Spiritual Vacation for a Globalized World
The Lightful Castle of Emptiness
„The capacity of the mind is as great
as that of space. It is infinite, neither round
nor square, neither great nor small,
neither green nor yellow, neither red nor white,
neither above nor below, neither long nor short,
neither angry nor happy, neither right nor wrong,
neither good nor evil, neither first nor last.
All universes are as void as space.
Intrinsically our transcendental nature is void,
is empty and not a single thing can be attained.
It is the same with the Essence of Mind which is
State of Absolute Void, of Absolute Emptiness.“
(Buddhism, Sutra of Hui Neng )
World’s Religions are intelligently organized memberships expressing a certain variety of culture, rules, rituals and belief systems. Belief is not faith. The word “to believe” relates to “to love” in the sense of “to praise”. Faith, however, originates from the Latin word “fides” and ultimately means: confidence. Confidence is not a ritualized belief programme, but a human attitude of confident surrender to the presence of the Original Source.
Jesus Christ e.g. has neither established a religion nor a belief system but a pathway on which one can walk in confidence and reach the Kingdom of God within (see Luke 17,21).
„I am the way, and the truth, and the life“ (John 14,6).
The word religion has its root in the Latin verb „religare“, i.e. to re-tie, to re-connect.
Re-ligion is the re-connectedness with one`s original source or the re-linking with the ground of being, the essence of life, the most interior dwelling place in one`s heart where one can find God or the Ultimate and Infinite Reality.
Religion is the indwelling place of ultimate communion with one´s Self, our Original Source and the whole creation. Religion can only be communicated or expressed in dynamic silence and through radiating the quality of non-judgmental being. In Christian terms we may call it „the purity of heart“; it is that precious room of everlasting vacation at zero costs, the emptiness, the void, sunyata, where the cleansing and purification of our overfilled inner box will be changed into and charged with the fullness of life.
There are no religious leaders in our world, but spiritual masters who would show us the secret of breathing. Spirituality (Latin: spirare = to breathe) is the mystery of becoming reconnected with the breath of the cosmos, the original rhythm of nature. In- and expiring requires a non-active activity and aware-ness. Whereas in- and exhaling are just physiological processes to supply the organs of the body with oxygen. Breathing is not a technique as such. It is the greatest challenge of surrender, of letting go, of letting take over, to reach with confidence home inside. There is no other home than the indwelling place of vacation. On the spiritual level we experience that we do not come from somewhere, that we do not need to go anywhere.
We are at home where we are.
Lao Tsu says so wisely in chapter 47 of the „Tao Te Ching“
„Without going outside,
you may know the whole world.
Without looking through the window,
you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus the sage knows without travelling:
He sees without looking;
He works without doing.“
The above lines of a sage indicate that religion cannot not be found on the tempting stage where global players try to disconnect humanity from its divine centre.
We need more than ever before authentic spiritual masters who withstand all political and diplomatic formats, who see their responsibility to guide people on their individual pathways to religion.
Religion is not a commodity which can be marketed like any other product.
Happy are those who know how to experience everlasting vacation, the castle of emptiness where our original being is at home. I have the great pleasure to add a new and apparently very logic word to the existing English and American dictionaries: lightful (full of light).
The English word delightful is misinterpreted as pleasant, charming and does not represent the light precisely enough. When we say: I am delighted, it should mean: I am full of light, but we understand thereby: I am highly pleased.
Light is reflected on a wall. Why should we venerate or revere the wall? Real worship means to be attentive to the light.
All human beings who risk to walk on a very challenging path and embrace through their experience and love many hearts around the globe are lightful. My tribute here is focussed on Vacation, the Emptiness, the Void, Sunyata -- the indwelling place which becomes lightful at the moment of experiencing the no-thingness.
Vacation is totally misunderstood as a period off from work and daily duties into a new venture of sensations. The word vacation is etymologically rooted in the Latin verb: vacare = to get emptied, to be freed, to become free from obsessions.
Vacancy, to vacate, vacuum; all these words primarily deal with cleansing and emptying.
Vacation could be absolutely free of any charges and costs if we knew how to enjoy real vacation.
But too many are horrified by a vacating, emptying process which we call in Latin: horror vacui. If we avoid something, we try to circumpass the Void, the Sanctuary of Emptiness, our Original Home, our Divine Source of Being. Holidays, Holy Days and Vacation have been used as places to escape from ourselves, and thus the distance between the location of our sensations and our inner centre gets longer and longer. In Buddhist teaching we learn to take refuge in the Buddha and in the Sangha (the community). A true Christian must understand and know, that the Kingdom of God is at hand, at the present moment, here and now.
The spiritual master will not attract anybody by tempting offers for sensational holidays and experiences. He will only invoke in his disciple`s heart the eager longing for Returning Home, for attaining Nirvana, for touching and tasting the Void.
Contemplation, the non-active activity, the non-thinking awareness, the vacant room without any objects, leads us into the Void, the healing emptiness, Sunyata (Sanskrit).
Contemplation (Latin: contemplatio; Greek: theoria) is totally different from meditation which is a reflective activity on the way to the inner centre. The Greek verb theorein means to look into the essence of being, to see with the eyes of the heart, beyond reasoning and focusing on any object. Contemplation and theory do correspond with the Japanese Buddhist term of kensho, the experience of enlightment.
The intense inner wakefulness, the state of non-judgment and non-discursive thinking, will eventually result in Brahmavidya (the knowing of Brahman). Brahmavidya and conventional science both begin when a person finds that the world of sensual impressions, so transient and superficial, is not enough in itself to satisfy the desire for meaning. Then one begins to stand back a little from the senses and look below the surface show of life in search of underlying connections. But the sages of the Upanishads wanted more than explanations of the outside world. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is a long haunting exposition of the states of mind the sages explored. They called them waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep, but somehow they had made the brilliant observation that these are not merely alternate states which a person slips in and out every day. They also represent layers of awareness, concurrent strata lying at different depths in the conscious and unconscious mind.
In dreaming, the Upanishads observes, we leave one world and enter another. Everyone experiences this, but no one knows the experiencer. What is the same in both worlds, the observer both of waking experience and of dreams? It cannot be the body, for in dreams it detaches itself from the body and senses and creates its own experiences – experiences which can be as real, in terms of physiological reactions, as those of waking life. Dream and waking are made of the same stuff, and as far as the nervous system is concerned, both kinds of experience are real.
The sages said:
In dreamless sleep, the observing self detaches itself not only from the body but from the mind.
Since the indepth castle of any human and/or sentient being is empty, there is no place for dreams anymore. In dreamless sleep and in deep contemplation the mind settles down to rest and in this state the autonomic nervous system is repaired. This still world – the silence beyond the silence – is always present in the deepest, most universal layer of the unconscious.
„Be still and know that I am GOD!“
The Latin Vulgata, where the Psalms have a different order, says relating to Psalm 46,10 in Psalm 45,11:
„Vacate et videte quoniam ego sum Deus“,
which means literally: „Become empty but see, that I am GOD“.
The imperative form „vacate“ is the clear invitation to become vacant, empty.
Wake up in this state, the Upanishads say, and you will be who you truly are, free from the conditioning of body and mind in a world of unbounded by the limitations of time, space and causality.
Vacation is the most precious and permanently available gift at no costs, but a great risk, the risk to touch unknown territory: the VOID, where emptiness becomes fullness and fullness becomes emptiness.
That fullness the Upanishads call sat: absolute reality, in which all of creation is implicit as an organism is implicit in the DNA, or a tree in a tiny seed. The joy of this state cannot be described. This is Ananda: pure, limitless, uncon-ditioned joy, which my spiritual master, the Benedictine monk and sage Dom Bede Griffiths (1906 – 1993) represented so authentically through his being.
„There is no joy in the finite; there is joy only in the infinite.“
That is the message of the Upanishads. The Infinite – free, unbounded, full of joy – is our native state. We have fallen from that state and seek it everywhere: every human activity is an attempt to fill this void. But as long as we try to fill it from outside ourselves, we are making demands on life which life cannot fulfil. Finite things can never appease an infinite hunger. Nothing can satisfy us but the re-union with our Real Self, Divine Source, Original Being, which the Upanishads say is:
Unconditional Joy and Bliss.
We are called to rediscover the deepest realm within ourselves which is our native state. Dom Bede Griffiths often recited his beloved passage from the Chandogya-Upanishad:
„In the castle of Brahman is a secret dwelling,
the lotus of the heart. Within this dwelling
is a space, and within that space is
the fulfilment of our desires...
Never fear that old age will invade that castle;
never fear that this inner treasure of all reality
will wither and decay. This knows no aging
when the body ages; this knows no dying
when the bodies dies.“
Our native state is a realm where death cannot reach, the void, our vacation are not subjected to any kind of time and space. We may enjoy, if we want, everlasting vacation here and now.
„When all desires that surge in the heart
Are renounced, the mortal becomes immortal.
When all the knots that strangle the heart
Are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal.
This sums up the teaching of the scriptures.“
Vacation, Ultimate Reality, is a hidden mystery. We are invited to enter the lightful inner room of emptiness. If we become ONE with our inner temple (Latin: cum templo), we live in that awakening state of contemplation, beyond concepts and thoughts, beyond the wheel of birth and death, beyond all duality which normally keeps us in an environment of judging and evaluating. We should leave the world of images and pictures which create maya, illusion. The void does not project anything, it just is. The void does not create sensations. If we watch a movie the screen does not produce any of the images and impressions we are confronted with. We are the projectors when we watch a movie. And such images are not real. The screen remains undisturbed and non-impressed by any movie. The same applies to the void within ourselves. As long as we take in pictures, images, concepts, thoughts the empty screen is covered with sensations. Only when the waves of a lake come to a complete standstill, the lake can reflect the shining moon in his fullness.
Immortality is a Lightful Experience
Do not avoid the VOID. Enjoy it!
N.B. to avoid means: to be against the void, the emptiness
In order to enjoy the blissful realm of the void, the eternal present moment, one should evidence a conspirational attitude in the deepest sense of the word. Conspiration is not a criminal or political plot, but the common experience of inspiration, of Atman, of the Divine Breath – spirituality at its best. We do need spiritual masters who will give us spiritual remedies. A remedy is not a medical drug in the first place, but the return to the middle, to the inner centre: Latin: re = backwards, inwards; medium = middle.
We do require professional guidance to return home to our original source, to the eternal here and now, to our indwelling divinity. Mystical practice does not take us into any paraphenomenal worlds, but just in to that hidden inner castle, the Castle of Brahman.
"The purpose of creation was
that man should become like GOD,
sharing in his wisdom and immortality,
but this can come only as we surrender
all the powers of our being, of body and soul
to the power of the Spirit within."
From a spiritual point of view what matters is not transmigration, or an after-death: what matters is immortality, and this is not a long life, or many lives, or a life after death. Immortality is Atman, the Spirit of Eternity within our mortal body and our mortal consciousness. Only in GOD there is immortality, beyond the birth and the rebirth of life. That is why the spiritual masters always give us a sense of practical wisdom.
They do not want words: they want life, immortal life.
Kabir, the Indian saint and poet (1440-1518), tells us:
"Listen to me friend: he understands who loves."
For love is a beauty which is joy, a beauty which is truth. The truth of love is the Truth of the Universe, it is the lamp of the soul that reveals the secrets of darkness. And this love must be found in this life. That is the real message of the spiritual teachers.
The love which is the joy of the Infinite, the Ananda, the bliss of Brahman, this love that is GOD, is here and now.
All the universe has come from love and unto love all things will return.
„Speech is the organ of the present world,
Silence is the mystery of the world to come.“
(St. Isaac the Syrian)
If one acts for the sake of the reward in a heaven, you may get what you desire, but this is not a contemplative act – i.e. a loving act, the whole concern of which is for the thing being done, with no preoccupation with acquiring perfection or attained reward. When contemplatives eat, they eat; when they sleep, they sleep; when they pray, they pray, as the masters remind us. They act under sunder warumbe, „without a why“, as the German Dominican and mystic Meister Eckhart would say. The contemplative cannot conceive of what is meant by an after-life, as if the life now witnessed were not life, the Life, the thing itself. According to most traditions, the contemplative experiences Reality, God, Heaven, Brahman, Moksha, Nirvana, Satori, Realization, the Truth, Being, or Nothingness here below, in the very act that is being performed, in the very situation that is being experienced. Con-templative life is already a heavenly status, a final life, as the mystics will say. St. Isaac of Syria, a desert monk in the Eastern Christian hesychast tradition, will speak of the inner chamber of the heart that is the chamber of the heaven: „For the two are the same and one entrance leads to both.“ And if this is not the case, if there still remains something to desire, you have not reached contemplation.
„Nirvana is samsara and samsara is nirvana“ affirms Mahayana Buddhism.
A desire for anything, even if it be the desire not to desire, is already a sign that you lack the contemplative spirit, that you have not attained that holy indifference so much stressed by the Ignatian and Vedantic spiritualities, which transcends all differences to the point that the contemplative is seen to go „beyond good and evil“, as the Upanishad says. If you do something which you think is wrong, then of course you are not beyond good and evil. One may question that it is possible to go beyond good and evil but, granted this possibility, the concepts of good and evil are no longer adequate to describe an act which has supposedly transcended both. „These two thoughts do not occur to the realized: I have done evil, I have done good“, clarifies the same Upanishad text. (Taittirya Upanishad)
Contemplatives do not need the Heavens above because to contemplatives everything is sacred: they treat sacred things as profane. They eat the forbidden bread, burn holy images and do not keep the detailed precepts of the sabbath. Why? Because they treat all profane things as sacred. The contemplative`s heart is a „heart burning for every creature, Men, birds, animals, for demons and all creation“ as the Christian desert fathers will affirm. (St. Isaac, quoted by Callistus and St. Ignatius in „Writings from the Philokalia“).
„So in heaven as it is on earth“ (Matthew 6,10).
Contemplation is not worried about tomorrow, it does not concern itself with reaching nirvana or conquering heaven. This is why the contemplative does not quarrel about doctrines. The mystic will accept the given doctrines but his faith will not entirely depend upon them. The faith of the mystic goes deeper than the demands of a belief-system. Doctrines are crutches, or at best channels or glasses, but do not encompass walking, the water or the sight implied in these traditional metaphors. Dogma is hypothesis, “opinion” (in the original sense of this word), not true seeing.
The word immediate is commonly understood as at once, but it literally means: without a medium, without any mediator, direct experience.
Modern men may not believe in a God who rewards or punishes, and not care much about a Heaven above, but most modern actions are done with an attentive eye on the moods of Mammon, who punishes and rewards, and who is not above but „behind“. Contemplatives are impervious to such incentives. They have discovered in their hearts that makarioi, happy are the poor in spirit.
And even when the contemplative is actively engaged in something which concerns the future, the act is performed with such absorbing interest in the present moment that the action which follows is truly unpredictable. The contemplative act is creative, a new beginning, not a conclusion.
Ultimately you have no way to go, no place to reach.