppet) and free will (master) are based on fear. The source of this fear lies in the notion of an independent agent, a separate “you”. But you are an inter-dependent agent. Look at the ocean. Does the ocean push the wave or the wave push the ocean? Neither/ nor because ocean and wave are one inseparable process, the same “thing”. So, the wave is neither the puppet nor the master of the ocean because it IS the ocean.
A fatalist person tends to feel like a victim, is amotivated and depressive. A mastery-type of person tends to live a life of struggle to one-up on himself and his environment. The person who transcends the notion of separateness, though, becomes autonomous, that is, free from the urge to hide from or dominate his life.

If I start to live by letting things happen, will I become passive?
No. As you are liberated from the urge to compulsively control and justify yourself, a lot of previously wasted life energy is freed up. However, what seemed important before (e.g. possessions, status, satisfaction of desires, etc.) may lose its appeal. So often, ambition, restraint or the need for gratification are not pursued for their own sake (that is, because one enjoys it) but have their source in a feeling of lack or fear. They are dysfunctional “survival” (ego!) strategies which weaken our organism as they suck out lots of life energy. When we make these strategies and their underlying beliefs conscious, see that they are socially conditioned and realize that they are self-defeating, we clear them from the organism.

What do you mean when you say “everything is One” or “non-dual”?
Very simplified, physics tells us that energy is vibration (a continuous interval of “on” and “off”) and that all matter is energy. So everything is vibration (think of Shiva’s dance!). What is suggested here is that fundamental to existence is a uni-form field of vibrations (the uni-verse). Reality as we know it manifests itself by certain vibrations of this field being picked up by our sense organs and processed by our brains (if our “receivers” were different it could be possible to see or hear radio-waves or x-rays, for example).
Given that our bodies, thoughts, feelings, etc. are also vibrations, we are basically vibration perceiving vibration. Or in “non-dual” lingo: We are all that IS, perceiving itself through itself.
It is important to realize that although absolute reality is “not-two”, for a reality to manifest there needs to be a relationship between two seemingly separate things: receiver and received; self and other. Maya, the illusion of duality, is a necessary mask of the universe to be able to discover itself. Duality is the stage from which to depart on this amazing adventure called life.

What do you mean when you say “there is no time”?
Time is the notion of a progressive series of events. But what if there was no such progression because all these events are not happening in a series of different moments but in the very same (endless) moment? The present moment is like a TV screen that can show millions of movies without fundamentally changing. It is forever still, the same, while at the same time it can forever host motion and alteration.

Is there cause and effect?
On a fundamental level, the answer is no. If there was cause and effect, there must have been a first cause that brought the universe into being (something like the “Big Bang”). But if that was so, what could have caused this first cause? There is no solution to this problem unless we assume that something can start out of nothing. So, there must have been something always. Hence, the fundamental reality, the uni-form field, is uncaused.
It is also forever unaffected, itself, because it is the only thing there is. Causes and effects refer to two different manifestations which are, however, in essence one and the same thing. So, fundamentally, causes are caused by themselves and effects affect themselves. While “things” happen, nothing really happens.

Is there death?
Since the separate self is an illusion, dying is an illusion.
What then is that which we call death? Let’s look at the ocean-wave example. A wave is defined as a form consisting of a trough, a crest and another trough. It is a certain configuration of the ocean. Now, the only constant in the ocean is continuous change of configuration (because the universe is a vibratory thing). So, we could say that the ocean is constantly wave-ing.
Similarly, we could say that the universe is constantly materialize-ing, gas-ing, light-ing, heat-ing, liquidize-ing and therefore flower-ing, animal-ing, people-ing, etc. All these forms in the universe are void of inherent, that is, independent existence just as a wave is not inherently different from the ocean. What we call death is simply the transition of one form of “spirit” (or energy/ vibration) into another. And because this fundamental essence of being never depletes, the universe will not disappear either. It will just keep changing its configuration. Forever, and ever and ever.

What changes when we embrace change?
When we don’t, we are involved, that is, we struggle in vain to always stay on the sunny side of life. E.g. we spiritual seekers try to stay in a happy, aware, meditative mood always, although that’s impossible. We want just the “good” without the “bad”. This is Samsara.
When we lose the fear of change, that is, when we do not object to it, though, we transcend Samsara, because we are not involved anymore. With non-involvement I mean that there is no more struggle, no more “self” (ego).
So, in a way nothing changes: changes still happen. After the sun comes the rain. But in another way everything changes because we are at peace, in non-objection to whatever is (ourselves!). And this peace, this not wavering, is the anchor to the “now”.

End of Part 2

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The Trick Of The Trade

I have written on this blog much about (self-)acceptance, letting go and surrender to “what is” as the key tenets of spirituality. At the same time I have tried to convey the point that acceptance, letting go and surrender is not something we can do, force or bring about. There is no way we can help ourselves on the path to enlightenment. In fact, the very trying is what makes it completely unfeasible. We have to trick ourselves into it somehow.

Because that is so, any spiritual method, in one way or another, tries to undermine the “ego”, that is, our reflex to control and manipulate our experiencing of “what is”. Therefore, I have tried to show you either that there is no separate “you” (wisdom about life) or that the world exactly as it “is”, the full catastrophe, is perfect (love for life).

This time I will try to synthesize these two positions, the position of (non-dual) wisdom and (dual) devotion. I will do so by trying to prove that the “we” (the “ego”) has no control whatsoever over our experiences and that this is no problem at all. To me, this is the ultimate trick of the spiritual trade.

Let’s start with our five senses. Do we have control over the experience of seeing, touching, hearing, smelling or tasting? No, we don’t. Our senses can’t be shut down (only blocked). Even if we are not conscious of hearing, touching, seeing, smelling or tasting (because we may not pay particular attention), unconsciously the gates of perception are always wide open.

Let’s now consider thoughts. Can we not think of a pink elephant while we are reading this line? No, we can’t. Thoughts constantly arise from the depths of the unconscious. We have no control as to what thoughts arise at what time. Can we stop thoughts? No. Since the “we” is itself a thought, “we” trying not to think thoughts just creates more “we” thoughts (thickening the illusion of a solid “we”). Stopping thoughts is as impossible as licking our own tongue. Try and you’ll notice it will just create motion in your mouth. A thought (the “we”) can never control another thought (it can only replace it).

What about feelings? Feelings are regulated by thoughts which are the mental precursors to physical sensations: when we have “good” thoughts we feel good and when we have “bad” thoughts we feel bad. As stated above, thoughts arise from the unconscious and are uncontrollable. Hence, we have no control over our feelings either.

What all this proves is that just as we cannot be spontaneous on purpose, we cannot influence our sensory perceptions, thoughts and feelings. We cannot want to be spontaneous because both, spontaneous and unspontaneous acts always happen spontaneously, that is, without our implicit consent! Likewise, we cannot want to change our experiences, because they always happen no matter how we feel about them! Think about it.

And it gets even more interesting as we delve deeper into the subject. As we understand that thoughts determine how we feel and that we have no control over our thoughts, the “we” is naturally inclined to try to change how we were conditioned by our parents and society (our “judges”) to interpret our experiences. We know, that if we reject our experiences, we suffer. So, we may think: “Let’s accept it all, “good” or “bad”! Let’s surrender to everything! Let’s go with the flow!” Of course, though, not controlling is as much an “ego”-trip as controlling since any intent to do something about our experience is a total denial of “what is”. Trying to accept and surrender logically implies a stance of non-acceptance and non-surrender. No matter where we turn, there is no way out of this “double bind”. Whatever option we chose, controlling or not controlling, we can only go wrong. “We” are trapped.

At some point (for some after many, many years of struggling!) it will hopefully dawn on us that there is nothing “we” can do: no controlling thoughts and feelings, no “be here now”, no “going with the flow”, no letting go, no surrendering, no (self-)accepting, no (self-)improving, no spiritual method, no absolutely nothing at all that will work to “advance” on the spiritual path and find peace of mind! Of course, having truly realized this IS the ultimate disillusionment, the death of the (imaginary) “ego” that the spiritual path is all about!

To know that nothing can be done to change one’s experiences coupled with the wisdom that the universe, with its interplay of light and dark, is perfect in design leads one directly into the hands of (self-)acceptance and surrender. There is no more grounds for objecting to anything! All is, and has always been, as it was supposed to be! And even if we wanted, it couldn’t be changed anyhow because the “we” is (just another experience and therefore) absolutely powerless. There is no need and no capacity for change, ever.

In reality, all that “is” is this divine “No-thing” experiencing itself through itself. We are the container and the contained. We, the universe, move(s) through ourself. With this realization, the dis-ease with “what is” in this present moment ceases and we leave our futile struggles to find salvation in the future behind. And this is non other than the most natural human condition. Or nothing special, as they would say in Zen.

“Unless you make tremendous efforts, you will not be convinced that effort will take you nowhere. The self is so self-confident that unless it is totally discouraged it will not give up. Mere verbal conviction is not enough. Hard facts alone can show the absolute nothingness of the self-image.
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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The Fire of Awakening

An awakening is typically characterized by a glimpse of the non-dual nature of things. That which is experiencing (Atma) is realized to be the same as that which is experienced (Isvara) because all is an expression of this ‘One’ infinite and everlasting field of pure potentiality (Brahman) that can manifest as any form or phenomena.

Awakening ultimately is the realization that the stories of the mind are devoid of any reality, or Truth, since they are the stories of an illusory, separate and, thus, fearful entity (ego) which is constantly compelled to improve, control or manage its seemingly separate environment to feel secure.

The glimpse into non-dual reality usually marks the start of a process towards full establishment in Truth which can take anywhere from milli-seconds to years to run its course. The ‘processing-time’ is typically defined by two variables: the depth and resilience of the psychological ‘stuff’ (karma) that needs to be seen through and the ‘force’ and vividness of the awakening(s). With ‘stuff’ I refer to deep-seated thoughts and behavioral patterns that manifest in our lives as uninvited ‘hang-ups’ and as psychological suffering.

What the awakening shows us is that our ‘stuff’ is fundamentally unreal, illusory. This doesn’t mean ‘stuff’ will not show up anymore or that we will never again get suckered in by its illusory power (maya). But as we now ‘know’ the Truth, we have an anchor insight which remind us that the fundamental beliefs causing our ‘hang-up’s’ are simply not true.

So, the awakening, in a sense, is what ignites the fire that (in a mostly painful but ultimately healing way) burns all our delusions and leads us into a state of acceptance, surrender and inner harmony and peace.
Unfortunately, there are only a few things we can do to accelerate this ‘burning’-process. One thing is to fed the fire. Obviously, the more we hide from painful situations or dis-own the suffering that they bring about, the less ‘stuff’ we expose to the fire. A lot of spirituality is, thus, developing an inquisitive warrior-spirit which supports us in facing the suffering and to look carefully at the stories that come attached to it. The other thing we can do is to constantly remind us of the Truth that we have discovered. The greatest Yogi’s have always said that most of what we can do is abide in the Truth and let the rest take care of itself. Everyone has got the ‘stuff’ that he’s got. Hence, everyone is on its own schedule in this. Patience is paramount.

As the process of de-delusioning deepens, the mind-driven individual that we once used to be naturally transforms into a more and more sense-receptive being. As this unfolds, just being and rejoicing in the Truth, that is, one’s Self, becomes enough. We start to live for life’s sake, with all its ups and downs, not to reach a certain goal.

Most people get a sense of it as this process is coming to an end. It is not going to be a ‘big bang’ kind of event, no diplomas are handed-out, there won’t be any standing ovations and we don’t suddenly get a shining halo around our heads. It is more likely going to be a silently approaching notion that sneaks up which tells us that the ‘stuff’ has probably run out. We’ll never know, though, if and how much more pockets of ‘stuff’ are hidden in the unconscious somewhere which could be triggered by some internal or external occurrence. But in our everyday lives we feel pretty much free of delusional ‘hang-ups’ and live in the non-dual Truth that all there is and all that we need, is always and forever right here and now.

So, whenever this post-awakening process weighs you down because a big chunk of heavily defended delusion is washed up into your consciousness, relax. Just remember what is true and it will eventually dissolve on its own. Rest assured that the day will come when you realize that you must have crossed the “finishing line” without even noticing it, because at some point you had become so care-free that you stopped caring about arriving anywhere anymore. One day between washing dishes and bringing out the garbage you must have unconsciously made complete peace with the ‘Now’, uneventfully claiming your birthright of freedom from unnecessary suffering.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn’t hear the music.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche


The ‘Holy’ Grail

Before you read on, close your eyes quickly and ask yourself: what is the most important thing in life?

I bet you did not come up with specific acquisitions or achievements but with something emotional, something related to the quality of your experience, like to love, to live your dreams, to be of service to others, etc. What this little thought-experiment shows is that what we all seem to be striving for in life is not to accumulate ‘things’ or ‘success stories’ but experiences of life. Or in short: the most important thing in life is to be truly alive.

To truly live does not sound to be too hard a thing to accomplish, doesn’t it? The great Oscar Wilde would have disagreed, though, stating that “to live is the rarest thing in the world – most people exist, that is all.” Why is it, then, that although we are striving for more ‘life’ in our lives most of us seem to fail quiet miserably at it and end up merely ‘existing’?

The quest for the elixir of (more) ‘life’ is a recurring mythological theme. In the Grail legend, for example, there is the fisher king who reigns over a kingdom that has degenerated into an infertile wasteland ever since he had gotten a mysterious injury for which there was no cure. Only the legendary Grail was said to be able to heal the king’s wound and thereby restore the kingdom to its splendor of the old days. While the wound in this myth symbolizes the king’s impaired capacity to fully experience life (his kingdom!) in all its greatness, the Grail is that which can bring back the juice into a lifeless existence.

So, what is the ‘holy’ Grail? Where can it be found? In the Grail legend, the knights of the kingdom in demise who are called to find it, all set out in different directions. That is to say, the Grail can be found in many places. If you read my last post about the different ‘Way’s of the Bodhisattva’ you know that I posited that the Grail, whose healing powers are none other than those of the ‘Now’, is present in any self-referencing and self-sufficient activity or symbol since either possesses the capacity to -at least temporarily- cut through the subject/ object duality which otherwise covers the ‘Now’ in a thick cloud of fear and desire.

What the Grail legend with all the ordeals the knights have to go through is also telling us is that to live, to be truly alive, we first need to make sure we are facing our experiences. Although that sounds rather straightforward and easy enough, it actually isn’t. Because non-disalignment with our experience means that we not only ‘flow’ along with ‘pleasurable’ experiences but also with the ‘unpleasurable’ ones. It means saying ‘yes’ to everything. If we repress or hide from ‘unpleasant’ experiences, we become emotionally and experientially numb. Just like in the story of the fisher king, any inability to properly attend to our emotional pain slowly grows into a disability turning our worlds, our kingdoms, into dry wastelands ruled by hidden dragons in our unconscious. The famous motivational speaker Jim Rohn was spot on when he said that “the walls we build around us to keep the sadness out also keep out the joy”.

While the ‘artistic’ knight may use his or her artistic craft to deal with and release emotional pain, the ‘spiritual’ knight, lacking such a craft, heals his- or her psyche by surrendering to and, thereby, accepting all experiences unconditionally. (S)he does so by cultivating non-judgemental awareness to all that ‘is’. This cultivation, sometimes called ‘meditation’, reaches its climax when (s)he identifies with the indiscriminating, unconditionally loving awareness itself or, alternatively, when (s)he has realized that all that ‘is’, even the ‘unpleasant’ experiences are non other than the fundamental reality (emptiness) manifest as relative reality (form).

Surrendering is the process of purification (or purgatory) any ‘spiritual’ knight has to pass through to be eligible for the final, grand at-one-ment. The deeper (s)he dares to surrender, the more deeply buried, repressed emotional pain and trauma is released from the darkness of the unconscious to be subsequently burnt in the light of consciousness. As the difficult ‘healing’ process in this ‘dark night of the soul’ progresses, resistance to the phenomenal world starts to fade, calming the ‘spiritual’ knight’s mind and gradually tearing down the imaginary walls that create the sense of an isolated ‘self’. As a result, the whereabouts of the Grail become more and more intuitively known.

No matter how much the ‘spiritual’ knight surrenders, though, the notion of subject-object will still hold, and as long as this is the case, thought-waves of separation will have a recipient, a shore to crash upon. The ‘spiritual’ knight who wants to get hold of the Grail once and for all and, thereby, become a sage, thus, needs to go one final step further: the notion of a subject surrendering to an object has to let go of. (S)he needs to realize his- or herself to be inseparable of all that ‘is’, of this ‘One’ which encompasses both, ocean and waves, emptiness and form, of ‘That’ which is no-thing because it is every-thing. In this realization the ‘self’, finally known to be illusory, a mirage, ‘dies’ to be resurrected into the ‘spirit’. Henceforth, thought-waves ridden by fear and desire originating from the trance of separation between the individual and its environment, simply fade out in the vastness of the ocean unclaimed. Surrendering then becomes an impossibility, as it is known that there is no-body to surrender to any-thing since there is no-thing apart from every-thing (which of course, and quiet paradoxically, is the most complete form of surrender). In the discovery of the ‘un-reality’ of the self, the ‘holy’ Grail naturally reveals itself as having never been lost, yielding its boon to the ‘spiritual’ knight of being able to peacefully rest in the abundance of the eternal ‘Now’.

“What we are really living for is the experience of life, both the pain and the pleasure.”
~Joseph Campbell

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