Insights on Sufism by E. L.

Levi

Musa Muhaiyaddeen (E. L. Levin)

Musa Muhaiyaddeen (E. L. Levin) is a direct disciple of the Sufi mystic and teacher Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. He met Bawa Muhaiyaddeen in 1972 and studied with him until Bawa Muhaiyaddeen left his earthly form in 1986. He now shares what he learned during the 14 years he spent at the feet of his venerable teacher. He has traveled to Africa, Europe, Asia and throughout North America speaking on the teachings of Sufism. The International Association of Sufism (IAS) has published his book: On the Road to

Infinity, which is a compilation of talks given by him on Sufism in various venues throughout the world. His insights on Sufism are now available online at www.thewitnesswithin.com and are presented in audio, video and print format. He has made numerous trips to Mecca and Medina and has taken hundreds of people with him on the pilgrimage. He is co-president of the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship. He is married with 3 children and 6 grandchildren.

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In the name of God the most merciful and the most compassionate. Sufism is a state of being – not a philosophy. One studies Sufism to change from insan (man) to insan kamel(perfected man). It is about leaving the illusory world and entering reality. It is about becoming peaceful, tranquil and loving. It is about understanding the qualities that are related to reality and differentiating them from the ones that bind us to the illusory world. To become a perfected man, one must know the portions of the self that are capable of merging with reality and differentiate them from the rest. Man must learn to identify himself with that which he actually is as opposed to identification with his temporary, illusory nature. The intent of the material on this website is to aid in the process of coming to know the true self. Each talk is a meditation on a specific aspect that assists in gaining knowledge of the true self. They are about the difference between reality and this illusory world in which we live. The talks are not scripted. They are meant to be listened to in their entirety in one sitting which is the way they were presented. The essays are edited talks. They were spoken and then worked on by an editor to put them into appropriate form for the written page. Each one of these talks usually covers one point of understanding, and their effect is cumulative. It takes listening to many of these talks and reading many of the essays in order to get the thrust of what is being conveyed. The talks are downloadable, and the essays are printable. They are meant to be used in whatever format is most convenient for you.
E. L. Levin (Musa Muhaiyaddeen)

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About Us
A Short Explanation about Sufism, the Author and the Intent of this Website In the late 1960’s my circumstances and point of view led me to question the reason for my existence. I began on a course to find answers to these questions. I found that these are, in truth, some of the most complex questions that we can have. Questions like, why am I here? What is the purpose of my creation? How was I created? What is my purpose in existence? Where do we go from here? What is the purpose of this body? What is our true relationship with the rest of mankind? How are we supposed to act? What does a human being who understands the answers to these questions look like? What is the essence of one who understands the answers to these questions? In this search I came upon the Sufi Saint Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. I met him on Easter Sunday in March of 1972. The interaction had a profound affect on both my wife and myself. We both realized that we were in front of a being who was different than any being we had ever met. Even though he was from a culture that was entirely different from our culture and spoke a language that we did not understand, it did not interfere with the fact that being in his presence made us feel like we were at home. For the first time in a very long time I felt I had arrived at where I needed to be and there was really nowhere else to go because it was all right here. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen returned to his native Sri Lanka from the United States shortly after I met him and returned to the U. S. in 1973. As soon as he was back, we went to see him and he brought us close to him, directing us to meet with those who were interested in his teachings and share what we were being taught. We spent from 1972 to 1986, when he passed away, under his direct guidance and influence. Over the years, we understood that the essence of his teaching, which is called Sufism, is a touchstone to reality. It is the heart within all matters; it is the heart within all religions. It doesn’t belong to anyone, but it teaches everyone. The teachings are loving, tolerant and magnanimous, generous, trustworthy and gracious. The teachings are given from our Lord as a gift to bring us closer to Him. Over the last 20 years or so, I have made pilgrimages to various parts of the world. I began to speak about the experiences I had and knowledge I had gained from my time with Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. We have traveled to Asia, Africa, Europe and throughout North America to many different countries and locations, speaking about Sufism. In the last seven or eight years, we have had weekly encounters with a small group of seekers of truth wherein we shared our understandings and experiences. Recently some of these people have suggested that we begin an internet site wherein these encounters could be shared with a larger audience. We share these insights as a student with other students. The learning process never ends. We are all initiates on the path. It is our responsibility to share what we have received with others. We agreed to begin this website. We ask the blessings of our teacher the Sainted M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. We ask the blessing of all of the prophets. And we ask the blessing of our Lord in this endeavor. May it be of benefit to the people in this world.

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Divine Intervention

Why do people come on pilgrimage to the burial places of certain holy beings, why do we come there to pray? We come to acknowledge there is a world beyond this one. We believe what the prophets have told us, what God has told us through all the prophets, that there is a world to come after this world. We believe there is a connection between these two worlds, that the next world can inspire and influence this one. We believe that at places of pilgrimage we are closer to that other world. There are countless numbers of hypnotizing illusions and deceptions in this world. This means, in part, that there is an enormous amount of worldly static, influences from this world which are overwhelming. They capture us, hypnotize us, magnetize us, they lure us into various aspects of creation where we are enchanted, engrossed, and in a very real way, made sluggish, reduced to a state of torpor. We might come to a point at which we are so engulfed by these things they control our lives. We think we control them, but they actually are in control of our lives; we are so fascinated by these illusions we are committed to them instead of anything else. What are these things? They are different for each of us because we are all caught in different ways. The forces of darkness and illusion attack us at the point of our weakness and drag us in their direction. Our differing weaknesses depend on the way we

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have been raised, where we have been raised, what our culture is like, the sort of religion we have been brought up in. Our differences mean we are caught in different ways, but the point is we are all caught, we have all been caught by the world. We visit holy places to remind ourself that something else is going on although we are caught by the world; we visit such places to escape from things which have trapped us, hoping for moments of clarity or divine intervention. We go there hoping to have God interfere with our lives, we go to have God intervene in our lives, we ask Him to intervene in our lives. Now the interesting thing is that He is always involved in our lives, there is not a moment when He is not involved in our lives. We say prayers to invoke our God who is the creator, the sustainer and nourisher, the compassionate One whose mercy and compassion constantly sustain us. If He were to withhold sustenance for one second the world would no longer exist, but since we have lost touch with the reality of His existence, we ask for His intervention. What are we actually asking for? We are asking that the hypnotism which has snared us in this world fall away, asking so that we can see reality, so that we can be in the moment which understands His grace, His glory and His involvement with us. We recognize the truth that this reality is always there, but we are not there, not there because we have chosen to be not there, or perhaps we have been so overwhelmed by the forces of the world we cannot involve ourself with Him. When we recognize this we go to a place like a shrine where we can remind ourself of our connection to God, our connection to the prophets and the great holy beings, our connection to the friends of God and all those who keep trying to intervene on our behalf. We have to learn how to intervene on our own behalf, take control of this intervention so that we learn how to make the experience at the place of pilgrimage happen more often. This means realigning ourself, letting go of the things we consider important in our life, even if only for moments at a time. We have been told that the best form of meditation is the constant repetition of the prayer that only God exists, we do not. If we can understand this prayer and practice it a little every day, changes occur, practicing this of course, in addition to all the other prayers and duties we have. The understanding that only God exists means all the other things we are concerned about do not exist—our ability to let go of these things is directly related to our ability to be in the moment, to exist now, not in the past or the future, to exist within the light of His grace at every moment instead of struggling to find it. People trying hard to stay afloat in a difficult situation are helped significantly if they have something in the water to keep them afloat, like life buoys, a life jacket or something else to hold onto, almost anything to help them stay afloat. We have been given things to help us stay afloat, we have been given many things to help us reach the shore in this ocean which is illusion. We have been given all those divinely wise beings, we have been given a path which has a foundation, a form we can hold onto as we reach for the space with no form. Because we ourself have form, it is difficult for us to relate to formlessness, we need help within this form, we need sanctuary within this form. The place of prayer is a sanctuary, a meeting place is a sanctuary for this form, friends are a sanctuary for this form. When we gather together with people who understand formlessness, who understand the need to escape to reality, they buttress us, they keep us from floundering. We come together to help each other recognize the truth, and when we love each other for the sake of God, this love carries a warmth, an invigorating fire which helps each of us turn more easily to Him. In this way we become God’s assistants, helping in His work of returning us to Him. This is our work, to help each other with a smile, a hand, a good word. When we approach this work in an appropriate way it can have visible results, such a positive effect it overrides many of the fascinations of the world which capture us. Once we begin to understand, we are drawn to this kind of work, to this kind of situation. What is this prayer called the remembrance of God? It is the prayer of remembering moments when we are free of the world, only in moments when we are free of the world do we remember Him. We need to remember Him and those moments when we are free of the world, the path to Him. The straight, true path lies through moments which are free of the world, moments when

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we are together with friends who are friends and companions in the name of His love. When love enters the equation, when we learn to love for the sake of love and not for the sake of other things, when we learn to love for the sake of the truth in each of us, for His sake, for the sake of the great holy beings and the prophets, everything inside us begins to change, we begin to melt. And what is it that melts? The lower self melts away, the thing that grasps the world and wants to hold onto it, savor it and collect it begins to melt. God’s hands replace the hands of desire. We have to decide whose hands we use, do we use the hands of desire or the hands of our Lord? What does our Lord want, what do our base desires want? There is a difference. Once we recognize the difference we drop certain things we can no longer hold onto because of the stench within them, the seductive outer perfume no longer hides their inner stench. We need to see what really matters. Our time in this world is allotted, we do not know how much there is, but we do know it has an end. Where are we at that end, who are we at that end, what have we collected by then? The love in our hearts stays with us, His grace stays with us, the truth of His existence stays with us. If we focus on that, if we focus on Him we change, our life changes, the life of the people around us changes. There is a transformation, a glory and light beyond our imagination, beyond our ability to think. We are limited by what we can see, hear and feel, but when He intervenes there are no limits. When He touches us there is no end, there is no beginning, there is endless glory which comes from Him alone, which is His, which He has given us, made our birthright. This is available if we stop holding back, if we run towards it, excited because it is available and we have discovered its availability. Sorrow must disappear, we have to shout our joy that we recognize God, we recognize He is here, He created us, He nurtures and sustains us, we recognize that His secret is hidden within us, a secret which will unfold. When this secret unfolds our true glory is known, the glory of each of our companions is known and visible on all our faces. We need to look, we need to look for that glory. As we walk down the street and pass by other people, understand that glory exists within each person; recognize it in ourself and in others. We have to keep resentment away, keep jealousy away because they separate us from God. We must not be separate from Him, we must come close to Him. By coming close to each other we come close to Him. May God help us come closer to our companions in love, may He help us form strong relationships in this world based on love, based on His rule. May He intervene in our lives to bring us closer to Him.

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The Meaning of Pilgrimage

What is the meaning of pilgrimage, how did it begin, why do we go on pilgrimage? It began when the prophet Abraham came to visit his son and together they built the first house of God. Abraham told his son it would be a place of pilgrimage for all those who believed in one God; it did become a holy place, it remained a place of remembrance for a long time. Later, when belief in one God was lost in paganism and people worshiped many deities, God’s house became a temple for many gods. They worshiped idols but it remained a temple, a place of reverence without understanding. When the monotheist rituals of Abraham were restored by Muhammad, this was a problem for those who had earned their living from all the tribes who came there to worship their gods. But today’s pilgrimage re-creates what Abraham did, today’s ritual is an imitation of Abraham. Imitation is interesting, it is an act of becoming, redoing, joining, melting into. Now this ritual is performed attempting to imitate what two prophets, what Abraham and Muhammad both did. Pilgrims walk in the steps of Muhammad who walked in the steps of Abraham. The point here is continuity, nothing new, a re-creation of an ancient observance, pilgrims declaring themselves to be of that lineage, part of that continuity, the truth which has always existed. Imitation is the act of becoming what existed before. There is a story here to illustrate this point, a story about an enlightened teacher called John. His disciple Michael was running around town shouting, “I’m John, I’m John!”

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Some of the other disciples reported this to the master, “Michael is running around town telling everyone he is John, talk to him about this.” The teacher replied, “I’ll talk to him when he comes back.” Then when Michael returned he sat them all down before him, “The other dervishes tell me you are running around town saying you are John. You should all be running around town saying you are John, you should all become John!” This is a central understanding of the path, we all need to become the innermost part of our enlightened master, we need to imitate him, be like him, become him. In the long tradition of reinforcing what existed before us, walking in the steps of those who came before us, being in the way of what came before us, we can be in the way of God; if we get in His way enough we will bump into Him. We need to be in His way, we have examples of those who have been in His way. We should be in His way and love each other as we love those who are in His way, love each other as enlightened beings have taught us to love. In that love our true grace, our glory exists. If we are incapable of wakening that love, bringing it to fruition, we cannot be in His way. One characteristic of certain enlightened teachers is their ability to love strangers, they have the capacity to love people they do not know, they love them, give them attention and sympathy, listening to their problems as if they were the only problems in the world. Do we give ourself to our companions that way, give ourself to those who come our way? This is what the great luminous beings do, they come to dispense love, they plant love in the heart of every person they meet. They plant love by being love, nothing more, just the transcendent state of being which elevates all those who come near. If we are going to follow this path we are obliged to do that too, this love should grow in us, we should be able to love others. Reach a point where this love begins to live, it exists within us, call it up and use it. If it is so hidden we have lost touch with it we must uncover it, learn to respect ourself and the dignity of others. We need to dignify ourself with that love, understanding it in such a way that we can be appropriate inwardly and then outwardly with others. Have the dignity of that love, learn to give it to others, be the dignity we offer. Can we imagine any more dignity than God Himself has, can we imagine His representatives without dignity, without the calm strength or the qualities which make us want to be their companion? If we want to walk in the steps of the holy ones, if we want to imitate the prophets we have to adopt their qualities, the love, the kindness, the tolerance, compassion and mercy, all the qualities which give dignity to others, which encourage their growth as true human beings. We do not make a child mature by beating it, we do not help our friends by berating them, we do not create good relationships in our household by shouting at our wife or husband. They say that half the path to purity lies in marriage because here we have an opportunity for a deep, close relationship where we can treat each other with dignity, we can treat each other in an exalted human way with the qualities of God. If we cannot do this at home we cannot do it at all. Most people seem to have only one kind of relationship, one they repeat again and again with everyone they know. Since we create it, we ought to establish what that relationship should be because we have models of what it could be, models we can to imitate until we become that model. This is a process of becoming. Let us ask each other what we are becoming, what we intend to become. Intention is important, it is the first step and part of every other step we take. If intention is tied to the self, to self-importance, self-gratification, things of the lower self, actions coming from that intention will always be impure. We have to cleanse our motives and cleanse ourself with constant vigilance, understanding why we do things—the reason is relevant. We have to correct that reason, check our motives, be clean. There is a reason why we are supposed to wash, a reason why we have rituals of water

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in the religions, a reason for all this washing. We need to cleanse ourself repeatedly, cleanse our motives and our lower self, selfinterest, desire, the things we think we need, the things we want. Someone who does not want anything worldly is empty of such needs. If we have no individual need or will, no motive or desire, we can be filled with the qualities and the will of God. If the qualities of God become who we are, these qualities engage the actions of God; when our actions are no longer ours, the qualities become the duties of God, duties we no longer perform for ourself. God does not only live in us, He lives through us, He must pass through us which means we have to be empty. We need to be empty and stay empty: being empty once does not mean we necessarily stay empty, there must be nonstop vigilance. Even great teachers have lost their way with a moment of indulgence, they did not maintain a state of emptiness. To understand pilgrimage, to understand what the prophets did, the steps they took, we need to take the same steps, walk together with those who took them before, with those who walked for Him. When we understand this we understand all moments are the same, all time is the same. Know the nature of this existence, know what comes and what goes, know how we fit into the scheme of things. Everything goes yet everything remains. God is always with us, with every breath we are created again. If He abandoned His sustenance of everything in existence for a moment, it would all disappear. Understand the connection we have to our Lord, exult in it, praise it. We must be thankful, have gratitude, be gracious. One way to show our gratitude lies in our actions with others, those around us, those we meet. We show our gratitude by remaining empty, without thinking that something is missing, that we need something, without thinking we need to create more for ourself because it has all already been given. When we do not we create the veils that keep Him from us He lives within us. May our faith be strong, may certitude and our determination be strong. May He show us this straight, true path and make our steps easy.

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Obedience to God

We should understand that everything happens according to God’s will, whatever occurs happens with His will. We are here with obligations, with duties to perform, this we should understand too, something which can be difficult to grasp. If everything occurs with God’s will, why are we involved? If everything is ordained, why are we given the options of what is correct and what is prohibited? To understand, first we need to establish trust in God, and part of that trust means living without tomorrow, it means we are not worried about the future. We have no doubt, that worry has left because we trust in God, because we know everything is in His hands. Nevertheless we do have obligations, we do have duties, there are things we need to accomplish. Sometimes this might be difficult to grasp because here we are, doing what we can in the world to accomplish certain things, and we are supposed to be satisfied with whatever occurs. This means we persist with goals, yet without attachment to them, we try to do things but without attachment to results. We think we are supposed to have results with certain things, we think a state of prayer should have results. The preparation to receive God seems to promise results, but prayer to God should be understood as obedience to Him.

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If we understand obedience, the scope of obedience, and put ourself in that state, we can have that state of trust, we are not worried about results because all we are doing is being obedient. We need to find satisfaction in this act of obedience which requires an understanding quite different from the understanding of obedience in worldly terms, obeying the authority admonishing us to go to college, get a degree, raise a family, to work, to do all this in our life. Understand why we do what we do. Is it to make money, to satisfy our desires, our mind? Do we understand root causes, the reason we do things? To understand this path we must understand our root causes, we must take the time to learn what they are, and if they are not the right reasons, we need to learn what they should be. This is what wise teachers tell us, they tell us how to interact with our life and our God, how to teach ourself to behave in certain situations if we want to be obedient to His will. We can only understand Him if we are obedient to His will. Find someone who has that obedience, who can show us what it is like to be obedient, what happens when we are. When this is foremost in our existence our state begins to change. That is what this path is about, understanding a way to be, to live, to exist, it is about becoming, being a certain way, incorporating specific states of being, not merely talking about them, being them. What happens to us in moments of stress, moments of difficulty, how do we react, how are we different? If things seem easy, are we happier than when they are difficult? When we are praised are we more at ease than when we are blamed? Who are we? How do we react in different situations? They say those with the greatest trust in God welcome difficulty more than they welcome ease, the usual possibilities of the world mean little to them. Their understanding is that things unfold as God wills, so they can exult in whatever they receive, it is something to praise, it is seen as a gift, even difficulties are seen as gifts. This means a different way of approaching the world, an approach no longer intended to satisfy the ego driven animal soul. This understanding, bypassing everything else, tries to form a relationship with the deepest part of our being, the part of our being which is the soul that comes directly from God. First we have to be conscious of what constitutes everything else, so that when it begins to interfere with our state of being we recognize the interference. When this takes hold of us, pulling in certain directions, we need to know what it is, we need to know how to get off the train. Once we board the train it takes us wherever the conductor is headed, and he is someone we do not necessarily know, someone who can drop us off at strange, dangerous places unless we watch where we are going. Under the influence of our own lower self, or the influence of others following their lower self, we go only to places where the lower self goes, places where this inclination goes. This is an inclination away from God towards corruption, which means here anything taking us away from God. Not being involved with God takes us away from Him, confusing because there are many ways, even in the name of religion, we can be taken away from God. We should be careful, apply the smell test to everything we do. Does it smell authentic, does it smell holy, does it smell God-like or does it smell of the world? We have an indwelling sense of right and wrong, an inherent sense of the soul which is from Him. If we can be at ease without the motives of our animal self, we can have the right understanding. To do this we have to be rid of our animal inclinations, be in a peaceful enough place so that these raging inclinations leave us, so that the ego driven inclinations of the world, of mind and desire leave us, then we can be in the place where we know right from wrong. If we are thirsty we need to search for water to quench our thirst. We have to develop a true thirst for truth, not let anything quench that thirst but truth, we have to develop a sense of the appropriate and hold ourself to that standard, nothing less. The truth exists within us, we should not let it be veiled. The truth walks with us as the animal qualities do, both are within us. We can choose which side we are connected to and stand with that. To stand on the side which is truth we need to develop trust in God, trust that what we are given is satisfactory, trust that what we are given is appropriate for our development. We should learn contentment because He reigns within contentment, we should

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learn patience because He reigns within patience, His kingdom exists within these qualities. If we want to be in His kingdom we have to live in these qualities or we are outside His realm. The one who locks us out is our own self, we put ourself in a place of detention away from the truth, close the door behind us and discover we have left the key at home. We need to get back home to unlock the detention center. Go home, get back in, realize that to be with Him we need to be like Him. We are capable of being like Him, God created man in His image, He wants us to be like Him, we exist to be like Him, yet we have created a list of other reasons for our existence. These other reasons are different for each of us, but they have become the priority, the most important things in our life, the things which motivate us. We should be motivated by Him and for Him, we should understand the qualities and levels of patience. It is easy to be patient if we see that everything we can think of has been granted, it is much more difficult when we cannot see this. A wise man was once asked, “When is patience most difficult, what is the most difficult time to be patient?” The answer was, “The patience required to be without Him.” Understand that most of us are in the place which is most difficult for patience. Do we realize what we are being patient about? We cannot enter that realm of patience unless we realize we are walking around without Him, not even contemplating what we do not have. It is essential to enter that realm, to know how lost we are without Him. When we are overwhelmed by our animal side, by our animal qualities, we should understand it, be conscious of it and change our state. If we do that it involves us in the mystery of creation, the intention to change pulls us to the mystery of creation, it separates us from the ordinary, takes us to the state of a true human being. We should make this intention grow, make the intention to exist with Him be a driving force in our life, the reason we do things. We should be actively inclined to live closer to Him, do the things which are necessary to be closer to Him. Some of us have been given a miracle in our lives, we have lived in the company of a saint, we have watched what a saint does, what a true human being does. We have been blessed to see serenity in the presence of saintliness, when the interference of the world is cut away. There is nothing more important than that saintliness, than the true humanity of a person who represents the qualities of God. Our own elevation in that presence is beyond anything we have experienced. The mind is incapable of differentiating the past from the future, it sees what happens now as no different from its memory. If we learn to use wisdom instead of the mind, use our inherent nature, we use a different part of our being. Intellect shuts down, judgment and illuminated wisdom function, then the heart vibrates without thought, we become qualities without definition, without the noise of the world. We become more like our true self, more like the eternal self existing within us. If we focus exclusively on worldly things or the body’s aches and pains, on the remedies we need for it, we identify ourself with the body, with images our mind creates. This pulls us away from the serenity and totality of being which comes in the presence of saintliness. We are pulled away from becoming God-like in serenity, in tranquility or peace, in patience, gratitude, mercy and compassion. But that is the place we need to be. We must have a vehicle and a navigation system to help us find God. May He let each of us understand the path, make it easy for us to find it, stay on it and go towards Him.

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Sleeping and Waking

In the morning when we wake up we take a shower because sleep is still with us. We need water to wake up, not cold water, just water, a physical, elemental thing which changes us, changes our state, taking us from a sleeping state to a waking state, relatively speaking. During the day there is a continuing obligation to wash, to use water for purification, for waking up because we tend to go to sleep while we are awake. Sleep does not come only when we lie down in bed, sleep comes whenever we are entranced, sleep is a trance. We are in the sleeping state whenever we are hypnotized, when we are so attracted by something it overwhelms our senses, sleep comes when we take certain drugs which overwhelm us. That dazed state of torpor is sleep, the loss of our perceiving faculties in their highest forms means we are asleep. Now this implies we spend most of our life asleep; those of us who have traveled this path for a long time are aware when these faculties are awake, and we are also aware how short that time is. We know also that we travel this path to develop the ability which makes those faculties grow, which makes them more available, so that we deal with reality, we learn how to be awake in reality, not the things that put us to sleep. One reason we gather together in groups is to wake up that experience, that wakefulness which gives us a sense of being attuned to reality. When we sit together, focusing pointedly without concern for the past, without concern for the future, without concern

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for anything in creation, focusing on the Creator, being in tune with the Creator, something astonishing happens, what we can call the floating room syndrome. Suddenly the space we are in, the small rooms we gather in, are outside time and space, they take on a different dimension, they take on the dimension of the absolute now, a dimension most of us have difficulty encountering and living in. When we enter that dimension of the absolute now we are transfixed in the moment, we are aligned with the moment, not in the past or the future, but now, in this moment. It is rather like being with an excellent chiropractor when everything falls into place, when everything is clicked out of us, it all falls away, all the worries, the troubles and burdens, the scheming and difficulties of the world fall away. For that moment they have no impact and we have no need to react, we do not react, we just exist. We are in a moment which is aligned with now. It seems that the alignment with now is a portal to another world, the world inspiration comes from, where words come which have no base in our own understanding, where words come which create situations and feelings we are unaccustomed to, the world which offers recognition of the soul, presenting everything we are unaccustomed to, everything different from our usual habits, everything we have not learned to do. This is the place inspiration comes from, the place grace comes from, it comes from being aligned with the truth and creating a space for it to come through. This is the place where angels can touch us. This place, this astonishing moment can sometimes appear to last a long time, and within that moment all the tuning forks have to be aligned, every vibration has to be consistent, and that is one reason why groups tend to whittle down in size. If one person has a sound which does not resonate correctly it dissolves the moment, dissolves a very sensitive, profound situation. Why do we talk about cleanliness, why do we talk about appropriate behavior? When we align ourself with reality we have to be capable of acting as reality expects us to act, we have to interact with the truth and be confident of that interaction or the truth will not linger. It is not enough to go into the moment, we also have to be acceptable to the moment. This is the work of our lives, becoming acceptable to that moment when we find the truth. That moment might last a long time or only an instant, but that is all we need, to find it for one instant and be acceptable. This is what appropriate conduct is about, what purity is about, what wakefulness is about. Then when that moment opens for us we can see it, we can be it, feel it, recognize it and surrender, we can give up our self, we can let the drop return to the ocean where the great effulgence of His grace overwhelms us and we become one with it. It is all One. When that moment is correct we are one, there is no separation, there is only the divine understanding of what is going on. There is no difference between ‘I’ and ‘you,’ there is only ‘we,’ ourself in conjunction with God, a conjunction which disappears, no longer necessary, there is only God. At that point words are unnecessary. Understand what we are striving for, understand the greatness of His glory, the immensity of His glory, and understand that He has made this glory accessible to us. It beckons us to come to Him, and so we need to set our intention directly, with knowledge of that place. Christ on the cross has many meanings. One of the meanings suggests we are nailed to one spot in a glorious way, not as a sacrificial lamb but in a glorious way. We are nailed to that one spot now aligned with all the universes, there is no need for movement. The body is a shell finally nailed down so that the inner resonance can be aligned, we have finally nailed the body down, made it sit still, made it stand still, it can no longer interfere. We need to align ourself, we need to be very still. There are many methods for learning to be still, but we also need to be pure because paradise is purity—if we are not pure we do not belong there. Can you imagine not belonging there? This is frightening, and it should be what frightens us, that we are not pure enough, we are not clean enough, that we have not washed often enough, have not prayed and resonated enough. This purity should be what we strive for so that when we come to those moments we are acceptable to reality. We have to accept reality, we also have to be acceptable to reality. Striving for reality makes us acceptable to reality. We need to surrender the will which resists movement towards reality, surrender it, surrender the will to exist in this world, surrender it,

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understand what it takes to give it up and give it up. We can only hint at what it takes, yet we each know when we are clean, we know when we have no motives of self, when we are not driven by the things we think we want or need, we know when there is purity in our intention. When we sit together we are practicing for paradise; by being truly acceptable to each other we can become acceptable to reality. We are given to each other to practice becoming acceptable to reality. All these things are gifts given by our Creator to be more like Him, to be acceptable to Him. Certain people want to be in the state of the melting heart, they want to be in that state yet they are fearful if they do not know how the heart can melt. It is up to us to create an atmosphere where this process is easy, up to us to create places where people are comfortable enough to move towards truth, where they no longer feel they have to hold back. We are all caught in the small jails of our own making which we do not identify as jails, which we see as walls protecting us from each other and from the world. We need to understand how to let go of these things, how to unlock the gates so that we can proceed into the open space of reality. To do this requires tremendous love, and those who have had little love in their lives, those who have not been melted by love sometimes have difficulty accepting it, they are afraid of what motivates an offer of love. We need to be without motive. If we have motives, if we have needs, if we have desires or expectations when we offer love it is not being given the right way, it is more like a carrot on a string. We need to give love without carrots, without strings, people need to know when we offer something it is not going to be pulled back, it is given freely. We should learn how to give freely. Charity is giving freely, giving our time, our warmth, our smile, giving our heart, our look, our kindness, our forgiveness, our reconciliation, our melting. Never withhold any of these things we should give as charity to each other. Most of these acts of love or charity begin with the family. We have to love our children in a way that makes them feel loved and comfortable, that makes us feel loved and comfortable. We need to spread love which has no expectations, which lets others grow. Some things need to be spread around—we cannot hoard love, it does no good if it is hoarded. If we think we can possess this love, it will burn a hole in us. By learning how to give and making this a big part of our life, we also allow ourself to receive. As we give from one side we are being given from the other, and the source which supplies us is without end. Think of the cornucopia as a manifestation of God’s abundance, we cannot take too much from it because it keeps giving. We need to be cornucopias, unafraid of giving, the more we give the more is given to us, the source which supplies us is without end. Sages and saints are examples of this, they never hold onto anything, they just keep giving like a river with an endless source. Fear makes us think the source will be depleted, we are always reminded of the limits of our own resources, reminded we should be careful. There are no limits for God’s love, no limits for God’s grace, no limits for His glory. We must become conduits of that love, that grace and glory, let them flow through us without limit. If God wills, we will understand and become part of this great wealth which has no end. We can dispense this wealth with no limit, we can have the eyes to see that true wealth and then open the eyes of others. May we travel this road, this path, may we increase in purity and lose the motivations of self which separate us from each other.

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The Profit Motive

There is competition in this world as we work to earn a living, competition for money, competition in business and among those who are trying to sustain their material existence. This is the way of the world, a state of continuing competition. Little fish eat smaller fish and then they are eaten by bigger fish; everything is in competition with everything else for sustenance in the world. Capitalism includes the profit motive, we go out there for gain, and that gain, that monetary gain which sustains ourself and our family is permissible. There is competition and the permissible within competition; in other words, as long as we function with integrity, we are encouraged to play the game of the world. Certain things are forbidden, high interest for instance, high interest which can destroy someone is not permitted. In capitalist competition usury is forbidden, although both competition and gain are permissible. There is the path of the world and the path to God, the path of real human beings, true human beings who are not in competition with each other. The rules of capitalism do not apply to our dealings with each other. When we are competitive with each other, when our mind and our attitude insist we must prevail, difficulties arise. Some people not only need to do what they do, but they also need others to accept what they do and think. If this is a driving force in their life they can go astray on this great path.

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We are here to love each other, not to force each other. Tolerance is an astonishing quality which we find in all the great teachers. We need to understand this quality in our dealings with each other, we need to understand the rules of the straight, true path because the rules of this path are different from the rules of the world. Even if the rules of the world, for the world, are permissible, they are not permissible in our dealings with friends and companions. We cannot be demanding of them, we cannot have separations among us, we cannot have competition among us. We need to be joyous in the joy of our friends and sad in their sorrow, we need to be deeply sympathetic to the lives of others. We should practice the act of having no act, and that means we come without motive, without agenda, we come to serve others because we are without needs. God has provided for us, we are fortunate, we have seen His grace and know that everything we need has already been given to us. We are without needs because God has given us all that we need. Shouldn’t we help those who still have needs, shouldn’t we set the table for those who have needs? They have not understood that their needs are only products of their imagination, an imagination which requires feeding until they recognize they can be self-sustaining. Let us understand what self-sustaining means: to be self-sustaining in truth means we are sustained by our true self. What is our true self? Our true self is our connection to God which alone sustains us, we need nothing else to sustain us. We have problems when we compete with friends and associates. If they say something we think is not quite right, if we feel we deserve praise which they do not give, if they blame us when we think they have no right to do so, all this causes trouble. We need to be impervious to praise and impervious to blame. We do not take sustenance from the world nor do we take sadness from the world, happiness and sadness are not what the world has for us. We have decided to leave the way of the world and go a different way, a way which means that our sustenance comes from God, not from the world. Those who look for sustenance from the world need manifest indications of success, they need signs to persuade themselves they are happy, they need proof that what they are doing is correct if their faith is weak, if their belief is weak, they need proof that the world supports them. Looking for this proof, looking to the world for sustenance and indications of worthiness means we need the qualities of the world. What are the qualities of the world? They start with a deep sense of differences, the root of the problems as we look for success in the world. If we look for success in the world, if we see differences, we create our own image of the way things ought to be; as soon as we take that and our own image seriously, we are in a forbidden realm. Now we have jealousy and resentment. If things are not the way we think they ought to be, we resent the people who are not the way we want them to be, we become jealous of their success which should be ours. Now we have engaged the things of the world, the things which make competition what it is, we add winning and losing to the equation of brotherhood and friendship where they do not belong. We have to bring a different understanding to brotherhood, keep score in an entirely different way. We are not in the business of competition, we are in the business of surrender, the opposite of competition. Competition means we win by overcoming someone else, surrender means we win by overcoming ourself, the self disappears and God wins. We need to understand this game of surrender, this act which must become the act of our lives. We are all actors and actresses, each of us has an act, and we do have to be careful about the one we choose. We are idol worshipers until we come to that point which is reality. We should be careful about what we worship, choose idols which come as close to reality as possible, and ask God to remove everything separating us from reality until we do, in fact, worship reality. Even though we might be aware of the separation between what we worship and reality, we have to pray for the separation to disappear. We have been given examples of the truth, reality and the right way to live; we should model ourself on that reality. We have the example of the prophets, the example of enlightened teachers, of all the friends of God. We know what they went through, the suffering they endured on behalf of others. The profit motive must disappear in our interaction with each other, we do not acquire profit from each other. If God permits it we acquire God from each other, God is our profit, God is beyond profit, a treasure

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which cannot be described. This is available if we leave the world to its own rules and establish new rules for ourself. With God’s help we will be allowed this, in our struggle with ourself we will begin to understand the new way, the path of surrender which is the only way to approach Him, the only way to cleanse ourself, be worthy of approaching Him. This path begins very simply, it starts in our home, it starts in our relationship with our husband or wife, it expands to the relationship with our children, then to the relationship with our companions in fellowship. That relationship of love, of kindness, that happiness in others, striving for the sake of others, doing things for others, this is the path we have chosen, the path our great teachers chose. Think about their profit motive, think how they kept score, what they intended and wanted. They never took anything for themselves, their intention was always to give, to elevate others. We should help others, be the best parents to our children, help ourself and everyone we know, all our friends and companions. We have to be the best friend we can be, the best example of sharing, of giving. We do not rush to talk about ourself, we are happy to listen to someone else, we learn to have sympathy. We cannot help someone else unless we become who they are, we have to be there, share everything with them and let them in, then we can react on their behalf. A sage dealt with a certain situation in an interesting way. It seems a mother came to him asking for help with her child—she wanted him to stop eating sugar. The wise man told the woman in question to come back in two or three weeks. When the woman returned with her child, he told the child to stop eating sugar. The mother asked, “Why did you make us wait until you said that?” The answer was, “First, I had to stop eating sugar, I had to understand what the child would experience and know how it felt.” We need to understand what other people are experiencing, walk in their shoes, take ours off. We cannot be so attached to our own shoes we have no time to step into someone else’s. If we believe everything needs to proceed as we think it should, we have taken a step which is impermissible, we are creating the world as we think it should be, and we do not have that right. We have the right to help, the right to assist, the right to use good qualities, we have the right to disappear, but we do not have the right to judge or insist. This path is difficult because it runs against the self-preservation everyone assures us is a driving force. What good does it do to preserve the body if we lose the soul? This is not new, we have heard this before, but now we need to understand the truth of it. These old maxims embody the reality of our lives; we need to cling to the reality of our lives, tune into things which keep us right, make us clear, united with others. We should share ourself freely and easily, not only our goods but ourself as well. We have to make ourself available to all those who want something from us, and we should not see it as a burden, we should see it as an opportunity to do His will. Our purpose is to help, the hand which helps is the path we have been taught. It must be the path we choose. Choosing this path means we have to understand its rules, its requirements, we have to understand the inner cleansing process of the path. Every motive except for His qualities must disappear. Any other motive means we need to keep washing ourself again and again, like Lady Macbeth who tried to remove the stain of her inhumanity by washing her hands obsessively. We need to remove the stain of the world, a stain which has a vile smell. We do have to be careful on this path because there are people who cannot be helped, people we should not try to help. We must not impose ourself, imposing ourself on those who are obsessed with their own needs, their own way, will cause problems. If we throw a knife at stone it bounces off, there is no receptivity. We should keep to people who are receptive, who want to be receptive. Those who do not understand can be taught if they choose, although those who do not understand but do not want to

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learn present a different situation. We have to distinguish among them without being naïve. We need to be brave, we need to be warriors, we need to be clear and act with wisdom. Wisdom differentiates what we can and cannot do, what is available and what is not. Wisdom opens the path showing us how to extend ourself, how to fulfill our responsibility to God. We still have this body, we still have old age, all the problems that come with being human, and we must be merciful, have the mercy which understands the limits of our own abilities while still doing all we can. We cannot accept the competitive path the world offers, we cannot have resentment, jealousy and anger, we cannot because that would be surrendering to the world. Everybody serves someone. People who think they are in a competition have actually surrendered to darkness and evil. All the options have been laid out for people who have thought it through, they know where they are going; but so many have not thought it through, perhaps because they are frightened when they look at themselves too closely. We have to pass through this frightening stage when we see ourself and feel ashamed of what we have done, what we have experienced, ashamed of what we did and who we are. Yet we must also remember that God re-creates us with every breath, that the universe is not only created by God, it is also sustained by Him, sustained with every breath. Opportunities come with every breath, opportunities continue as long as we breathe, each breath is a new opportunity to walk the path in the right way. We should feel it, know this as reality, pray for that understanding as we pray. If we do our prayers with this intention, each moment of intention takes us away from the self and closer to Him. God help us understand this path, this way, help us grow and be satisfied. May He grant our sustenance so that His love will fill us without needing anything from the world, may we not look for satisfaction from the world. We take our satisfaction from Him, we are sustained by Him alone.

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The Limits of Intellect

This culture encourages strong intellects—it offers respect to powerful intellects by conferring degrees or titles, by calling them experts. If we discourse at length about certain themes, use historical references, build logical arguments, we are considered to be people of substantial intellect. This is the way it appears outwardly, but we need to understand what things are like inwardly. Since the goal is to understand our relationship to God we need to ask ourselves, what is the importance of a strong intellect for someone who does not have one, what is its importance for someone who has? When the intellect pushes and pulls us through certain situations, certain difficulties, we can become arrogant, the arrogance of ability, the arrogance of knowledge, the arrogance which says I can do this. Only if we lose this arrogance can we begin to understand that someone else is the doer. If we see that we are not doing the pulling and pushing, that the truth, if we are in touch with it, did not come from the study of history or logic, it did not come from the books we have read, it came because something let us bypass that arrogance of the intellect, bypass that part of ourself which insists on being the doer. An insistence on our own capacity creates veils for us, it subverts the belief that all responsibility for action belongs to God, creating a sense that I am the actor, I am the one doing things. To break with that way of seeing things, to break from the

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addiction of I can, I do, this is a lifetime of work, especially for those who have had success, much more difficult for them than for those who have not been successful. Worldly success strengthens arrogance, it creates thicker veils which stop us from seeing the reality of God, it makes us see ourself as the doers, the movers and shakers. This is one reason why God said it is very difficult for a rich man to reach heaven, why Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Wealth creates the impression for people that they can accomplish things, they can do things. On a worldly level money means they point their finger and things happen, or at least they appear to happen. For the person pointing it creates the illusion of power, he believes he is doing the moving, the pushing and pulling. A strong intellect can be a blessing because it gives us the ability to do certain things in the world, but we have to consider how we use that ability, consider the consequences for our state of being. That blessing can be a curse if this tool given to us by God creates a separation between ourself and our Lord, then it is no longer a tool, it is a veil. We should understand how this can happen, how our own ability can overwhelm us. In moments when we are without the ability to do things, we draw on something we did not know we had, at such moments miracles occur, moments of reality occur, we are more capable of existing here and now. Suppose we have to provide a solution for a specific situation; if we are educated, studious, we go to our reserves of intellectual capacity, our computer banks, and pull out the appropriate response for that situation. We have used our mind to solve a problem, we have gone into the storage banks of what we know to deal with a difficulty, but when we deal with new situations which have no storage banks to refer to, we have to be in the moment, there is no past to turn to, we have no previous reference. At that point of no reference, where there is no past to pull something from, we can pull from the source. This source can only be accessed from the place where we are, in that moment. The intellect does not live in the moment, it is an accumulation of things we have gathered, like a storehouse of food, a storehouse of gold. When we travel away from our storehouse we are in a different situation, we cannot use these things, we cannot use them because they are not available. When we are in a totally new situation we cannot use anything we have relied on because none of that is with us. It is not here because we are in a situation which is entirely new, something we have never experienced before, we have not made provision for, we have not made the necessary changes to deal with what lies before us. This brings us to living in the moment. Curiously, here we might find a reason why travel is important. At home we have local arrangements, we have provided ourself with storehouses in different areas which are never too far away. As we travel we keep finding ourself in unfamiliar situations. If we are close to home we are not lost, but if we are far away we might be lost. When we are lost we behave differently, aspects of our character are revealed. We can see ourself, see what we are like without the help of the world we are accustomed to, an entirely different situation. When we are lost we call for help on something else, we have new experiences if we are no longer surrounded by the comfort of the familiar. To take ourself from the comfort of the familiar, of being in control, we need to be in situations beyond our control—not that we are in control in the familiar, but we believe strongly that we are. As long as we think we are in control we will never realize we are not. The fainthearted of this world will never know how lost they are because they stay close to home, close to what they know, they stay with what they think is safe. We cannot stay forever with the things we consider safe, we have to travel to the edge of our understanding, to the edge of our existence, of our knowledge, to the edge of our intellect. We have to go to the edge, the precipice, we have to look at the precipice and jump. In that jump, that leap, we find out who we really are. If we do not do it we do not find out, we do not find

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out because we do not allow ourself to find out. By defining our life and living within that unqualified definition we cannot find the truth. Every definition we accept is a veil separating us from reality, everything we define in this world, everything we give definition to is a veil separating us from reality. We define things and build our world with these definitions. Universities define things, professors define things, legal systems define things, everyone defines things. There are things which have no definition, things which cannot be defined. Do we have the courage to step into the undefinable, a place where we deal with things we do not understand and do not know? Can we face situations without knowing what will happen, are we willing to step into places we have never been before, enter a world where we have never been before? The usual reaction is to back out, go back to what we know. But it is only by shedding the familiar that we can go to other places, yet we not only fear leaving what we know, we also seem to be addicted to all that, addicted to the definitions we have made of our world. Just as any addict must go through withdrawal, we must also go through a period of withdrawal, pulling away from what we are used to. It may be painful or difficult, when we are in an unfamiliar place it can be uncomfortable, however we have to learn to be comfortable with the unknown, on a new step or a new stage. Enlightened teachers lead us through new and uncomfortable situations, changing our way to approach things, introducing subtle layers of change. Our reaction to change is often no, why should I change, I like things the way they are now, I do not want to change. These are common responses, usual attitudes. If my mattress is comfortable why do I need a new one? Why should I sleep on the floor when a mattress is available, why should I sleep on a rock if there is a mattress? Why should I put myself in new situations so different from the patterns or routines I have established for myself? The intellect deals with patterns, the stronger the intellect the sooner it sees the pattern and adjusts to it. Intellect does not like things without a pattern, it likes to say, a, b, c, d, it likes predictability. We need to walk into an unfamiliar place where there is no predictability, where we have no habits and cannot see, where we do not know how to function. Until we develop the courage to go there we have placed limits on how far we will take this path, until we are willing to take uncomfortable risks we have limited how far we will take the journey to reality. There is a decision to make, an analysis of the self is required: what comfort level do we need, what comfort level are we willing to let go? What level of discomfort are we willing to endure to move forward on the path? Which is more important, our level of comfort or moving towards understanding? These are basic decisions, basic questions we have to put to ourself. Once we start asking such questions we notice that the things the world considers uncomfortable, the things the world tries to push away are the very places where individual progress on the path can take place, a reason why some say that God gives those He loves difficulties. He is pulling us away from the known, pulling us into the unknown where we can rely only on Him. Only when we rely on Him alone can we be in touch with Him; as long as we rely on anything else we cannot, as long as we have an easy answer, an easy solution, one that we can pick from our intellect, that is as far as we will go. When we do not have an easy answer, when there is no solution we are thrust into reliance on Him. Then we beg Him for help, we have lost the ability to help ourself, to find help in the known and familiar. In this place the veils are lifted, in this place we are changed, changed because we have no choice. When we think about it, about being pushed into a situation where our options are so limited we have to beg, we do not think this is what we want, but such moments exalt us. If we can live through such moments they change who we are, they make us new beings. These moments alter our essential Bible, how we see things, how we look at things, they can alter our world for the rest of our life. These moments can take us from the mundane to the holy. During these moments of not knowing we come in contact with the holy, we touch it because we have nothing else to touch. We should think about this because it has a lot to do with the way we live our day to day life, going from one safe place to the next. Now long ago we had both agrarian and nomadic societies. Think about the difference between nomadic life and agrarian

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life. A nomad might not know where his next meal is coming from, he has to keep moving, driven by the need for food. He is driven in his search, there is no sitting still, a hard life. In an agrarian life we learn to depend on the sun, the rain and the temperature to make the crops grow, things we know are not in our hands. We need to know what is not in our hands, respecting the One in whose hands things are. There is a difference, a reason why we need to pray and be obedient to our Lord. We need to know what He wants us to do and then do it, we need to stop thinking about ourself as we used to. We are all lost and the only one who can find us is our Lord. Our Lord is looking for us. As long as we say here I am, here I am Lord, at your service, He will find us. We need to understand the state we are in to change ourself. May we be granted this understanding. May the veils be lifted so that we can know our Lord and know reality.

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The Arrogance of Gossip

May the peace and blessings of God be with you, now and always. Satan was an angel who thought he knew better than God. When God indicated He was going to create man as His ultimate creation, Satan disagreed, then when God said all the angels should bow before man, Satan disagreed again. This was the root of arrogance, where arrogance began, it began when Satan assumed he knew better than God. Arrogance moved into our humanity where it sits as a separation between God and ourself. Arrogance, the first quality of separation, initiates a chain of reactions, acquiring other qualities to enforce itself. Arrogance insists on having its own way, believing in its own correctness and its right to control. When arrogance cannot control by merely issuing a command it becomes anger, then anger engages energy which can be applied in many different ways, on the individual level, on the national level, on the international level. What happens when arrogance and the army of its comrades rise up in people, what is the danger in this? Arrogance begins with a need to establish a certain position, the refusal to step away from that position, to surrender it to someone else or to some other prevailing situation, the insistence on a specific situation. Arrogance in an individual is based on a self-righteous understanding that he or she is completely correct, and everyone else is wrong. People might even think, in their

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arrogance, that they are protecting the word of God, that they are the treasurer of truth, that their assumptions protect the truth. While the arrogance of this kind of thinking is evident to some, it is not apparent to those who believe their arrogance protects the truth. In a small community when people have diverging views of the truth, when they have a need to force their view of the truth on the others, certain things happen. First there is gossip, and what is this kind of gossip? It is finding fault with those who do not agree with us, finding fault for some reason, judging and condemning a certain person’s actions, reporting on those actions in a judgmental frame of reference. Yet judgment belongs to God, and so when we step into the arena of this type of judgment, we are denying God’s role. Gossip has arrogance at its root, gossip suggests that we know better, and not only do we know better, but we can also judge other people’s lives, we can instruct them by talking about them. There is not even a face-to-face confrontation, and this implies a certain cowardice, an inability to talk directly to the individual we are discussing. But we have been told if we have a problem with someone, we need to resolve it. Gossip is the refusal to resolve a problem, it makes the problem fester, like picking a sore. When we gossip it means no one wants the problem solved, we want the problem to continue because then we can rank each other, we can differentiate higher and lower. The people we gossip about are lower, we are higher, gratification for the arrogance which requires this. Two people are involved in the gossiping process, the one who talks and the one who listens. Both are wrong, both are involved in a process which veils us from God. When we engage qualities which do not belong to God we separate ourself from Him. We have two obligations in this, first, not to talk about others, and second, not to listen to talk about others. We have to change the conversation or walk away. Understanding what is forbidden, what is permitted, and binding ourself to the permitted, keeping away from what is not permitted, both are essential on this path. We cannot swim in filth without smelling like it. If we have that stench there is a good chance we are swimming in it, we need to extricate ourself, we need to wash. This means we need to examine our own state severely, we need to purify ourself. Ablution is something we are supposed to do before prayer, a ritual cleansing, yet we also need to cleanse ourself in ways we have not even thought about. We have to cleanse our words, cleanse our thinking, our actions, we have to make our actions pure, make them actions which are without malice, without improper motive. Unless we can bring ourself to that place which has no improper motive we are not clean. We need to examine our motive in every situation, examine our cleanliness in every situation. Just as we look at our fingernails to see if they are clean, we have to examine our motives. If they are self-serving in any way we have to make a change, and we need to know how to do that. We have to examine ourself this way on a regular basis, especially when we consider the fascinations, the illusions and hypnotism of our society, all the lies society perpetuates by proclaiming what is good for us, what is bad for us. Look at the standards of right and wrong in the popular press: being famous is positive, being promiscuous is positive, exposing yourself is positive, total abandon is praised, flouting morality is praised, a contemptuous attitude for society is praiseworthy. These are the things popular culture recognizes and admires. If we do not examine ourself with guidelines of a more enduring nature we are susceptible to everything around us. We have to learn how to avoid this susceptibility, learn how to walk away from it, and the only thing which will make us walk away is the understanding that there is something greater than the world, there is a reward, a treasure greater than anything the world has to offer, something of immense worth, well beyond what the world has to offer. We find this treasure by being immersed in God’s qualities instead of the world’s.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi
We need to search for examples of these qualities, we need to remember examples of these qualities and keep them at the front of our consciousness. They have to become our touchstones, our constant reminders of what is true and what is a lie. We need to see through things to their reality. As long as we listen to the world, let ourself be pushed by the world, let ourself react to it, there is little hope for our purity because we are too busy wrestling with the world, reaching for the world and swallowing it. There is a story about two bullfrogs who were fighting. One of them was trying to swallow the other, it kept opening its mouth wider and wider while the other, to stop this, kept puffing itself up, expanding itself, becoming larger and larger. They kept doing this until they were stuck together in a way which meant death for them both. We are trying to swallow the world, but in the end we are going to die. Is our focus on the mortal or the immortal, is our focus on what is sustained forever or what is temporary? Why do we believe in the temporary, what is it that believes the temporary? It is the gratification arising from the small pleasures of worldly status, worldly understanding. There are two kinds of pleasure, one entails desire and the other entails grace, two kinds of pleasure, the small and the large, the small defined as desire, the large as grace. We have a certain desire, a lust for the world, a sexual energy which can be focused on many different things. We lust for power, we lust for control, there are things we lust after. Have you ever seen an elephant in that critical sexual frenzy, have you ever seen a huge animal in heat? Nothing stops them, their arrogance and their will to satisfy that lust are so overpowering they trample everything in their way. Human beings can also be like that, and for what, for temporary satisfaction. Most people who chase some worldly thing realize once they have it, they are still dissatisfied. This is something like a dog chasing a car, what is a dog going to do with the car when he catches it? We chase because this is what we do. We need to become something else, we have to stop chasing and find the stillness of existence, integrate ourself in the stillness of existence. We have to know that the value, the true worth of our lives is not found in what we see with our physical eyes, this worth is not found in what we touch with our hands, not in what we wear on our backs, not in what we display to the world, not in the titles after our names, not in the people we control or the things that move when we point to them. Real worth lies somewhere else, somewhere else which must become the focus of our intention, our will and our lives.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi

Hypocrisy

May the peace of God be with you, now and always. Sometimes as we develop from childhood to maturity we discover that certain actions will or will not get us what we want, and we learn how to adapt ourself to situations so that we do get what we want. We learn to say what needs to be said to achieve our goals, we learn to manipulate, to lie, to be two-faced, we learn to say something other than what we actually think. Schizophrenics often have difficulty separating what they do from what the voices in their heads tell them to do, they do what the voices say, causing terrible problems. Some who are sane, some apparently normal people have learned that certain thoughts and feelings have to be suppressed, they present what is socially or politically correct even if they disagree, then when they are alone or with a group of likeminded people, they say what they really think. This is hypocrisy which has been described as Satan’s sin, a great sin. Hypocrisy means thinking one thing and saying something else, making others think we believe something we do not in order to achieve our ends. Those who think this kind of hypocrisy is legitimate, because it is useful for their own purposes, believe this is a way to acquire what they want, things of value. In fact, it is not true, hypocrisy prevents something, it stops the growth of the individual. Even when it is defined by a specific conflict, this hypocrisy supports duality, partnering the overriding sense of duality itself which needs to be eliminated. Most people fail to realize what hypocrisy does on this path of self-discovery, this path requiring a deep understanding of what goes on inside us. When we do what is right for appearance’s sake, without any attachment to what is right, we have no love for it, we love only our desires.

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The first thing we have to recognize is the truth of right and wrong; if we do not love what is right we have to learn what it is and learn to love it. In other words, we have to change who we are, a problem; changing who we are is not easy, becoming something other than we are is not easy. To go on this path, to have what God has intended for us, to reach up to the truth, we have to overcome this hurdle—as long as there is no unity, no oneness within ourself, there cannot be unity among ourselves, among our fellow human beings and with God. If we conceal aspects of ourself from everyone else, sometimes we might be concealing these things from ourself too. Why would we hide something from others that we expose to ourself, that we keep hidden to relish at certain times in dark, hidden places? What is it that lets this happen, what is actually going on inside us to create dark corners, to be different privately from the way we are openly, how do we change that? We have to recognize that we do this before we can correct it. Only when we are so open that we look each other in the eye with nothing to hide, only then can we truly see ourself. As long as we have things to hide from other people they cannot see into us, and the same things which keep others from seeing into us blocks our ability to see, to see accurately. What we think we are hiding from others is what we are hiding from ourself; what we hide from ourself, what we keep from ourself is the ability to see reality. The duality of hypocrisy contributes to this inability. When we know we do not feel what we are supposed to feel, we know we must change. This is the work of the path, getting rid of that part of us which is not the truth, getting rid of that part of us which is not right. We need to straighten up, walk the right path and walk it easily, honestly, with good will, with positive intentions. This little bit of work, this little bit of understanding can take us a long way. Understand we have to be at peace within ourself, and recognize that this peace allows us to expose who we really are to others, without fear, without shame, without agenda, then we turn to God without hyprocisy. God is known in the Hebrew scriptures as ‘I am that I am.’ He is only One. To know this One we must be merged in One. Our hypocrisy must be eliminated, we cannot scheme or manipulate, we have to let go of thinking that way. There is a difference between being pure and being naïve; we have to understand the treachery of the world, see it and acknowledge it when we see it, but we cannot let it be part of us, we do not have to believe that for success in this world we must use such techniques. We need a group or community where people are not afraid, where they can be honest with each other, where they can let down their defenses and be open, show their true selves. Only when the true self is displayed can we begin to know it. As we begin to know the true self we begin to know the truth. We have to be smaller individually, smaller as a community, so small we fit easily into each other. There is room for this if everything we have hidden inside filling our cup, leaving no room for anyone else, making us too big, if all that is emptied. When we are without motive, when we do not scheme we become small, we are empty, there is room for Him. This is a key unlocking the doors of reality, one of the keys making Him available. When He is available we will be entirely empty, allowing Him to fill that space, but if we hold onto hypocrisy we are holding the devil’s tail. As long as we hold onto evil, how can we possibly hold onto God? We have to make the choice, the choice is clear. The great teachers and sages often talk about this. They tell us not to untie every little knot, but to pull the whole thing out by the roots and forget about it, pull each thing out by the roots. If our thought patterns are too complicated, give them up. We are not complicated beings, not meant to be complicated, we are meant to be pure, we are meant to be clean, to be straight. The more we complicate things, the more difficult it is for us to be pure and clean and straight. This is not a complicated path, it is a straight path. It is called the straight path because it does not zigzag, it is direct. We have to be direct, we have to be people of the straight path, of straight action, we have to be people of love.

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We should set the right intention encompassed by love. When love fills a room there is no space for anything else. Love numbs the lower self, it tames it; love lights a fire which the lower self backs away from, allowing grace to shine. It is a light, a fire, a cleansing, the cleansing we look for, the cleansing love which does away with duality. We no longer have to be divided, we are consistent in our speech, in our manner, in our love. Others can expect us to behave a certain way, to react a certain way, they do not have to fear how we will be today, how we will be this afternoon or the next time they see us. We need to be comfortable enough with each other to know we are a comfort for each other. This starts in our home, we need to be a comfort for each other at home, we need to know when we turn to our spouse, that person is a rock for us, we need to be a rock for each other. The ability to comfort moves out from our family to our circle of friends. The circle of true friends is the circle of those who are a comfort for each other, sanctuary for each other. We become the place we can live within in safety, in love, in protection. Small, easy things change our life, change our attitudes, change who we are, our perspective, the way we act and feel in our daily life. If we can take ourself to that level of comfort our center is stronger. We know what a locked box is, the sort of box we should put our hypocrisy in; however, with all the problems of the world we go searching for the key to open it up again because we think we need it. We should reach a point where we no longer need it, reach a point where we do not have to join all the barking dogs, we can walk away and let the dogs bark. Walking away from a group of barking dogs, stepping away from the fray is difficult, letting other people argue, letting them offer their opinions without being involved, without telling them how they are right and how they are wrong is difficult. We have stories about wise people who do not talk, do not respond. There is a story about a group who had come to pray at a roadside mosque. While they were sitting after prayers another man came to pray who prayed facing the wrong direction, but no one said anything. When they stood to pray at the next time of prayer, facing the right direction, he understood his mistake and joined them. This was done without a word, without a reprimand, it was done through action, it was done by doing what is right. We must incorporate our intention in our action; actions are stronger than words. We must incorporate our intention in our resonance; our resonance is stronger than words. We can feel each other, know where we are, know where each of us is. We should know we are comfortable with each other, feel we are comfortable with each other, easy with each other. We should know that love exists, we should understand the sanctuary of our family and spread that understanding, that love, one person at a time. It does not have to be done with words at first, people recognize when something special is happening, they ask why, then we can talk about it because they have recognized there is something else. Until people recognize something else exists and have a taste for it, it is difficult to bring them to this path, it could even be dangerous. Nevertheless we should know that bringing others along is part of what He has given us to do, and once we know it is our responsibility, it will happen. We can help just by being the way we are. It is a great blessing to have this in our life, it is a gift He has granted to give us access to Him. To understand this and create praise for Him is the reason the prophets were sent, the reason the wise, holy beings and His friends were sent. How do we become His friend? We become His friend by being a friend of His friend, by respecting His friends, listening to His friends, listening to those who have listened to Him. May we begin to understand ourself, study ourself and be one within ourself. May the words which come from our mouth be straight, clean and pure, without motive, filled with love. May the blessings that come from this love bathe us in His love.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi

The Drama of The World

What we see with our eyes is so persuasive, so overwhelming it is difficult to recognize the illusion, difficult if we function with sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste to acknowledge the things we see, hear, smell, taste and touch are merely illusions, difficult to go beyond things on the physical plane and grasp their temporary nature. The physical plane is hypnotic, its effect is magnetic, it pulls us in inducing a condition which keeps us from seeing it for what it is. It sparkles, makes a noise, produces sound, it does things which affect us physically. In a sense we have to protect ourself from interacting with the physical world; if we are not prepared for what we encounter we are not ready to deal with it. When people grew their own food in earlier times they had to be ready for the physical reality of storms, heat, drought and rain, or they would not have had food to eat. This meant constant interaction with the world. How do we tell someone the grain they grow is illusion when they need this food to live, to survive? The world gives us so many reasons to believe in its reality we are overcome just thinking about it, trapped and snared into thinking it is real. Also persuasive are the actions of other people we observe, they deal with the world as though it were real, their emotions are invested there. How do we deal with a world which is not real when people fight or struggle to get what they can from it, even though wise men insist it is not real? How do we develop the understanding that it is not real and yet we have to

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deal with it at the same time? This is the duality of existence, difficult to understand but a necessary understanding if we want to penetrate reality. Most people cannot believe in what they do not see, cannot understand what they cannot grasp, and inevitably what they cannot understand does not exist for them. Some however, do have faith in things they do not understand, have faith in things they do not see because they realize their own limits. One problem which arises in the understanding of duality is recognizing our limits: only those who understand how much we do not know have some idea of all there is to know. For those who think they know, there is nothing left to learn, they are satisfied. There is a small group who are not satisfied, who have an empty feeling after looking at all the things of the world. They still ask, “Who am I?” Now most people are more likely to ask, “Where am I going this evening?” “What am I having for dinner?” “What stock will make me money?” These are the questions in their consciousness they want answered, and they read The New York Times to find the plays, concerts and exhibits to see, the current events to talk about with people who have nothing else to talk about. Although yesterday’s newspaper is used to wrap the fish today, this is not part of most people’s consciousness. Just because no one reads yesterday’s newspaper does not stop us from reading today’s, it does not stop us from commenting and talking about it, treating it as though it had importance. Here we have all the dramas of the world, all the dramas of our life, culturally, nationally and internationally. Different people need different levels of drama; those who are pulled and pushed by their minds or their emotions think they are dead without the drama. When things are quiet, if they have only an outer life and no inner life, if there is nothing external to do they have no life, they have to make it up. How do they do that? With dramas like a soap opera going on day after day. We watch a soap opera for the unfinished drama inviting us to look again for the next installment. We do the same thing in our own life as we are enmeshed in the unfinished dramas we do not end, do not care to play out or we will have to make up another one to take its place. Many marriages are dramatic and volatile, something can erupt at any moment to bring the drama to life. In the marriage drama we have someone to be angry with, someone to reconcile with, someone to stimulate all the emotions which make us feel alive. Those who bring peace to situations are rare, those who can dispense with the drama are rare. Few individuals understand that when the drama goes away, when the emotions go away, when the need for sensory stimulus goes away there is grace and a glory beyond anything else. Most of us are so layered in our dramas, drama in the sense of touch, in relationships, in emotions, there is no way we can penetrate all that, it is too dense, an avalanche we cannot dig out from, we need someone to bring in heavy machinery. Not many of us have the machinery for this avalanche, only a few. Most of us do not know we are buried in an avalanche because we are still breathing—we know we would have trouble breathing in an avalanche—only then do we know we are in trouble. As long as we are still breathing we do not recognize the trouble. If we do not know we are in trouble, if we think there is a resolution to our drama, an end which will take us somewhere else, we are mistaken. Only with the experience of so many years looking at all the dramas will we realize there are no resolutions. The thrill is in the drama, the chase, the emotional roller coaster ends when we seemingly succeed. We get what we have strived for but do not know what to do with it, we have spent such a long time trying to get it, and now we do not know what to do with it. This kind of disappointment is sometimes called depression. There is no cure for the drama or the obsessions of a world which offers no way out. It can only give us what it has, and all that it has is illusion. As long as we pay homage to the world and its illusions we are subject to it, ruled by it. The only way to escape is by giving homage to something else, making something else our priority, changing our focus, working on the inner transformation, finding contentment with something other than the world. We need to turn away from the world yet maintain our equilibrium there, turn away from the world yet work responsibly there.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi
We have to exist in two worlds simultaneously, only then is the paradox of our reality accounted for, only then is the truth available. The religions of the world are no different from any other illusion, they separate people, they say mine and yours, they say praise and blame, higher and lower. There is neither praise nor blame in reality, there is only truth, no mine and yours, there is only His in every circumstance. There are no differences between you and me in reality, no differences between my God and your God. God is One. When we create differences we are reacting as the world reacts, when we pull away from it we begin our repose in the truth. There is a universal connection among us, we are made of the same things, we came from the same place, we return to the same place. We are only here for an interlude, a four bar break which has become our reality. We need to learn the difference between this interlude and eternity, then treat the interlude appropriately. The notes of the interlude still have to be played correctly, but they are not the song, not all of it, they are merely part of it. Understand the part which is the world and the part which has no praise or blame. God is a beggar to a beggar and a king to a king. Whether we are beggars or kings the world is still an illusion, God is the same to us no matter our position, rank or status, they hardly matter if we are at peace, the peace which takes us to truth. We must learn to focus correctly and stay in that focus, not letting ourself be pushed and pulled, not letting the drama and mania of the world catch us. We have to be demagnetized, pass through a chamber altering our structure so that we are no longer magnetized, no longer hypnotized. This is the chamber of faith, certitude and determination, a chamber which knows that truth belongs to Him, obedience belongs to Him. To become who we truly are we surrender to that power controlling everything, a power both unseen and inexplicable. Believe we came from this power, we return to this power; everything exists in the right place, in the right way. May the peace of this understanding fill each heart, may our relationship with Him grow.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi

Knowing Where to Look

One type of insanity has been defined as doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results. If we apply that definition to world history, we might conclude the world has been engaged in mass insanity. One reason we have so much individual insanity is excessive involvement with that world when we should be spending time trying to figure out who we are. If we look to the world for answers, for responses, if we look outside ourself for specific things, all we get is what these outer things have to offer, they can only give to the extent they have something to offer. A cobra can only offer poison, things can only give what they truly are, nothing more, this is what they can give. If we expect anything else we are disappointed, a dangerous disappointment in certain circumstances. There is an old teaching story about a boat on a river, a large boat with animals in the hold. When a storm came up rocking the boat to pieces, the animals were all very frightened as the boat began to come apart. While the boat was breaking up a scorpion jumped on a camel’s back. “Get off me!” said the camel. The scorpion pleaded, “The boat is breaking up and I can’t swim. I beg you, please carry me to the shore.”

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The camel answered, “You’re a scorpion, I can’t trust you.” The scorpion replied cleverly, “Look at it this way, you can swim, I can’t. When this boat is destroyed I will be utterly dependent on your mercy for survival. Since I have to depend on that alone, I would be a fool to do anything to harm you. If I hurt you it will mean my own death.” With this in mind the camel decided to accept the scorpion and began to swim ashore. About two-thirds of the way across the river the scorpion stung the camel. As the poison entered its bloodstream the camel asked, “After everything you said, everything we talked about, why did you do that?” The scorpion replied, “It is my nature.” This is the situation in the world. We should understand the nature of the things we deal with, we should understand specifically what we are looking for and know where to look. Here is another teaching story. Late one night, about two o’clock in the morning, an old man was crouched down in front of a building in a small town, the only building on the street with a light. He was crawling around on his hands and knees when another man who was going home passed by. He saw the old man on his hands and knees and asked, “What are you doing?” “I am looking for my keys.” The second man got down on his hands and knees to help him look. The old man said, “It won’t make any difference if you help me look.” “Why won’t it help?” the second man asked. “Because I didn’t lose my keys here.” “Where did you lose those keys?” “In the woods.” “Then why are you looking for them here?” “Because this is the only place with a light.” We have to know where to look, we have to know what we are looking for, we have to know that what we are looking for is available in the place where we are looking. Most of the world, most of its people, spend a lifetime looking for things in places where they do not exist. The experience of so many people should have taught us where certain things are not to be found, but this is not the case, we have a common malady, a malady so common it might even be said that this sickness, this insanity is part of the collective karma of human consciousness. It is so pervasive that everyone shares it; we need to wake up to this aspect of our consciousness, we should fight to eliminate this insidious misunderstanding which is so deeply rooted that people are deluded, actually persuaded they have what they do not really have at all. How does this happen? Some think they find peace with alcohol, others think they find peace with drugs. They have actually given up on the world because it has caused them nothing but pain, nothing but difficulty, concluding they can find the peace

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they are looking for with drugs or alcohol. In the 1960s a whole generation was caught up in that illusion, a pill to change our consciousness, to change our state of being. There was no need to work for change, all we had to do was take the right assortment of drugs. A Harvard professor preached that drugs were the answer; he was famous for what he advocated, his slogan was turn on, tune in and drop out, as if it could happen by magic. A lot of people were injured by drugs, people were deranged, crippled emotionally or physically, unable to function normally. As we look at the false messiahs who have come and gone through history, as we look at the recurrence of messianic movements in different parts of the world, followed by the disappointment when that movement flounders, when the utopia is not established, we should understand there is another way, in spite of this mass hypnosis which convinces us something external can change us, take us, transform us. A few years ago certain people were waiting for space ships to take them, committing mass suicide to allow themselves to be taken. There are witch doctors pretending to confer magic powers. Religions proclaim the coming of a messiah, yet there is already someone among us who will take us this very moment. He is that One, a messiah might come, but we do not know when that will be, nor do we know when Judgment Day will come, but until that day comes, until we are taken, there is another approach. We need to become our own messiah, become that being who can open the path, transform our state so that we can reach the place we are looking for. We need to look to ourself to become, to be transformed, to become. Each of us individually needs to become, the work we need to do in our life is the work of becoming. Now the question is, becoming what? How do we become? What is missing from our life? What leads to depression, what leads to anxiety, to unhappiness, giddiness or despair, to emotional states which are out of control? What is it? What is missing? That missing aspect of our existence is often described as inner peace, serenity, an existence without the need for something else, complete within itself. This peace is available, its availability has been announced through the centuries, peace which comes with a specific kind of work. We are told that if we want to go to a certain place we must develop the state allowed in that place. To be a certain way we have to become what is allowed to be that way. To understand the nature of peace we have to be peaceful. We are what we become; there is a process of transformation, of becoming. To be successful we have to understand this process, understand where we are trying to go, where this transformation is possible. It has been said that only God can pray to God, it has been said that only God can experience the qualities of God in their truest way. It has also been said that we are created in God’s image, that when we were created God blew the breath of His spirit into us. Then who are we? Where did we come from, where are we meant to be, what are we meant to be, what is the true nature of a human being, what is this nature we have adapted to? Are we defined by the degrees we have from universities, are we defined by the clothing we wear, by the language we speak, by our cultural institutions? Are we defined by the prophet we follow, defined by the name of the religion we say we belong to or do not belong to? How are we to be defined? Does God have a form, a religion? Does God have children, a style of dress, does He have degrees? Is God definable? Are we definable? If God is without form, without definition, beyond the scope of our understanding, as long as we are definable and within the scope of what can be explained, we have not come to the place we are trying to reach.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi
We need to enter the realm of the inexplicable, a realm beyond words where there is only experience. We have to go to a vibrating realm where the qualities of the Being who created us exist. We should understand that what our eyes see has limits, everything we see will disappear, including this thing we call our body. We should believe it is possible to connect with a reality greater than this body, it is possible to change our beliefs, a change which will transform our relationship with the world and with truth. As long as we do not change our beliefs, as long as we hold onto the illusion we call the world and treat it with reverence, as if our life depended on it, we are incapable of change. Our life, our eternal existence depends on something else. Until we give our reverence to that something else, until we give our respect to it, be obedient to that something else, until we make it our priority we are locked in wherever we are. What keeps us there is the inability to break through our system of belief, we are stuck in our beliefs which hold us in place, flypaper holding a fly. We shake our arms and legs but we are not moving, we take a plane from New York to Amsterdam but we are not moving. All this movement is illusory because it is external. Slowly we learn that every external manifestation is unreal, illusion in a goldplated frame, a lie. A title does not mean we have ability, doing something means we have ability. Because we are confused we create a semblance of order by establishing grades of illusion, then we look for our place within the gradations, we aspire to reach certain plateaus of illusion as if that raises us higher. This is the same as moving from one place to another on sticky flypaper. We need to understand that real movement does not occur by taking one step and the next, real movement occurs by traveling through worlds while we are sitting still. We can go everywhere in the universe sitting in our chair. There is a light within us, but our attention is focused on the world. Compared with this light, the world is an atom. When we cannot see the light we treat it as if it did not exist, and bow to the atom. We take what is less, much less, and treat it as if it were more, much more. We need to change our perception, understand how that change of perception can be reality. It begins with establishing a center which allows change to occur, with understanding the conditions relevant to that center. Where is it, what is it, what allows change to take place, where does that change take us, what must we do to go to that place? They say it is more difficult for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Understand these metaphors and why they apply to us. What does a rich man mean? It is a man who has large quantities of the world, quantities of things, a man who takes these things with him as he tries to squeeze into a small place. It is no more complicated than that, we cannot go to certain places if we are carrying certain things, we cannot swim carrying a house on our back. We are trying to swim, trying to swim from here to another world, to escape from a place where we are stranded, hoping to end up somewhere else. We need to learn how to do that, this body we carry has a limited duration, a limited time span and limits on what it can do. We should act with the understanding of these limits, something the world has forgotten. Once we do we can look for things which have no limit. When we study the world we see that all creation has certain limits, but the divine qualities have no limit, they are the qualities which persist from generation to generation sustaining the existence of everything. We should study these qualities carefully, where do they come from, how do they take us from the pain of the world to peace? May we learn the reality of those qualities and be transformed.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi

Knowing Ourself

If a penguin wanted to be an eagle it would be difficult because its characteristics are not suitable for eagles, but they are suitable for penguins which have been given attributes making it possible to do what penguins have to do. As an eagle, a penguin would be a failure, not only a failure but an extremely frustrated failure. Similarly, if an eagle wanted to be a penguin it would be tough for the eagle. Can you see an eagle surviving in the Arctic, diving under water to look for fish? It would not work, it would be nothing but a failure. In the same way, in our lives we have to understand who and what we are, what is suitable for us. We have our specific nature, we have all been given certain gifts. We have to understand the gifts we have been given, and we have to know them. Imagine if an excellent carpenter wanted to be a physicist—it would be difficult and frustrating. If a painter wanted to be a singer, if a singer wanted to be a painter . . . . . we have to be sufficiently in touch with ourself to understand the natural flow of who we are, where that natural flow goes, what it has difficulty with. The ability to stay within what God has given us is something we need to understand, staying with the gifts given to us by God is something we truly need to understand. When we cannot do that or when we will not do that, we find ourself in the endless

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frustration of trying to be something we are not. We need to learn how to know ourself. It is not imperative to learn the nature of others, especially before we know ourself, but it is imperative to be satisfied with ourself and what we are, instead of trying to change what we discover ourself to be. This happens with children. Parents insist they develop one way when they are clearly developing another way. When children have a certain natural talent parents sometimes have other ideas for them, then the children are frustrated, sometimes growing up with difficulties because they are pushed where they cannot go, where they are unwilling to go or just do not easily go. Certain things are permissible and other things are not, there are things which are allowed to happen and things which are not. When things are permitted there is a natural, easy flow. This does not mean effort is not involved, it means there is appropriate effort. Some effort is appropriate and some is inappropriate; when we are tangled in inappropriate effort we are fighting our natural self. Scheming is inappropriate effort; jealousy, going after things which are not ours is inappropriate effort; envy, looking at others, wanting what they have and putting effort into acquiring what they have is inappropriate effort. Appropriate effort is to make ourself better, being satisfied with what goes on, with what happens. Understanding this is important. If we try to develop ourself in inappropriate ways, as we put out effort in inappropriate ways, we end by creating blocks between ourself and reality. Reality opens for us in the way God intended, but if we continue to put incorrect patterns or limits on who we are, on what we are and what we want, if we proceed in ways which are not natural for us, we are moved farther and farther from reality, and this is not natural. What is natural for us is the flow to reality. There is a flow in the universe, there is a way things go smoothly and a way they do not. For a salmon it is sometimes appropriate to swim upstream, for most people however, this is difficult. When we want to carve a route for ourself from place to place, we try to create ways which do not require swimming upstream. We need to know which way the current goes and move with it instead of against it. When we move with the current and become part of it, things open up for us; when we oppose the current things close down for us. This does not necessarily have implications for the world; there are people who go against the grain, against themselves, who are treacherous and scheming with great effectiveness in the world. Nevertheless this is not what is important. They might have success in the world that way, but they have developed qualities which cut them off from reality. We need to become human beings who know ourself and our own nature. The prophets, the holy books and the great holy beings have told us that to know ourself is to know our Creator. If we create a false self derived from worldly ideas we are never going to know ourself. By doing this we create a substitute reality which closes the door to our true self. And what is our true self? Our true self means to be the vice-regent of God. If we are so busy chasing worldly titles, worldly honors, worldly situations, we lose our rightful position as the vice-regent of God. This does not mean we should not make an effort in worldly situations, this does not mean we should withdraw from the world, it means we have to act within the range of the permissible for ourself. The general rules of permissibility have been laid down, but each of us should understand what is individually permissible as well, what works for us, what does not work for us, and what can tell us better than the things our own inclinations tell us? We need to follow our inclinations, we need to be true to our inner core, we need to know that inner core. While we are learning how this inner core functions sometimes it is easier for us to recognize it in other people before we can examine our own. We need to understand, in this worldly way, that there are differences which do not matter. Some people are meant to do a, some people are meant to do b, some people are meant to be opera singers and some people are not. We need to differentiate between this worldly existence and our true self. If we do not accommodate our worldly existence in the right way, if we do not flow with our worldly existence in the right way, we can be kept from understanding the true nature of our existence.

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At this stage of existence, this illusory passage we are traveling through, this stage from birth to death, we live in two worlds. We live in the world of flesh and sometimes in the world of spirit. Since we live in both worlds, and the world of the flesh has an enormous impact on the soul, we have to be careful about what we do to the soul for the sake of the flesh. The worldly chase for gold, land, titles, power and honors runs contrary to our true self, this chase takes us farther and farther from our true self. We must understand the grace of our true self, it must be our priority. We must understand the nature of this existence and the different kinds of creation, we must understand that each of us is individual, each of us has certain facets which are different from someone else’s. This does not make us significantly different, it just means in the world of the flesh we have been faceted differently. Someone who is dexterous can do things which others cannot, this does not make them better or others worse, it is just the way things are. We need to accept the way things are, we need to take advantage of what we have been given instead of fighting for something which is not ours. We need to know instinctively what we have been given, the gifts which are ours, which are much greater than we can imagine. But if we construct these gifts in our mind, if we imagine these gifts we limit ourself. If we develop concepts of who we are from our thoughts we limit ourself because we are beyond our imagination. The gifts available to us are beyond imagination, the grace He has placed in us is beyond imagination; we need to stop limiting our understanding. When we stop fighting the natural way of things, that grace opens up, that grace can be seen. When we learn to be closer to ourself by moving along with the things that are appropriate for us, we are closer to the truth of ourself. As we are closer to the truth of ourself we are closer to the truth of God. This does not necessarily mean we do not have to work hard. There is a tradition which says trust in God but tie up your camel. We have to do our own duty in the world, not the duty prescribed for others; we need to learn the duty prescribed for ourself, recognizing that each of us is given a different prescription. Understanding our prescribed duty is important, trying to do the duty prescribed for someone else makes us ill. We need to be tuned to ourself, not fighting it but accepting it. Acceptance is one of our tests, the ability to accept who we are, who other people are, accepting them for who they are. This is a test which works two ways. If we cannot accept ourself we cannot accept anyone else, we are a roadblock for ourself and other people, a roadblock between ourself and God. It all begins with fighting against what is appropriate; we need to understand our true nature and rejoice in it. Freeing ourself from the things the world expects of us, that our parents expect of us, freeing ourself from what we think we ought to be, guiding ourself to what we actually already are, all this is a major step on the spiritual path even though it occurs in the flesh. We have to understand that inner connection, and as we are closer to knowing ourself, God willing we are closer to knowing our Lord. This is the glory, the mission of our lives, the reason for our existence, the reason for creation. If we ignore this, if we do not look at it squarely, we have missed the purpose of our existence, we have missed the purpose of our life. We need to look at ourself and be satisfied, satisfied with what we have been given, content with the self we discover. God lives in contentment, God lives in peace, He lives in mercy, He lives in compassion. When satisfaction with that self is available we are capable of entering His qualities, these are some of the gifts we are given. By accepting these gifts and living in these gifts we become an aid, not merely to ourself but to all humanity, we become a cupbearer for the qualities which accompany us. When we meet others we share that cup because our lives are shared, God is shared. We share God with our friends and companions. Is there a greater meaning in our life, is there a greater purpose for our life? This happens only if we know ourself, it happens only if we are true to ourself, only if we are content with who we are, with what we are and what has been given to us. May God let each of us stand in that place of contentment, find that place of peace, understand the immaculate spot reserved for us where His grace exists, a specific place which exists everywhere if we understand ourself.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi

Conversion

We all need the experience of conversion. What is conversion, what does it mean? Conversion is usually taken to mean changing from one set of beliefs or one religion to another, but this is not the way the great teachers have explained it. Most of us are born to a religion, yet the fact we are born to a certain religion does not mean we believe in God, it does not mean we believe in truth, it means only that we are born to a certain religion. In the world today many religions have become a business, they have become a political party, a way to bring a specific group together, imposing the will of some in that group on the rest. This is what is often called religion today, it is often what religions do in this world. The experience of conversion, according to the wisdom of saintly beings, is something other than that. Conversion means coming to the point where we realize we need God in our life. No matter what religion we are born to, we now take the position that we choose God instead of the world, we take that step, a step which lies beyond what the world has given us, what the world has supplied us with, what the world says is correct. We step into a place where we say there is something else, I need to know what this something else is. At this level of consciousness, a place where we no longer find answers with our intellect, where we know something else is going on in our heart which is not being responded to, which is not being answered, we know that we need answers, we need

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heart answers, not mind answers because all the answers or directions from the mind have not led to satisfaction, to peace in the heart. This is a conversion, an experience in which we leave the understanding we have been fed and strike out on our own. There is a scriptural observation which tells us there can be no compulsion in religion. This means two things: first, we cannot force someone to be religious in the way we want them to be, and second, it is impossible. Not only should we not try to force people, it is impossible to force them. We might be able to force them outwardly, but they alone know what is going on inwardly, the only place where something actually happens. When we make this decision to step into the religion of the heart, the melting heart, the open heart, religion becomes valid. No one can take anyone else to God. Others can assist us, they can point things out to us, explain things to us, nurture us, fertilize us, water us, but we have to do the work because we want to. If we resist it is not going to happen. We are involved in the process of growth, we have to be the same kind of active ingredient in this process as the genetic materials of a seed which make it develop as an oak, a sycamore or a pine. The seed is an active ingredient in its own growth, it is not only the fertilizer and water fed to it, it is not only the soil it is planted in. Well inside us, God has planted a piece of Himself which is waiting to grow. Here is a little story with an interesting point. Certain fields of rice were owned by some poor people and by one rich man. The rich man bribed those who brought the water to put more on his field than on the others; he also bribed those who fertilized the fields to put more fertilizer on his fields. This meant his fields were much greener than all the others, but he forgot that the same water and fertilizer which nurture the rice nurture other seeds as well. His fields were greener because he had more weeds, the things which make the rice grow also make weeds grow. We have to be very careful to know what we are growing, we also have to be careful what we use to make it grow, understanding that merely because something looks green, it does not mean it is rice. We may look attractive to the world, but this does not mean the true seed inside us is germinating or maturing, providing the mechanism for growth, the movement for growth. We have to determine what is truth and what is a lie, then take a stand on the side of truth. We must position ourself on the side of truth, we must align ourself with truth. This understanding is natural for us because when we come close to the truth it resonates. If we are free, if we are not bound by the passions of separation and hatred we can resonate with truth, but when we are caught up in passion, in the heat of hatred, the heat of this is mine not yours, or the heat of I have to have this, it means we cannot have truth, we are cut off from it, we have cut ourself off from the qualities which understand truth. These qualities of separation and a sense of differences cannot understand the truth because they do not belong to it. We have to change, we have to live in a place where truth can be understood. This involves the experience of conversion. But one such experience is not enough, we need these experiences throughout the day, a reason why we pray at different times during each day. As we are affected by the world our intention wanes, our intention becomes weaker, we are beaten down by the hypnotic illusions, the magnetism of the world, the constant shout, I am real, I am real, accept me, accept me. We have to withdraw to understand what is real. Every time we set our intention to pray or meditate we go through that experience of conversion again. What does it mean to set our intention, to make it firm? To set an intention to pray means dropping the world, entering God’s space, saying now I intend to believe less in the world, to believe more in God, my intention is to step closer to reality and leave illusion behind. I need to wash away all this illusion I bathe in continually. Not only do we need to wash in water, we also need to wash in an intention which cleanses us. Cleansing is a necessity in our lives, all the green on the fields of rice which is not rice, all those weeds have to be pulled out, this is the inner cleansing we have to do. We have to do this, we cannot have someone else pull out our weeds, we have to do this for ourself because no one else knows where to find them.

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The only one who knows all our secrets, except God, is ourself, and we therefore have a choice. We can either keep our secrets, try to hide them and be hypocritical, or be honest and say I have two aspects to myself. I am one part weeds and another part which needs to be nurtured, which can grow if the weeds are removed. Then we have to begin the process of removing the weeds, we have to start this process of cleansing our being. When we do this we change, we step away from yours and mine, from separations and a sense of differences, we move into inclusivity, my heart melts and we are united that way. All the good things I see in myself I can see in you, I know they are shared, I know they are not different, I know there is no separation between us. The happiness I feel for you is the happiness I feel for myself. If I cannot feel happiness for you I do not really know how to feel happiness myself, I do not understand what happiness is if my happiness and my understanding of happiness are limited to myself. The truth of joy is that it is not limited, if we try to limit joy and separate it into sections, this is not the realm of joy, it is the world of separations and differences, a world which does not belong to God, it belongs somewhere else; at that time we belong somewhere else. We have to decide which club we are going to join, remembering that God’s club includes everyone, no one is excluded, there are no entrance requirements and no entrance fees. He offers the same thing to everyone. Consider the protection a woman’s body affords the embryo. We are in God’s body, we are provided for like an embryo. Can we offer everything to each other without discrimination, without expectation, can we become that kind of being? When we become that kind of being what happens to us, who do we become, how does it change the world? If there is to be peace in the world, if there is to be peace among humankind it will happen when individuals make this change, when it becomes evident as they walk down the street that there is something different about them, that when they walk past we feel soothed, we feel as if a burden has been taken from us in their presence. And what has happened to them? They have entered a vibratory state aligned with God which brings God close to us. When we meet one of these people who bring God close to us, when we have the appropriate intention and behavior we align ourself with that vibration. This will not happen from the top down, with an order issued by some person insisting we align ourself with God. It will not happen that way, it will happen from the bottom up. As people begin to align with God that vibration, that peace, that clarity becomes more common within society, and as it becomes more available it spreads, it spreads one person at a time. The only one we are responsible for is ourself. God is responsible for everyone else, but we have to make that seed grow.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi

Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders is a game we used to play when we were very young. This is a game whose players start at the bottom of a board trying to reach the top with the throw of the dice, a few spaces at a time. The winner is the first one to reach the top. At some spaces there is a ladder on which the player climbs up, at other spaces there is a chute on which the player slides rapidly back down. Images of chutes and ladders are interesting—to slide down is quick, it takes no effort, we land on a chute and before we know what happened we are at the bottom again. With a ladder it is one step at a time, we go up a ladder slowly to reach the next step. Our life is like that, our state can change so rapidly, the smallest thing will set us off. We hit a chute and down we go to a lower state in a matter of seconds. Getting out of it is different, we cannot get out in a matter of seconds, we cannot just take another step then slide up. It doesn’t work that way, we can slide down to a lower step, but to get back up takes effort. We have to get back up that chute or find a ladder, then one step at a time we crawl out of the hole. It does not take any effort to fall, to rise we must engage effort. As long as we are unaware we have dropped down we find no reason to climb out. The experience of falling down a chute happens so quickly, the change of state is so intense, so rapid we do

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not always recognize it immediately. Sometimes people can be in a hole a long time before they realize where they are, before they recognize they have fallen down and they need to climb out. When we fall certain things accompany these lower states, we acquire a certain torpor which clouds our ability to function. Any lower state, all those which involve arrogance, anger, jealousy, resentment, separations, they all come with torpor—without that torpor we would not be inclined to stay there, we would know something is wrong. Torpor clouds our vision and often comes with a sense of self-righteousness, a self-protecting device to mask other unpleasant feelings; it comes for a reason, although not a good one. When that torpor comes we find it acceptable to stay in a lower state because our vision is clouded, a fog has set in, we cannot see very far, we walk around blind. Walking around blind keeps us from recognizing the topography of our situation, things are hidden, we are quite ready to fall down another chute if we cannot see where we are going. In fact, our consciousness has dimmed, this torpor has limited our consciousness. The length of time it takes to realize we are in a bad state depends on the amount of work we have done on ourself, the sensitivity we have to ourself. We must have sensitivity to ourself before we can be sensitive to others, if we are not sensitive to ourself we cannot be sensitive to others. The time it takes between the fall and the recognition of our torpor depends on our sensitivity. When this recognition comes our life hangs in the balance, we must decide to get away from the torpor, analyze ourself, find out what is wrong and intend to change. Now all this is difficult because things depend on our capacity for self-recognition, some of which can be unpleasant. We do not like to think about ourself in an unpleasant way, it stirs our conscience, it can be painful, hard to deal with. When the recognition comes that something is wrong we see the things we have committed, actions which might be hard to look at, we feel guilty, and if we do not like the feeling of guilt we slip right back into torpor. Resentment can mask guilt, jealousy can mask guilt, arrogance can mask it, anger can mask it. There is a natural reaction of the lower self masking the promptings of conscience which want to take us from that lower situation, but once there is recognition effort must follow, the effort to crawl out of the hole which entails climbing, the slow restoration to a higher state. This means we have to change the way we think for awhile, enter another state of consciousness. Everyone is capable of this, everyone knows what it is, yet how aware are we of the difference between a higher and lower state of consciousness? How aware are we of the inner peace, the magnanimity in higher states, how aware are we of the love we have in higher states? How aware are we of such moments, how willing are we to overcome the lower self when there are parts of us enjoying those lower moments, parts of us enjoying the torpor? The lower self revels in feelings of animosity, the sense of I am better than you, feelings of self-importance, it actually revels in them, celebrates them because they make this lower self important. As long as we allow such feelings, another chute is at hand, close by, we descend more and more. Such feelings come in different ways, sometimes in pairs of opposites. There are those who revel in their own superiority and others who thrive on their inferiority, but both are forms of torpor. Whether we sit in a pool of inferiority feeling sorry for ourself, or sit in a pool of superiority celebrating ourself, we are in a state of torpor, it does not matter which one, neither has anything to do with reality. This is only a celebration or a sadness of the self, our focus is entirely on the self, a state of idol worship, completely egocentric behavior in which the whole world revolves around us, whether incredibly sad or incredibly happy. When people who revel in themselves meet anyone more famous, more powerful, richer or better than they are in some worldly way, they plunge into a pool of self-pity. These are two sides of the same coin, both torpor, both requiring effort to climb out.

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Realize the effort we need here, realize that egocentric thought patterns mean we are going down a chute, this is a key to our understanding. If all we can think about is the place where we are, or what is going on in our life, our worldly drama, our worldly situation, we are going down a chute. Our consciousness must move from that focus on ourself to a focus on our relationship to God. When we move into that praise of God we begin to climb, we climb the ladder, we move from the torpor of self-consciousness to the glory of God-consciousness. Self-consciousness leads to every worldly trap, self-consciousness means being conscious of the self for reasons of the self, not for reasons of knowing God. If the point of knowing the self is to make it function in the world instead of making it move towards God, we have lost the true reason to know ourself. The two are close to each other, so close we have to be careful about how we move on this path, we have to realize the nature of our interaction with the self. We have to interact with ourself to know ourself, to do away with things which are not true, things attached to us which are not reality. We need to know the self to strip away the veils hiding us from the truth. On the other hand, if we come to know ourself just to be intimate with all the veils hiding us from reality, if we spend our time exploring the subtleties of these veils, the nuances of self-consciousness, we are stuck in the world, we function in states of torpor as if we were drugged. We drug ourself with specific mental patterns, with the way we think we are, caught in our relations to others, in relation to things, to women, to men, in relation to money, to age, to pain, to sickness, to health, in relation to all these things, thousands of things. As long as we are not thinking of ourself in relation to God we are stuck in torpor. As thinking about ourself in relation to God grows, we climb up that ladder, we climb from the holes we put ourself into; as thinking about ourself in relation to God increases, thinking about the self decreases, thinking about God increases. This is the beginning of God-consciousness, the beginning of God-realization, thinking about God becomes part of our being. This is the thinking we need to move along the path; in reality, God exists and we do not. When we reach this understanding and stay there, we can be in that place where we breathe His perfection and our life changes. All the chutes and holes disappear, we seem to be walking on water, there are no more traps to fall into, we bypass them. Even if we should step over them they no longer affect us, our reality has changed, we are not subject to the world’s laws, the laws we are subject to when we are not in this state, we pass above the holes without falling in. This is the state we have to strive for. To strive for it means understanding the obstacles, realizing what stands in our way, realizing that dark forces keep trying to catch us, to trap us into wandering over a hole and falling in. We have to be vigilant, be conscious of the things happening to us so that when we fall into a dark place we acknowledge it will take effort to get out, and we must be ready to commit the effort, we must be one-pointed in our understanding and ready for the effort. It requires this effort to stop the momentum taking us in the wrong direction. We have to stop and climb, stop and climb. If we are going to reach the top we have to do a lot of this. Every time we climb one set of steps or one ladder, we should remember there is another ladder to climb; it is not as if we can stop climbing, we cannot. This is an effort which must continue daily, as long as we are in this body we are susceptible to chutes. May God help us be aware of our own state, may God help us love the consciousness that comes when we are with Him. May consciousness of Him be the consciousness we live in.

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Attachments

The word attachment means something that is tied or fastened to something else. This suggests our attachments are literally fastened to us, everywhere we go they go with us, and more importantly, everywhere they go we go with them. There is a problem here, who are we, what are we attached to, where do we go, why, what takes us there? Once we begin to understand the relation between ourself and our attachments, we can attempt the detaching process. Think of a fishhook on a fishing rod as a lie dangling from the rod, a lie to the fish that this is something to eat. The fish is deluded by the lie and bites, then suddenly it is attached, attached to a fishhook, attached to the end of its life. It is very difficult for the fish to get rid of the hook. A big fish can try swimming in the opposite direction, but at the very least it will rip a big hole at the point of attachment which will be painful. Have you ever looked at the barbs on a fishhook? Not only is there a hook on the way in, there is also a hook going out, a barb at the bottom going the other way so that the fish cannot release itself. We have been hooked so many times we are attached, we have to follow the rod wherever it takes us because we are attached. To detach ourself entails effort and pain, either we are willing to put up with the effort and pain or we have to keep swimming with the hook in our mouth until we are pulled from the water. We all know what happens when we are pulled from the water.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi
This analogy can help us understand that we are hooked, understand how we are hooked in so many ways, in so many places we do not even realize we are hooked. We think we know, yet we do not, and it is what we do not know that traps us, it is what we do not know that deludes us, that takes us to places where we make dreadful mistakes. One reason we do not know is really simple, we think we know. We think we know and these blinders lure us into terrible situations. We think we know and so we rush in, as they say, where angels fear to tread, we walk into situations thinking we can control them when we cannot, we credit ourself with abilities we do not have, using our own understanding to create our own reality. How do we step back, how do we step back to a place which does not assume anything? How do we step back to a humble place, a reverent place, how do we step back to a place without judgment? How do we step back far enough so that the illusion of a worm on the hook is no longer tempting, how do we step back so that the glitters we bite into no longer seem tasty, how do we step back far enough to have a perspective on reality? As long as we are pulled along by everything we have been hooked by we cannot step back, as hard as we try, as much as we think we are stepping back we are merely being pulled. Things go by so quickly we do not know whether we are stepping back or being pulled. This means we must begin to examine ourself. The examination must go back to our childhood, studying our whole life, asking ourself how have I been hooked, what made me the way I am? We have to ask what was I hooked on, what has made me react in certain ways at certain times, what are my habits, where did they come from, how did they develop, how did they evolve, why do I still react? We know that when we are hooked we cannot help but react. When the fisherman pulls on the hook the fish comes, it cannot help it. Sometimes the fisherman gives it a little slack, a little leeway every so often while pulling it in, and the fish thinks it has got away. This little span of time, this little leeway when we think we have got away brings back arrogance, making us think once more that we know. We are like the gambler who goes to the casinos losing nine times out of ten, but all he remembers is the time he won, which makes him believe it is always possible. We keep going back because we forget the difficulties, we remember only the times we are in control; when we are in charge and things are going well we forget everything else because we refuse to hold onto the unpleasant things, it is not our way. Illusion is smart enough to give us a little leeway, allow us to step back a little and let the arrogance creep back, then it can pull us in again. Detachment is easy to talk about but hard to achieve. If we look at our physical needs and study the attempts we make to restrain ourself, we can begin to understand the depths of attachment. The simplest example is substance dependency. People who drink can withdraw for a little while, then when something pulls on them the strength to fight that pull is overwhelmed by pain, by the need for alcohol. With the unconsciousness of alcohol there is no ability to resist the attachments any longer. There are so many different drugs, alcohol is just one example, but similar situations happen in our daily lives, they happen with the things and acts we are habituated to, things we are so habituated to they give us some kind of release, some kind of comfort. Certain emotional states are stronger than our ability to withstand them, and these states make some of us feel alive. What kind of state is that? When some people have a tantrum or become very angry, they are invigorated, they feel in control, feel a sense of dominance, a certain arrogance we can hear in their voice. We can hear it rising, there is sudden strength, a strength which gives them life, gives them power which they are addicted to. We need to know what this is, where it comes from, why we like it, why we are attached to being the person in charge, we need to know why we need to be a soloist unable to sing in the choir. There are times to be a soloist, there are also times to be in the choir, we should know how to do everything required of us to be balanced. We have to look someone else in the eye and see equality, not our own superiority. This is one of our greatest attachments, we see ourself as separate, different, superior, more important, understanding what others do not, we see ourself as lovelier, as more loving, more discreet, as more, as more, we are released from obligations because of our special position. We become a church giving ourself a dispensation for which we charge a very small price, something not available to anyone else but certainly available to us. We give ourself a dispensation because we know the truth about the

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kindness inside us, we know the truth about the great love in our heart. True, we do have that love, but we also have the garbage too; if we deny the lower self we are merely denying the reality of our state. The prophets, the saints, all the holy beings have told us about these base desires, and there is a struggle; if we cannot realize we are in the midst of a struggle we are denying the reality of our existence. This is not to judge anyone, it only means we should look at ourself to learn the state we are in. Some of us have looked at ourself over a number of years, slowly coming closer to the person we are supposed to be. However, if we assume too much about our own accomplishment we make a great mistake, we begin to think we have reached a certain level and lose humility. We must not lose our humility, we have to stay small. We have been told to be a student, to be small. We have to understand what being small means. What happens to us when we are small is interesting. If we are small, if we are in the last line of the chorus, certain things become less important, we acquire clarity, we can look at all the big things around us with a better perspective. If we are too big we are too close to understand. Arrogance is so big, so invasive it obscures and blinds us to that quality in ourself. If we are the size of an elephant, think what it does to our perspective, it changes the way we approach things. It is harder for an elephant to be humble than for a chipmunk. As an elephant walks through the forest he knocks trees out of his way when he has to, but a chipmunk has an advantage, he can scurry back to his little hole and hide. It is hard for an elephant to hide, and there are times in our life when we have to hide, we have to hide from all the qualities darkness and illusion use to catch us; we have to be in small, narrow places so that the hooks cannot catch us. The grace and glory of being small comes with an understanding of love. Love understands the greatness of compassion, the greatness of mercy, of patience, of the universe. Love is in awe of the Creator, love is in awe of the wonder of the creation, love is the mode ready to help when help is needed. Love is not a boy scout insisting on helping someone cross the street who does not want to, love is not insistent, it is easy, it makes us easy, comfortable. Love will help us burn away the hooks of illusion and the darkness of attachment. The wisdom of purity will teach us to recognize bait as nothing other than bait, and with God’s help, will show us how to remove the things which tie us to the world.

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The Whisperer

In a collection of the sayings and traditions of the prophet Muhammad, one at the beginning of the collection indicates that the consequence of our actions depends on our intention. This is an important understanding which informs us that not everything is as it appears to be. In addition to all the external layers are the inner layers where truth exists. As we go through life we are often so fixed on a specific goal we stop looking at our actions because we believe the goal is paramount, we assign such positive things to the goal we sometimes forget about the actions we take to achieve this goal. God has only to say, “Be!” and that thing exists. Results are in His hands, not ours, yet what is in our hands is our intention as it manifests in our actions. Our intention may not bring about the results we intend, but if our intention is correct it will cause something appropriate for our state of being. We need to go through life with appropriate intentions. What is an appropriate intention, what is correct for us? This is something to consider, something we should contemplate deeply, we need to understand what that intention can do. Intention is our bandwave connecting us to the open space of His holiness, our intention must be aligned with His. To do this we have to walk to Him on the path of purification. As long as our intention is motivated by something other than His grace or His glory, our intention is not pure. How do we stay pure, how do we stay on the path to Him, and how do we understand the

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difference between purity and impurity? Our intention is to be like Him yet there is the whisperer of evil who whispers then withdraws, taking us away from Him. Why does the whisperer withdraw or disappear? He has only the ability to whisper, to invite us to go his way, he comes to whisper words into our ear, whether we respond or not is up to us. Who is the whisperer, what is the whisperer? The whisperer surrounds us, the whisperer can be any of the media, the whisperer can be friends or associates, the whisperer can be any of the influences in this world. Gold whispers to us, sex whispers to us, property whispers to us, fame whispers to us, all these things whisper and withdraw. They leave and we are left hanging onto whatever it is they leave with us. We must be aware that the whispers keep coming, we must be aware that we need to distinguish between the whisper and the truth, between the whisper and reality, between the whisper and what is truly good. One of the miracles of this country is our freedom to choose the way of darkness and illusion or God’s way. Now in this country the darkness is obvious, we can see it, we are warned. Other countries looking at this one fail to understand that beneath the surface there is profound belief in God. There is faith in God in this country which is not only permitted, it is permitted in a way which rises naturally from the hearts of the people because it is their intention, it is not forced, and that is the power of this country, the true intention for God can rise in its people. In other places the apparent intention might be forced on people, and when things are forced they do not manifest in the same way. We have to thank God that we are in a position to make a choice, that we are given a range of possibilities, we can see what is correct and what is not. The whisperer has been among us since the beginning. He whispered in the garden of Eden, he continues to whisper to human beings. Why is there a prohibition against gossip, against talking about others? These are things which are done in whispers, things which are hidden, done behind people’s backs. What is hidden begins to ferment or decay like things hidden in dark places: mold grows in dark, hidden places, funguses grow in dark hidden places; a fungus slowly eats away the thing it attacks. If you want a dark place, be there alone in the early morning, in silence, focused on God. This can be an appropriate dark place because the darkness depends only on our rotation around the sun, a time when the influence of things affecting us is reduced. Understand when that place is appropriate and when it is not; be on guard, we need to be on guard against the whisperers dressed as friends who influence us in an inappropriate way. This means we need to develop a level of inner judgment which is not baffled by paradox, not confused by language that indicates one thing but means something else. True justice sees through these things, even if worldly justice cannot. The whisperer takes words and turns them upside down, making us believe in things which are not true. We have to hold everything we hear up to the light of God, we have to hold everything we are shown up to the light of God. Does it pass the test of His light? Most often what we have to hold up to His light is our own intention; does our intention pass the test of His light? We have to keep doing this because we so easily, so quickly convince ourself we are traveling a path of truth, but it is our focus on that truth we must remember to check. Within us is a place which intuitively understands whether we are in balance or not, whether we are aligned with what is true, yet this intuitive place only reveals itself when we undertake purification; if we have not done this, we cannot hear that faint voice. We need guidance until we come to that place, and we have to be very secure in the choice of our guide, extremely careful about whom we listen to, pay attention to, whom we befriend or spend time with. We have to discover how naïve we can be, how easily we can be dazzled by words. We should keep returning to the truth, keep a deliberate focus on the pillars of truth. When things are not consistent with these pillars we have to reconsider, if things feel good for the wrong reasons we have to understand that something is wrong.

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The German word Schadenfreude means the happiness we take in someone else’s misfortune. We do enjoy many different things—some people actually rejoice in the misfortunes of others, a joy driven by jealousy or resentment. Feeling good is not necessarily an indication that we are good, we have to differentiate between what is truly good and what is merely feeling good. A maxim of today’s pop culture is if it feels good do it, something accepted by many people, especially the young. This is not to say that something which feels good is bad, but not everything which feels good is good. We need high standards adopted from high places. Everyone has standards; even thieves have standards, the more they steal the better off they think they are, that is their standard. Pickpockets have standards, religions have standards, yet God exists. We need to change, we need to understand the joy of His grace, we need to be overwhelmed by love. When we are overwhelmed by love we have the possibility of acquiring the correct intention, true love will not let us be resentful, will not let us be jealous or angry. True love is a fire burning these things away. We should turn up the heat and understand, remember what it feels like to be in love, know the feeling of overwhelming compassion, of grace and compassion, of unquestioning kindness to others. If we are filled with the understanding that this is what we need, filled with the intention to reach this state, our path will be, with God’s help, to Him. Whether or not results occur as we expect them to does not matter. Eventually, results are not what we are interested in, what we are interested in is our state of being. Many saints have been beggars whose results, according to the world, were minimal, they were not respected, yet according to God they reached the heights of being. In this world we are respected for visibility, for fame. Do we see God anywhere, does He show Himself to us? We need to know His truth and recognize the lies of the world. May God cleanse us of these lies, may our intention be purified. May we be active in this purification and may He assist us with that; without His help we cannot do it, understand that without this realization we cannot do it. Only if we bring ourself to His intention can we change in the right way.

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Breaking Habits

May the peace of God be with you, now and always. We go to sleep at night and we wake up to a new day; in His mercy God gives us a continuum of new days. We get out of bed to start again, and every time we get up we decide how we are going to begin. If we are caught in a continuum of sameness, a failure to understand that an opportunity lies before us for a fresh beginning, nothing changes. But if we understand that the sun sets and the sun rises, even though it is the same sun it is a new opportunity. If we miss the available mercy, the mercy given to us, we miss an understanding that God starts the world all over again, we miss an understanding that with each breath there is a renewal in our state of being. We cannot be tied down by what happened before, we have to move away from that. Negativity ties us to the difficult; being positive is a source of renewal, being positive carries springtime around with us. Renewal is characteristic of this world, death and renewal go on all the time. We must allow death and renewal to proceed within us, there must be a death for our base desires and a renewal for purity. Purity must be renewed continually. If we want fresh bread we have to bake every day, if we do not bake every day we cannot have fresh bread. The smell of freshness is given off because the bread was just baked. There is a vibrance when we resonate reality because we have made the effort to be there, we keep making that effort, we keep remaking that effort.

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The magnetic, hypnotic pull of this world is so powerful that we need constant cleansing, we cannot just cleanse ourself once and be done with it. Just as we wake up every morning needing to wash, needing to shower to be rid of the sleep, we have to shower internally to be rid of the world. We have to cleanse both what we walk through and what we have within us, a process which cannot stop. We should understand this as part of the burden of being human, the effort must go on, we cannot glide on automatic. A bird must move its wings to maintain flight, it can glide awhile on air currents, but the time comes when it has to move its wings to stay aloft, something that happens more than once a day. If we want to stay aloft we have to make an effort, we have to summon that effort which is entwined with who we are, who we are to become. To change who we are to become we need great effort. God will supply the grace—we need patience waiting for the grace to come—while we stay in a mode of constant effort, we cannot be sloths, we cannot be sloppy, we cannot merely rest, we have to put out effort. To exert this effort means we have to be awake, we have to be conscious of what we have to do: we have to understand what we are trying to accomplish and how to do it. If we do not keep our focus effort will drop away, if we do not have a certain impetus our effort will slacken. What is our impetus, how do we refocus, how do we start again through all the difficulties thrown at us? We have to summon inner strength, we have to associate with people who help us stimulate effort, who inspire us to re-create effort. And then we have to understand the results of this effort, focusing on those moments when purity enters our state, remembering what it is like. We have an enemy in common, the dark thoughts and purposes which keep trying to divert us from our effort to be clean, to be pure. They put us in many different situations which demand effort, but this is pointless effort; we should know the difference between pointless effort and effort that bears fruit. Our mind is always at work, we churn up thoughts from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, and even when we sleep we still have dreams. Why are we attached to our thoughts, where do they take us? Many of these thoughts, the way we think, our thought patterns, are formed when we are young, under the influence of parents or friends. If we have had negative friends and parents we might have acquired negative thought processes, and these negative thought processes are difficult to overcome. Why is this difficult? We believe this way of thinking is relevent to us, it influences us. There is a leap we need to make, a leap which understands there is a difference between ourself and our thought process. How can we do that? We have to arrange for someone to watch us, an internal observer, we have to watch ourself. In the way our parents watched us develop, we have to become our own parent, even though we do not have parenting skills, we still have to be that parent. We understand what kindness is, what goodness is, we understand sloth and falling away from the path, we have those simple concepts. We have to watch ourself as the parent watches his child to see where we are on the path, what progress we make as we are conscious of watching. By allowing ourself a place that observes, a place that becomes our parent, we can see what is false, we can begin to eliminate all this. As long as we fail to watch ourself, as long as we are unaware of what is going on, we fall into patterns which are like long-term spasms, doing the same thing again and again over an extended period of time, more or less as we develop a twitch. Certain twitches can last for years if we do not stop them. We need to break free of our twitches, break away from automatic responses, break these spasms holding our life for months at a time. We need to find a way to do this, to make that leap, have the courage to make the effort, to be involved. If we’re not going to be involved in our own life, who is? If we’re not going to make the effort to turn towards God, who can do that for us? We are responsible for ourself, no matter the hard stories of our upbringing, the excuses we can come up with to explain why we are the way we are. In the final analysis, we are who we are. If this life is going to be something other than ‘it is what it is,’ we have to make the changes, otherwise we stay the same.

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What keeps us from making that leap into being something else, what are we attached to, what makes us hold on, what is this thought process enveloping us in a dreamlike state for days and days even while we are awake? Some people go through the world wondering what other people think of them, and that concern prevents them from functioning. Others function exclusively to influence the way people perceive them. We seem to have a dwarfed image of ourself within the social context, the context of our peers, an image we keep trying to prop up, to work with. We should finish with this image of ourself and become the person who judges that self, not allowing others to judge us. We need to fall into the protection which is the truth of God’s laws, His way, the right conduct and right action He has given us. We should administer this to ourself instead of using the judgment of others. Who knows what their truth is? When we meet someone who does know the truth, we can look to that person for advice, but if we let the ordinary, everyday world become our judge we are judged by the ordinary, everyday standards of whatever culture we accidentally happen to fall into. We need to graduate from culture, from language, from an understanding which is finite. All these cultural, these local understandings are only relevant to a passing moment. Popular culture is called popular culture because it is the understanding of the moment, it changes from moment to moment, fashion changes from moment to moment, style changes from moment to moment. We should move away from things which change and identify ourself with the eternal, align ourself with it. As we move away we learn to love for the sake of love, not for the sake of what others think but for the sake of God in others, not for the sake of who they think they are—they do not really know who they are—and not for the sake of who we think we might become, since we do not really know who we are. We have to know God, we have to know Him in a profound way, we have to long to know Him more than we long for rewards from this world. We need to make priorities for our own state, priorities for our life and experience. The mind tells us we want certain experiences, we want to hear music, we want to go to a concert, go to a casino, to be entertained, we want to see a comedy, we want to see a drama, we want thrills, we want to ski, we want to do something exciting, thrilling, we want to be taken outside ourself by some wonderful experience. We want food that takes us beyond what we think is usual, we want something from the world permitting an experience outside the ordinary. The world however, can give us only ordinary experiences, there is no experience here outside the ordinary. Being caught up by the fascination of some not-ordinary experience is what drives people; once they have had it, the disappointment of not still having it can be overwhelming. This is the moment when alcohol comes in, when all the painkilling agents of the world come in. Some who are successful, when they acquire what they have wanted for so long and find it disappointing, find that it does not do what they thought it would do; when they realize there is still a need for something else, some people deaden themselves to make that need disappear. The need exists, but what are we doing to satisfy the need we feel, the cry pouring from our throat begging for a change from this ordinary existence to something profound? What are we doing to step into the profound, what do we do to remove ourself from the mundane, to become part of the profound? Are we merely talking about it? Talking about it is something, yet only in a minimal way. Understand the wonder of silence, the enormity of quietude, the abundance available within the open space which is not involved in the world. We can wave our hand and change the air around us, with a wave of our hand we can also move the world aside. We can do this, we must believe we can do this because if we do not believe it, if we do not have that faith we cannot take the necessary steps. We must put ourself in a position to let this happen, we have to dive right in, not just stand on the diving board. If we watch high divers we notice something, they do not have much on them or with them, only a little bathing suit, that is about all. They do not have their house on their back, they do not have anything strapped to their legs, they do not have any weights, they stand there ready to dive. We have to put ourself in the same situation because we cannot enter the quietude, we cannot dive into reality when we are packed with illusion. If we are pack rats of illusion, if we insist on taking our illusions with us wherever we go, we

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cannot enter a new space, there will not be room to get in, the opening is too small, we will not be able to climb up the ladder to the diving board. Illusions keep us from doing certain things, then once we are rid of this baggage, we need to put ourself in a place which is actually quiet. Meditation should be a part of our life, should be something we do in a purposeful way, again and again, this is the cleansing. Why do we have to offer prayers so many times a day? The power of the world is strong, the magnetism, the hypnotism, the illusion of the world is so strong it takes constant repetition of prayer, a concerted effort to distance ourself from it, to detach ourself from it. Without that repeated effort we fall back into the spasms of illusion, the spasms of daily life, thinking my God, if only I could! As we do that we collect more illusion which we have to get rid of again. We need to form habits which move us towards reality, we need to believe there is a connection between the worlds that we can enter with a wave of our hand, with the grace of God. We should believe it is God’s will that this can happen for us and for everyone, we should believe it even when things become difficult sometimes, we have to believe that the burdens we carry will be lifted, that this is His will. Illusion is like foam on the ocean. It is not the ocean, it is just foam, yet we treat the foam as if it had substance. If we play with the foam on a cup of coffee we never get to the coffee. We have to dive right in, not skim the surface, not merely examine the foam of our life. If fluff is the nature of our existence we should do away with it. We need substance, we need reality, we need to long for it, yearn for it, cry for it. Crying is a spasm, but this cry is a spasm induced by a connection to reality. This is a hunger, a yearning, a feeling for something we have lost. We have lost our way, we have lost reality. We need to cry for this reality. We have heard of the gift of tears, tears which can be a pathway because that yearning is so overwhelming it provokes a response. If we experience the pain of all the unreality in our life, the pain of knowing how far away we are, by facing that pain we will be allowed to pass through it. If we cannot face it, if we cannot go through it, we cannot get to the other side. May God help each of us gather the inner strength for that effort, may this reality open up for us and become our path.

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God and Man

May the peace of God be with you. We need to explore and understand the special relationship which can exist between man and God. We have been told that God existed in the beginningless beginning, before creation, and during that timeless period He knew Himself. He knew Himself through Himself and only through Himself because nothing else existed, there was only God. God wanted to bring something into creation through which He would also know Himself. Before He created man, He created the world and the angels, but there was no creation in whom God had breathed His essence, no such creation existed. There were so many creations but none who had been given its essence from God, the essence through which God would recognize Himself. When His intention to create such a being was known to the angels they objected, “If You create this being he will dispute with You, he will argue with You, he will try to tell You what is right and what is wrong. He will also be the cause of bloodshed and killing in the world.” God replied to the angels, “You do not understand what I am going to create, you do not understand My essence.” Now most of the angels accepted this, but one did not, the one known as Satan. Interestingly, the angels were doing the very thing they objected to, they disputed God’s decision in exactly the way they said man would dispute. The point here is that, until it reaches

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that level, nothing understands the next level, the level above itself. We are bound by our limits, we cannot understand beyond our limits. The angels understood within their limits, arguing from that capacity, just as they predicted man would. God said He was going to create man with both His hands, as scriptures tell us. This means God intended to create man as part of His creation, using one hand, and with the other hand He would also give man something of Himself. Both the illusory aspect of creation and the reality of God exist within man, but the only reality is God. Within His creation we have the reality which is His essence and everything which is separate from Him. Both have existed within us from the beginning. God also said He would create man as His vice-regent on earth. What does this mean? God is the beginning and the end, the regent or ruler of everything. To create a vice-regent means creating a being who can command with the authority of the regent, there must be some similarity between the vice-regent and the regent. The angels did not understand this when Adam was created. In the beginning God knew Himself, but He knew Himself as if He were looking at a mirror without any backing. He knew Himself in Himself and of Himself, but with the creation of man there was now a backing on the mirror, He knew Himself as other than Himself, even though He alone exists. He knew Himself through a reflection of Himself, that reflection contained by something within us, something from Him. Adam, a prophet and the first man, existed as a perfected human being. Even though he had dominion over all creation, Adam also thought he needed something through which he could know himself. Just as God had wanted to know Himself, Adam wanted to know himself. God, understanding this need, created another being like Adam so that together they could continue knowing themselves, their true selves. What is the essence of the true self? The essence of the true self is God. He gave Adam more human beings to understand the truth of human beings, the truth which is God. This is the mystery of God in man and man in God. Since we were created with both hands, in the world and in God, of the world and of God, we have a divided capacity. We can be like the world, we can be the lowest form existing in the world or we can be unlike the world, we can be a true human being, like Adam or Eve at the beginning. Why are we here? We are here so that God can be recognized, so that we can recognize the glory of God, for His sake, in His name. Over all our generations, with the actions of Adam’s progeny, this recognition has been lost. We have not merely forgotten or lost remembrance of the reason for our existence, we have also lost remembrance of our capacity. It has been said the world exists only because of certain holy beings, and that is true. Yet we find so many other reasons to account for existence, we believe in so many other possibilities. Just listen to the politicians, what is their program, do they talk of opportunities to become a perfected human being, to teach the reality of God and man? No, their reason for existence is to have a stable economy, to reduce unemployment, to raise or lower taxes. We have not only forgotten reality, we have made illusion our reality, we call something which is transient and illusory real, then we give our life to its promotion. We refuse to pull back from this misconception, we refuse to disengage it, lost in the world of praise and blame, praise for ourself and blame for others, praise for our worldly achievement, blame for the lack of worldly achievement, when in fact the only praise belongs to Him. The truth is, when blame comes we need to bless His name, when praise comes we need to hand it to Him in His name. We should understand our place in things, where we came from, why we are here, what the purpose of existence is. If we cannot keep that focus we stray from what is real, we lose contact with reality, we lose contact with His qualities. As we become stronger in the world our connection to God becomes weaker.

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There is work to do, understanding which needs to be incorporated in our life, priorities we have to put in focus. All this has to do with the disclosure that God is within us, He put something of Himself in us although we are not conscious of it, we have lost touch with it. We talk about obstacles or veils—what are the veils hiding us from Him? Everything that is not God, we create the veils of separation, we create the separations, we are the separation. As long as we are only conscious of our individual entity, concerned with thoughts of our own entity, differentiated from the exalted nature of our Lord, we separate ourself from Him, a path that leads to hell. What is hell? It is separation from Him. What is heaven? It is coming closer to Him, oneness on the path to Him. We need to focus on reality, we need to understand illusion; before we can understand reality we have to understand illusion, otherwise illusion will fool us, make us think it is reality. We are told to know ourself and we will know our Lord. Who are we? Which part of ourself are we in touch with? We have two parts, which part do we focus on? Are we a mask, are we a mirror, do we reflect or are we dancing in this world of illusion just waiting for someone to say, “You are a great dancer.” Or is our purpose to reflect His grace, to reflect His glory, His ninety-nine names? His attributes are beyond count, His qualities are beyond description, understanding Him is beyond worldly understanding. If we think we understand in terms of the world, we are like the angels arguing with God about what He intended to create. We become a force of darkness and illusion disputing God’s will, a vice-regent who says, “I do not want to be a vice-regent, I want to be part of creation and give up my birthright. I have a better idea of myself, another idea. This ‘I,’ this sense of self I am involved with is the greatest glory imaginable.” If we try to imagine within the limits of what we perceive ourself to be, there is no glory greater than we can imagine. If we go into the world of imagination we should try to imagine what we do not know, imagine what we cannot understand. We need to imagine there is something beyond anything we dream, there is something beyond anything we have tasted or grasped so far in our life. Imagine the qualities of God and understand we are only beginning to touch the hem of His garment, we are fortunate to walk in the dust of His feet. Understand our place and His place, understand the intention He has for us, the reason for our creation. We need to keep thinking about this, when we do not, we fall asleep. It makes no difference whether we are in bed or walking around; if all our consciousness lives in the world we have fallen victim to its magnetism, its hypnotism, the glittering lights of illusion. If we are overwhelmed by them, overwhelmed enough to believe in them we call them real, and then we have lost our bearing, lost our ability to move forward, to see and hear the truth. These things sometimes sound difficult, sometimes impossible, but God is the One who created us, He can make a blind man see, a deaf man hear, He can restore life to the dead. When we live without knowledge of God, without an attempt to know Him, we have forgotten the reason for existence, a reason we have to learn again, understand again. We need to examine the inner things blocking us and be rid of them, we have to understand the difference between illusion and reality, we need to focus on reality. Pray that reality is our intention, that compassion is our intention, that mercy is our intention, graciousness is our intention, pray that God becomes our intention. He is the plenitude we are capable of entering. We are here to understand this meaning of life, this reason for existence among all the reasons for existence. We have to focus on the truth, know who we are, know what we are capable of and move in His direction. The great saints and masters come to this world as examples, mirrors for us to see that aspect of ourself we have forgotten. They come as a mirror for God, an anchor for this world and a reason why it exists. They come here to make sure that all the reasons

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for the existence of the world do manifest. He sent them so that we can be like them, so that we can know what it is like to be close to Him.

Peace, Prayer, and Wisdom

May the peace of God be with you, now and always. Once when a man who was with the prophet Muhammad finished his prayers the prophet said to him, “Go back and do your prayers again, you didn’t do them correctly.” After the man had done his prayers again the prophet repeated, “You didn’t pray correctly, do your prayers again.” He did them a second time, but still the prophet told him, “You haven’t done them correctly, do them again.” After the third time the prophet said once again, “You didn’t pray correctly.” This time the man asked, “Tell me what I have to do to pray correctly.” The prophet answered, “Stand and recite two verses from the Qur’an until you find peace in them, then bow until you find peace in your bow, put your head on the ground until you find peace there on the ground, then sit until you find peace in sitting.”

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This is a traditional story handed down with a special purpose. We are meant to understand that the physical act, the outer ritual is not enough, what happens on the outside is not enough, something has to happen on the inside. How do we make something happen on the inside, how do we make this connection? When we pray we have to declare our intention, set our intention to have something happen inwardly, when we pray we should form the intention to make our connection to God. If we reach a state of peace our base desires are quiet; if they are quiet we can be in touch with our undifferentiated soul, with the peace connected to God. We have to create situations which quiet our desires, devise situations which make peace for them, and when they are at peace we can be at peace with God, we can pray correctly, fulfill our intention correctly, we can communicate correctly with God. How do we make peace for our desires? We think about the glory of God. Ibn‘Arabī called the world a translator for God. Sometimes when we look at things in the world we can be overwhelmed. Recently I was in California where they have a certain tree, the redwood, a type of cedar which grows to a hundred meters in height, fifteen meters in width, bigger than we can imagine, a tree which might live for three-and-a-half thousand years. When I stood in front of one of these trees, I realized I was standing in the presence of a living thing which had been on earth since the time of the Muhammad, since the time of Jesus, the time of Moses, I stood before the oldest living thing on the planet. The tree was taller than my imagination could conceive, wider than my imagination could project and older than my imagination could imagine; my imagination stopped working. My imagination was frozen because it saw the glory of God, the proof that what God creates is more than we can imagine, but this is merely His creation, what about God Himself? We need to be in situations which are so persuasive our imagination goes to sleep and the wonder of God overwhelms us. When we are in this state we can find peace, the peace we should find with verses of scripture, the peace we should find when we prostrate in prayer, our head on the ground, the peace we should find when we sit in prayer. This is something demanding concentrated effort. There are things in our life which give us peace and things which take it away, we have choices to make. If we have to choose between something which gives us peace and something which takes it away, we should choose the direction of peace, we should keep choosing it. We think we have so many choices to make, different kinds of toothpaste, different kinds of cars, different kinds of jeans. All these things have their names written on them, choose me, choose me they say, making us think these choices are important. God has told us we have free will, He has told us we can choose what we want, but consider the history of your own life and you will realize there has always been only one choice—either we choose God or we choose the world, we have to make that same choice again and again. Every day we make the same choice, again and again it is the same choice, every year it is the same choice. God in His mercy, in His patience waits for each of us to make the right choice. Every time we make the wrong choice He is ready to forgive us, waiting for us to make the right choice. Do not despair, do not be sad, do not be depressed, the glory of God is His readiness to forgive, He is always ready to forgive no matter how often we make the wrong choice. He waits for us to make the right choice, this is His way. When a baby does something wrong we explain what is right and forgive him, teach him what is right. God has sent us the teachings, He has sent us the prophets, He has told us what is right and what is wrong, what decisions to make, how to act in different situations. We have scripture and traditions, things given to teach us how to distinguish right from wrong. Understanding the difference between right and wrong is part of our life, and as we understand that difference, as our actions become appropriate, the magnetic pull of the world drawing us in the wrong direction has less power over us, our conscience develops. Then when we find ourself in difficult situations we know automatically what to do, we know the right thing to do. This is called wisdom, we need to become wise, wisdom is the door to peace. Understand that wisdom is the door to peace, to God. We have to work hard for wisdom, stay in the company of those we know have wisdom, listen to what they say, swallow those words until they become part of who we are. I have spent a large part of my life swallowing the words of a wise man, a

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wise teacher, words which now exist in my cells. My cells have swallowed so many words I merely repeat what I have learned: I am the son of a slave, a slave to God whom I want to be like. This is a difficult thing, but the only thing we have to do with our life. May that happen for each of us.

Bridging Separation

A story in the Old Testament tells how a certain people wanted to build a tower to God using stones as their building materials. At that time the peoples in that part of the world all spoke the same language, but as the tower grew higher and higher God changed that one language into many, they could no longer communicate. This stopped the building of the tower. We know we cannot reach God by building a tower of stone, however there is another lesson in this story. If we speak the same language, if we come from the same culture, it is easier to communicate; when we come from different cultures and speak different languages it is more difficult. We can reach God by communicating human being to human being, not with stones, not with towers, but by communicating with each other. We have to cross the bridge of language, cross over cultures, over any sense of differences and all the things these differences give rise to. They cause a separation which means we perceive some people to

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be unlike us, we cannot love them as we love those who are like us. Yet God reminds us He has created different nations so that we would come to know Him. Do you see what happens when we make that leap? Different nations can come together, different cultures can come together, different ways of seeing things can come together because none of these differences are about the inner truth. Although there is just one inner truth, if we look for reasons to be different we find them endlessly. We need to look instead for reasons to recognize that we are all the same because this understanding alone would save the world; without it we will be subject to destruction. If we can see each other’s heart, if we can learn to love each other without jealousy, resentment or anger, if we could learn to live this way things would change. When we open our heart to someone and that person opens his heart to us we are sharing something, we are showing others how to do this, offering something to each other, an example of giving, respecting each other to show what respect is like. Between two loving hearts there is only one competition, which one of us can offer better conduct and qualities to the other. This is a competition we can all participate in, who can be kinder, who can be more giving, who can be more forgiving? This is a competition for all of us; try it, see what happens, begin with your family. This is a game husbands and wives should play with each other, play with the children, with those they are close to, and then expand to all we meet; astonishing things will happen. When we display the qualities of God, when we set out to become those qualities, the friends of God are drawn to us, we end up among those who love God. When little fires are lit everywhere, when we are close to those fires, it is easy to catch fire. We need to be caught by these fires, we must not be afraid of these fires which are the purpose of our life. This is not complicated, if we look to the world for satisfaction it will humiliate us; no matter the circumstances, eventually it will humiliate us. Go to a nursing home, see the state of those people who have lived a long time, see what has happened to them. The world will humiliate us, we cannot expect anything from the world, whatever expectations we have we will always be disappointed. We should have no expectations and no regrets. God alone knows how a situation will turn out. God is responsible for results, our job is just to do things appropriately, to keep doing things appropriately. We must act correctly, whatever happens is not in our hands, whatever happens is in God’s hands— we cannot expect anything, we just have to act correctly. Things happen as God intends them to happen, things happen in His time, nevertheless we have to do what is correct. In every situation we have to do what is correct, and then what comes comes, what goes goes, what happens next happens next, our attitude should not change. If we are praised it should not matter, if we are blamed it should not matter. Our responsibility is to do our best: some will praise us, some will blame us, but God knows the truth, and we should do our work for Him. He is the One we have to answer to, He is the One who will judge us. May doing what is correct be easy for us, may we learn what to do from the teachers on our path, may understanding the difference between right and wrong be easy for us. May our hearts be drawn to what is right, and may God find everything we do pleasing.

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In God We Trust

Yesterday it was announced that the United States has issued a new nickel, and I was curious to see how it looked. Like the old nickel, it has a portrait of Jefferson, more important to me, I wanted to see if the front of the coin still has the words in God we trust. This phrase, in God we trust, is interesting. The first of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament asserts that God alone is God, we are to have no other gods. The first words of faith in Islam assert that there is no god but God. When America was colonized by the English the early settlers came to escape religious difficulties, they wanted to live in a place where they could practice their religion as they chose. Each of the early colonies practiced their Christian religion in a different way. Massachusetts was settled by the Puritans who excluded those who were not Puritan. Maryland, that is Mary Land, was settled by Lord Baltimore, a Catholic. There is still something called the Baltimore catechism, a certain version of Catholicism. Maryland was Catholic. William Penn, a Quaker, had a land grant given to his father by the King of England which became Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia as its principal city.

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Pennsylvania however, differed from the other colonies because Penn established religious tolerance, inclusion of all religions. Every religious practice was allowed in Pennsylvania. When the colonies formed a union at the time of the revolution, the deliberations took place in Philadelphia where William Penn’s philosophy prevailed. Penn believed that all the people should be allowed to practice their religion as they understood it, that every religion should be allowed to flourish in the community. Our Constitution was built with this understanding, with freedom not merely for one specific religion, but for every religion. Penn’s Quaker beliefs, his Quaker way of thinking contributed this to our Constitution. In God we trust is a general statement, it does not say how we trust in God, it merely says that we do trust in God. The more people are worried about how we trust in God, instead of simply trusting in God, the more they are concerned about the way people show that trust, the less they actually trust. The essential relationship between man and God is lost if we are caught up in or trapped by concerns about methodology, we lose that relationship if we are preoccupied with thoughts of how to have this trust in God, how to pay homage to our Lord, how to conform in ritual to the belief in God. We lose it if we worry about what God is called, how He is prayed to, who His representatives are, things that came later to this world, not the things that came originally from Him. Why does this happen, why are we more worried about the way people trust in God than the actual fact of trust in God? When did this happen, what caused the shift? At the core of this understanding is the difference between tolerance and intolerance. Why are some people tolerant of others, why did some of the colonies practice exclusion, why did Pennsylvania let all the people do what seemed right to them? Why is there tolerance in some places, why is there intolerance in other places? Why do some religions practice tolerance and others intolerance? When we look at all the religions we see that, over the years, they have all split into many different sects. There is no such thing as the Christian religion any more, no such thing as the Islamic religion, there is no such thing as the Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu religion. There are multiple sects within each religion, some are very tolerant and others are very intolerant. Some we can get along with easily, they really do not concern themselves with the way we trust in God. Others demand that the way we trust in God must be the way they do or they will not accept it, they do not allow the freedom to establish an individual relationship with God, insisting it can only be established their way. Why does this happen, what makes it happen? The answer is not really complicated: when a prophet passed away ordinary men were put in charge of the religious establishment, the qualities of those men became the qualities the religion presented. If there were wise men leading the religion, if they were tolerant men of good will, that sect remained tolerant and open. If the men in charge were dominated by their lower selves, if they were men whose baser desires were important, whose selfaggrandizement was important, if power was important to them, the sect they controlled acquired those qualities. It had nothing to do with the source, nothing to do with the original point of the religion, nothing to do with the word of God. Man began using the word of God to establish personal power. We are told that Satan can recite the scriptures. If he can recite the Qur’an he can also recite the Gospels, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, he can recite any other scripture. This means he can infiltrate a society through its religion, he can use religion for his own purposes.

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We have to understand this, be careful not to be caught up in things like this ourself. We must be free of all such things, of all the motives of self we have, we must be sure that when we are involved with our religion, when we are involved with our prayers, there is no motive of self overtaking us, certain that nothing like this has become part of who we are and what we do. If we do not have tolerance for others, if we do not allow others to go their own way we have a good indication about ourself, about our own position on tolerance. There is a story about Moses who reprimanded a man praying to an idol. When God took him to task for this Moses asked, “What do You mean? The man is praying to an idol, he is not praying to You.” God said to Moses, “You do not understand his heart, you do not see his melting heart, you do not understand the steps he is taking towards Me, the devotion he has for Me.” The story is repeated in some traditions because this example is as serious as we can find. There is a direct prohibition against idol worship, yet here we have an idol worshiper, a prophet reprimanding him for praying to an idol, and God reprimanding the prophet for his censure of the idol worshiper. The point established by the story is specific and strict enough to show us we should never do that. There is a law, but it is for ourself, not to be used as a sword against someone else; it is for us, a sword to cut away what is incorrect in ourself. This is the reason why the story is so important—we have to understand the point in this most serious situation so that we will also apply it elsewhere, in lesser situations. If we could have this tolerance, understanding would develop, the world would be much easier to live in. Here is a story about some people who came to pray at a way station, a place where there was no clear indication which direction to face at prayer. They did their prayers and went to rest. When another group came to pray they faced the wrong direction, then at the next time of prayer the first group prayed in the direction they had chosen and the second group asked, “Why didn’t you correct us before?” The response was, “We were not completely sure. This is what we thought, it would not be appropriate for us to correct you when it is possible we made a mistake.” In this world the opposite is more usual, this is what I do, this is what you should do. We must have the ability to be secure with what we do ourself, the ability to be secure without having others follow us to validate what we do. Most people in the world need corroboration, they need others to say yes, you are right. People in power need others to agree with them, dictators do not have no men, they have yes men. No men do not live very long in dictatorships. A wise ruler has advisors who agree and disagree with him, he is flexible about the direction to face. Tolerance is an intrinsic part of our belief in God because God Himself is tolerant. If He were not, think what our situation would be. We all know our own life, the mistakes we have committed, how we wandered until we found the right place. In that time of wandering, that time when we had no knowledge, when we were lost, think of all we did as God let us go on until we did find the right place. Do we have that tolerance? God has given man His qualities but He has reserved judgment for Himself, we must remember that judgment is reserved for Him. If we try to step into the place God has reserved for Himself we have stepped into something impermissible, forbidden ground. We also forbidden to do certain things, like stepping into an area God has reserved for Himself. Religion belongs to God not to man, yet there are those, in the name of religion, who sell tickets to heaven. This happens in many different ways, but it does go on. Men who are not prophets, who are not holy, call themselves a gateway, men who are not wise assume a certain mantle, a station beyond their capacity.

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We have to look at our life with humility, we have to look at our state of being with humility, a humility which must be expressed in our dealings with everyone else, with our friends and acquaintances, with everything. In the Pledge of Allegiance we say one nation under God. Again, just as in God we trust, we do not say how under God, we just say under God. We should pay less attention to how. This does not mean we have to give up our own how, this does not mean we have to change the way we have been taught to worship. Don’t be confused, the way we have been taught is our way, a way we are convinced is appropriate, a way we should cling to. If the wise men of our tradition, if the prophets of our tradition have taught us this way, it is our obligation to follow it; at the same time, it is also our obligation to leave others alone, not try to impose our way on them. There is no compulsion in religion. This means two things, first, we should not try to compel anyone to believe as we do, and second, we cannot, we cannot force someone to believe as we do. Force is external, actions without the heart or conviction are merely external rituals for the sake of appearances. Much of the world is interested in external appearances only. We should recognize the difference and begin to internalize, realize that our relationship with God is inner, the strength of our relationship is inner. In God we trust must also be in God I trust, I am that witness. What is this witness? Every time we pray we witness, we witness each time we pray that there is no god but God. Do we truly witness this in our lives, do we live as if we had trust in God or have we given up parts of that trust to other things? Are parts of that trust given to the corporations we work for, the business we have, to our own abilities? Have we confused the correct things we do with our own abilities? Do we think I have taken care of this, I am good at this, or do we understand He controls everything? We give all our trust to Him, He is in charge, everything in existence is under His control. It is His will that we are here, His will created us, His will sustains us, it is His will that we understand His glory, that we are reflections of Him. We need to understand our place in the world, and according to the prophets, that it is a place of great illumination. Each human being is a light shining through millions of universes. This world is just a tiny atom, but appearances make it seem much larger. The light within each of us is greater than we imagine, greater than our vision, greater than anything we can see, hear, taste, smell or touch, it is beyond our comprehension. God has placed this light in us, a light whose strength we have to understand but not revel in. Bow to it, be obedient to it, be humble before it. That is our state, the state we need to develop inwardly, becoming vessels to carry His light in His way, not in some way we have developed. At the same time we need to respect all the other lights walking around in this world, and we have to tread softly, this earth is just a way station, a temporary stop. We have come here to learn about God, to learn the truth about ourself and share the mystery of creation. May we understand the truth of our nature, the truth of who we are and walk humbly, allowing His will to manifest so that we truly become His vice-regents on earth.

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The Creator, Sustainer, and Nourisher

In the name of God, the compassionate and the merciful, the creator, sustainer and nourisher. These words are intertwined to give us the understanding that if it were not for God we would not be here, and if it were not for God this creation would not exist, if it were not for God there would be no protection, if it were not for God there would be no sustenance. When we repeat these words do we believe them, do we believe that God is the protector, sustainer, nourisher, the merciful and compassionate? If we believe it, why do we fear things? If we believe it why do we have difficulties in relationships, if we believe it why do we put ourself in situations which make us hesitant or anxious? How deep is the faith that our protection comes from God? Or do we believe that protection comes from other things, from our ability to influence other people, an ability to influence situations, an ability to make things work one way or another? What makes us cling to the understanding which takes for granted that everything depends on our intervention, not His? How do we change our understanding from a dependence on our own actions to a dependence on His? God loves the effort we make. Certain things are our duties in the world, yet we should understand as we perform them that results occur because of His grace; our responsibility is to be satisfied with the way things turn out. We are responsible for what we are given, but what He has kept for Himself is not within our comprehension or capacity. We have a certain understanding of what belongs to Him and what belongs to us. Let us focus on the limited nature of what is ours. We do have a limited nature, if we understand the truth of our limits and the glory deposited there, we know we are not deficient. As long as we feel limited, as

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long as we see our limits as deficient we could become neurotic, we might experience anxiety and stress, doing things we should not be doing. We need to disengage ourself from all the things binding us in this world, things that keep us from being free to worship Him as He is supposed to be worshiped. We cannot worship Him freely while we are tied to certain situations in the world whose outcome keeps us from being in a state of joy. We cannot worship Him freely unless we accept outcomes allowing the serenity to reach out to Him. We need to be calm because it is easier to move towards Him in a serene state. What stops us from being calm and serene, what holds us back, what are the individual chains binding us? They are different for each of us, we have all been created a different way, like snowflakes, every snowflake is certainly a snowflake although each one is individual. We are individuated in a worldly way even though we are certainly all the same, but we take the individuation to be more important than the ultimate sameness. When we look at a blanket of snow on the earth, the individuality of each snowflake disappears in the unity of pure white snow. It’s like that with us, it’s as if we put a microscope on each tiny snowflake and talk about the differentiation, forgetting that each snowflake is made of the same crystalline substance. We are all made of the same thing, we have been brought into this world, given the same gifts, yet because the world individuates us we are locked in that individuation. This does not allow us to expand, this limits us because individuation, by its very nature, defines limits. Our lives are not meant to be separate, they are meant to be united. If we cannot act as a unifying force and pull things together, love for the sake of unity among us, we have lost the truth of that name of compassion and mercy which explains our unity and oneness. We have all been made by the same Creator, we all exist because of His mercy, we exist because of His compassion, we are sustained by whatever He has set in motion. Our purpose is to return to Him, to know Him; as long as we separate ourself from each other we cannot. It is this separation which makes us think something other than God supports and sustains us, we think that this is what we are, the sustainers and nourishers, yet we are not, in a profound way, just as He is, in a profound way. We have lost a sense of the profound and substituted the superficial, we have substituted the foam on the ocean for the depth of its water. When we do not see deeply enough we are satisfied with surface illustrations, surface solutions and surface thoughts, all that satisfying our sense of self, separating us from every other self. While we exist in that state of separation neither grace nor true glory can be ours, true love cannot be ours. Once we assume that we are sustaining and nourishing, we love whatever helps us sustain and nourish ourself, we love what satisfies us, we love for the sake of our lower self, for the sake of the surface not the depth. We do not love for the sake of the truth, for the sake of mercy and compassion, but we should learn to love that way and understand the difference between two kinds of love. True love is quite different from ordinary, worldly love; on the surface true love does not do anything for me, nevertheless at its depth it does everything, it liberates me, makes me free. It does not give me things in the world, it liberates me, giving me the opportunity to be something, to step out of the mundane into reality. When we cling to the things of creation we cannot step into eternity, if we cannot step into eternity we cannot step into reality. Everything we create and sustain, everything we empower is ephemeral, all these things exist for a brief, illusory span of time. If we spend our time with things that exist for a brief, illusory time, our rewards are brief, illusory things. We should decide which we want, do we want to engage the brief and illusory or do we want something which has no mortality, which exists beyond time, always in His presence, understanding as He does? Does He have a body, is our body going to last forever? A version of all this should keep flashing before us, especially in moments of difficulty, as it does sometimes. At a funeral these thoughts rise up, many things which are ordinarily so relevant suddenly become irrelevant. How long do we stay in that state of mind, how long do we remember how irrelevant these things become during moments which shock us into the truth?

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We need to shock ourself into the truth regularly, on a daily basis, and if that is not enough on an hourly basis, and if that is not enough at every minute. Each time we are unconscious of the truth and fall back into assuming we are accomplishing things, we are doing things, we need to be shocked back into an understanding of truth, into an understanding of our place in things. There are probably ants who believe they can move mountains, just as there are people who believe they can do anything. I am astonished by the height and depth of our delusions. Grand delusions are quite exciting, they make the best movies, the best novels, the best stories and fantasies. We need to step back from delusion, step back from the delusion of the self which will deceive us as long as we let it. If we do not put the brakes on, the delusion of selfhood takes us everywhere, anywhere, making us think we are in the driver’s seat while it takes us to the most distant planets and back. The mind can travel around the world in an instant, taking us in an instant to all the places we have ever been in our life, but we cannot be there and here as well, we cannot be rid of the self at those moments. If we come together, bring all the fragmented pieces of ourself together in the now, there would be an extraordinary explosion no one would hear yet all the universes would applaud. We should understand our inner capacity and give up anything that keeps us from that, give up our pettiness, our involvement with difficult relationships which cause distress. We should be joyful, our interaction with people should be joyful, positive, we should do things for others and stop worrying about ourself. In the name of God, the compassionate and merciful—He worries about all of us, each one of us, He worries about us collectively and individually. This is part of the grace and glory of His name of compassion and mercy. We need to have faith in this glory, we need to become what we talk about, become the words we utter, become the essence of those words, their sound, their vibration, their resonance. Those words must permeate our state of being, not just be something we say once in a while, they must be the truth of who we are. If that happens the heavens open even though it is a cloudy day, the stars shine even though we cannot see them. For us, everything is right with the world although newspapers and television describe chaos all around. Those who are in tune understand the perfection which exists at every moment, they understand what others will never understand no matter what changes outwardly. May God help us understand the truth of our lives, of our journey, of our essential being, who we really are. Our connection to God is the purpose of existence, nothing else matters. When we simplify all the mysteries to that, something changes. As long as we think we are complicated, as long as we think there are a thousand things we have to resolve, nothing is resolved; for every resolved thing a dozen other complications arise. If we can cure not knowing God, not having a relationship with God, and it is something which can be cured, that will cure us. Everything else is hopeless; when we chase the hopeless our lives are hopeless, we are the product of hopeless lives. This was certainly not God’s intention nor should it be ours. May He help us understand the true intention of our life here, the intention of the prophets, the saints and the friends of God who came to this world. May He bless each of us with this intention.

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The Empty Cup

A young man once went to a minister and said, “Tell me the difference between comedy and tragedy, I want to be a playwright.” The minister looked at him and answered, “You see that roof over there, how steep it is? Two days ago as I looked out my window, someone was putting new shingles on it to stop the leak. When he fumbled with a few shingles he slid down the roof, fell to the ground and broke his leg. That is comedy. Yesterday as I was preparing my sermon, looking through the papers I planned to read, I got a paper cut. That is a tragedy.” The way we understand things sometimes has to do with how close they are to us, how much impact they have on us. We give different importance and thought to things which affect us directly. Since we all walk around in a body, every time we collide with something it makes an impact; we are always bumping into things that affect us. Now the question we should ask is, how subtle is this body? If we were composed of gas, when we collide with a wall there would be very little impact. Because we are not gas, when we hit the wall there is a major impact. We also have to examine our inner subtlety. Be like smoke, not easily damaged. What kind of collision makes a dent in us, a dent so overwhelming it needs to be repaired?

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If someone looks at us the wrong way, does that make a dent in us? If someone cuts us off when we are driving, does that make a dent in us? If we are in a certain situation which becomes difficult, does that make a dent in us? What is the level of drama in our existence, how much credence do we give these outer manifestations we keep bumping into? What is our level of involvement, how intensely do we react to things which react to us, how much credence do we give them, how much praise do we give them, how much importance, how much time and effort? How much thought do we give these smaller things in life, how obsessed are we? Do we have priorities, how much importance do we give to this body, how much to our soul? How much time do we spend on our interaction with the world and how much on our interaction with God? Let us call our interaction with the world the small interaction and our interaction with God the large interaction. When we are engaged in petty thought or petty things, the small things that deal with the world, there is no room to engage the large thing. Being obsessed with the small things fills our cup, there is no room for anything else; we have to empty that cup to make room for God. If we ask someone a question when we are full of answers, we cannot hear the answer—we are merely waiting for them to stop talking so that we can tell them. If we are full of the world and turn to God, there is no room for Him to interact with us. This is the work we have to do, learning how to empty ourself. We need to be rid of comparisons, comparing ourself with other people, with other levels of wealth, status or fame. Comparisons become a burden as they give importance to certain worldly things. When we allow these comparisons we lose ourselves to status, to emotions, to thoughts, we abandon our good qualities to worldly status. If we look around to count what other people have or to count what we do not have, we forget what we have, we forget the blessings we have. When we consider someone else’s fortune we forget our own, suddenly there are differences to consider. If we look at worldly fortune we have lost ourself in our concern for status, for what the world has to give, we are immersed in the small things which fill our cup. When our cup is full of small things there is no room for the large thing. When we engage petty obsession there is no place for what is important, when we are obsessed with the world there is no place for true majesty, no place for real grandeur. Involving ourself with small things means we become small, but God is not small. When we think that what we have been given is limited, we limit ourself. We create our state with our attitude: if we think we have not been given enough, we have created a situation in which we have not been given enough. That is our attitude and our state, but God does not live in insufficiency, He exists in a cornucopia of giving while we wrap ourself in veils of insufficiency which drive us away. He is not the one pushing us away, we push ourself away with an inability to accept His grace, infinitely available from Him, as we limit totality to the things we want. Millions of gifts are given, yet none of them are satisfactory because they are not the right size, the right shape, the right color. We have to stop interfering with glory, with grace, we have to stop thinking we know what we need, we know what we want. God is the One who knows, and what He provides is not only sufficient, it is also glorious; we have to accept the glory of what He provides and exult in it, be joyous in it, be loving in our acceptance of it. We should correct our attitude so that the drama of the world is less and our ability to go to a place of silence is increased. We need to go to that place of silence because alignment with Him occurs in this silence. When we are still the vibration and resonance of truth can touch us, can affect us. If we are overwhelmed by obsession, by thoughts of measuring things, having things, wanting things, being resentful of things, engaging qualities which are not His, we have separated ourself. We need to go within, be less pulled by magnetizing attractions, affected less by hypnotic fascinations and slow down, become quiet, slow down and lose interest in the comedy and the tragedy. We should be interested in glory, interested in what God is, what He has to offer, what He makes available at the place where we meet. This meeting comes by being very still, by allowing moments in our life for absolute stillness, for quiet and sanctuary with Him away from the ordinary, away from the small and petty. We are with Him for His sake, to be in His glory, for His qualities, for

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His words given to the prophets and the friends of God, the holy ones. As we make that withdrawal, as we withdraw to Him we escape from the obsessions of the world which no longer affect us. When the world no longer affects us we are free to vibrate, free to resonate with His vibration, His resonance. When this resonance overtakes us we know there is a place where truth exists, we know we can be in that place, we can merge with that place, we know there is love. Then we know the truth of sustenance and mercy, we know the truth of compassion and kindness, we know His greatness and the generosity of His spirit as we enter that place. His generosity becomes our generosity, His love becomes our love, His spirit becomes our spirit, His resonance becomes our resonance, and that is a blessing for us and for others. Now we are no longer here, He is here, He is here in our midst because we have allowed Him to be here. This is our work, why we come together, allowing Him to be in our midst, allowing the sanctity of His existence to be present, to be felt and seen. The aura of grace on each face emanates His resonance when we enter that space together, we reinforce it for each other, we strengthen our knowledge, we strengthen those who are weak as they now believe what they witness. The confidence of those who have less is increased as they realize it is not about the self, it is about making space for Him, the most glorious. The selfesteem of those who have too much confidence is reduced as they realize it is not about esteem, it is about His glory. When we make a place for this realization everyone begins recognizing we are all one family, we are one funny family of mankind, a glorious family of unity, of gentleness, kindness, mercy and compassion. We know it is possible, it can exist, and when we have this recognition together we witness that it does exist, we have felt it, we have resonated with it, we have become part of it. This has so overwhelmed us we have forgotten ourself and remembered only Him. We all have dramatic situations in our lives, every paper cut is dramatic. Understand our drama, realize how much time we spend on it, how obsessed we are with it, as if we were playwrights. We are, in a very real way, the playwright of our life, we write our script then wait to see if it turns out the way we want, but when it does not we are upset. We should let Him to be the One who writes the script and learn how to take direction. We propose, we keep making proposals even though we need to propose less and understand the flow of things, understand where it takes us, be on an adventure not on a script. We try to align the future, yet when it does not coincide with our expectation we have serious anxiety, depression or sadness. There is a flow to things we should understand, know how to be in it, how to be part of it. We ought to be agile enough to take the twists and turns without resentment, without looking back, without regret. If we go through life building up regret then regret is what we become, and regret is not one of God’s qualities. Anything which is not one of His qualities literally crowds His qualities out. We need to start over again each day, start over with the intention to be on His path, allowing Him to guide us, accepting what happens. This does not mean we do not work hard, this does not mean we do not have to make a great effort, it means we should not be too involved in results, we should be less concerned about results, we should be more concerned about effort. God has only to say, “Be!” and it is. If He wanted everything to turn out perfectly, it would. What He expects from us is correct action and effort. Realize what we are about is effort, effort, correct action and intention. Things turn out as He wills, not as we will. We are capable of intention, effort and correct action; be satisfied with doing things correctly and be less attached to results.

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The Servant of God

A baby in the womb is an embryo attached to an umbilical cord; for the first few days after birth, the newborn still has part of this cord attached to it. Both the embryo and the newborn live in a state of dependency, something which came from somewhere else, relying on something else for sustenance. That little piece of umbilical cord falls off but there is another stage of dependence, the baby still depends on its mother’s breast or a bottle to survive. As the child grows, no longer physically attached, there is a degree of separation which brings a kind of independence. This independence evokes certain thoughts, certain ways of understanding the nature of our existence. Once we lose our dependence we think in terms of individual consciousness, a consciousness in a separate body. It is no longer easy for a child to remember its dependence as it seems to be more independent. When the mind begins to tell us about our independence, a child feels more independent, losing the memory of dependence and attachment. Here is the beginning of so many problems, arrogance, the arrogance of an independence which has forgotten we came from something else, forgotten we are indebted to something. We have forgotten we are supported by something outside ourself, we are nourished by something outside ourself, we are taken care of by something other than ourself. Now we believe we are taking

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care of ourself. As this arrogance grows within us we become more important at least to ourself, more important than anyone else around, more important than anything we can think of. Just because we cannot think of a thing does not mean it does not exist. Most of us limit ourself to the things we can think of, believing what we can think of is all there is. We do not enter the world of nonthinking, we do not understand the world of nonthinking because we have not been taught to believe that another world exists, that the realm of the heart exists, that a world of experience and understanding exists on a different level. Without this understanding we are left with only one kind of knowledge, the kind which continues feeding our arrogance. This arrogance leads us to believe in a certain kind of victory, a certain kind of understanding. We use those tools we believe we are limited to, mind and intellect, trying to find answers to every problem without recognizing these tools do not work for everything, some things cannot be resolved with them, they are inappropriate. These are things which can be figured out, although most people fail to recognize that our intellect will not take us on the spiritual path. This means that some people try to use the physical world in their approach to the spiritual, a process which does not lead us to spiritual truth. Religions can become arrogant in the same way people do, they can be very insistent about their ritual requirements: those who do not subscribe to their demands are in trouble, especially if religion and politics, religion and government are linked. If everyone does go to church in a country because they must, if everyone does go to the temple because they must, there is no true religious spirit. Even though all the people fall in line in required ways, presenting the appearance of belief, the image a religion prescribes, internally there may be nothing more than hypocrisy if no one explains the truth. When there is no such person, if there are people of intellect alone, we end up with rules and regulations, outer ways to act, a measuring stick as the arbitrator, in other words, what we hear, what we see, what we feel, what we touch. The guide is nothing more than external experience, there is no movement to the inner, we end up like scientists measuring things. Religion becomes something measured, we pray so many times a day, we recite so many rosaries a day, fulfill so many obligations a day, they are the measuring stick for religion. This is what happens when religion is externalized, when arrogance passes into religion. In reality, the spiritual way is opposite to what we see, it is hidden because it is not about the connections we make on the outside, it is about the connections we make on the inside. Since these connections made internally are known only to the person making them, they cannot be seen by the rest of the world, they are not noticed by the rest of the world. The real relationship between man and God is hidden in the sense that it is not externalized, hidden in the sense that it goes on inwardly not outwardly. The world of proofs, the world of the senses, seeing things and trying to make them behave a certain way, none of that fits, none of that has any place. In periods of time when mystics had a place, when mystics were accepted in the hierarchy of things, such times have always been short but illuminated periods in history. Illuminated beings ruled infrequently not merely because they were not allowed to, but also because they did not want to, it would have compromised their situation. Worldly objectives like desire for power or control are opposite to the truth. The truth is that we have to develop our capacity for servanthood, develop an understanding of our relation to the master; we need to acquire a master-servant relationship in which we are the servant. This inner understanding takes us to the initial stages of the spiritual path—only as a servant can we be aligned with God’s will, only as a servant will our true glory exist. We cannot be anything on God’s behalf until we have become a servant of God. If anything comes before servanthood our arrogance is involved. Servanthood is the first step, the first real step, along with the understanding that this first step takes us to

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the next one where we recognize His will, not ours. His will can prevail only if ours is displaced—it is displaced when we become servants, servants to Him no longer driven by our passions and desires, our mental creations. These things can only be removed as we acquire an understanding of how driven we are by them, then we can be released from them. The beginning of servanthood means breaking with habit, a lifetime of satisfying needs and desires. Who comes first, God or ourself? If we are truly His servant He comes first, if we are our own servant satisfying the cravings of mind and desire, we are slaves to mind and desire, confusing them with ourself, believing we serve ourself when we are actually serving them. We should learn to recognize mind and desire as separate entities we appear to be attached to, although in reality we are not. Everyone has this apparent attachment, everyone has been given a tool called the mind to use as a servant. We reverse this by taking the mind as ourself whose servant we become. People are servants to whatever rules their life. If the dominant thing in our life is satisfying sensual needs we are slaves to sensual pleasure, if the dominant thing is power we are slaves to the need for power, if we want wealth we are slaves to wealth. We are all enslaved by something, we all serve a master even though we think we are the master being served. In the understanding of truth, in reality, we do not exist. No matter what we create as the illusion of who we are, the illusion we serve, we have created an illusory master, something we give obedience to, something we pay homage to. We ought to be careful about what we give our servanthood to because this is all we have to give. The right to surrender ourself to something is what we have been given; we need to be careful about what we surrender to. Once we understand the nature of our situation we can make changes. We hear talk of the desire for wealth, for sensual pleasure, for property and land, there is so much desire for these things. What do we do with the things we desire? Whatever we desire we hoard, we collect cars, books, paintings, video games, whatever. If we like women we might have more than one household. This is the way desire translates in the world, through collections of things. Wealth is the collection of money, power collects the ability to control people. But we cannot collect God, we cannot hoard God, He is not collectable. We cannot put God in a box and say this is my God. The idea that this is my God, that I control God, that I can dispense God as people dispense money, favors or dispensations, this cannot be done. We cannot put God in a box, God is, He exists, we cannot carry Him around enclosing Him in something. The only way we can carry God around with us is by being empty enough to let Him flow through us, let Him come and go circulating through us. As soon as we put a stopper on that process He stops coming in, He leaves and does not come back until we are empty again. If we try to apply the rules of the world to the rules of God, trying to collect the things of God as we collect the things of the world, it cannot be done, this is the stopper on our relationship with God. We need to see things in a new way, an entirely new way, understanding that as we let things go we receive things, as we give things away things come to us, understanding that the force going through us when we give things away attracts more. This is opposite to what the world says: this force works like a vacuum, as we give out more comes in. We are able to acquire through generosity, we are able to acquire rewards from our Lord through servanthood. This is quite different from the way we are accustomed to understanding things, a difference we must realize. Only when something has that reality for us do we act on it—words are easy, action is another situation, entering a particular state is yet another situation. Being free of the needs of the world is a state of understanding; understanding that worldly gifts come from the grace of God not from our own effort, this is another understanding. At the same time we should remember that God loves our effort, we must do everything we can with the recognition that our effort is not responsible for the outcome, we must not have any pride in accomplishment.

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But this is a problem because we are given awards as children when we do well in school, they tell us how good we are, how well we have performed. This makes us think we are special, a thought which lingers. As we grow older, and this is particularly true for those who have powerful minds, who are used to manipulating the world, we are entranced by our own sense of being special, “Look at what I have done, it is unbelievable! Isn’t what I just did amazing? It really is astonishing!” This does not go away, that feeling of accomplishment is something we seek, yet no matter how much we do we need another goal, a higher reward. “I did this, then I did that.” Now we develop awards to repeat our grade school success, we have Academy Awards and Emmys, we have man of the year, citizen of the year, leader in this or that industry, the Hall of Fame in sports, in rock and roll, so many awards to immortalize us. We even use words like immortal for these worldly events. We have lost touch, we have lost touch with reality because we are afraid to look at the actual nature of things, afraid to look at the way things are, afraid to focus on our frailties, our misgivings, our fears and dilemmas. Worldly things distract us, take us from having to look at any of this. If we are given an honorary dinner, speeches, we forget how afraid we are for the time being. Why do we forget? We compare ourself with others and think, “I’m so much better than he is, so much better off. I may not have exactly what he has, but what I have is more important.” When we make these comparisons we use imaginary charts. The fact is, it is not about comparisons, we are not in competition here, we are here to know our Lord, to form a relationship transcending us and them, a relationship which involves ourself and our Lord. We need to understand that relationship and recognize ourself as the servant. We have to go beneath, not above, we have to be small, so small that the world cannot find us, the hypnotic, magnetic attractions of the world cannot pull us because we are too insignificant. Our true glory lies in that insignificance, the light of His compassion shines in that insignificance. When we turn away from the world, when we turn correctly towards Him there is room for Him; as long as we are full of the world there is no room for Him. A wise man observed what happened once when he saw two bullfrogs fighting. One bullfrog tried to swallow the other, puffing up, expanding, becoming bigger and bigger to make room for the frog it was swallowing. While the first one tried to swallow it, the other bullfrog kept expanding, not allowing itself to be swallowed. They both became bigger and bigger until they were stuck together and died. We keep trying to be larger and larger, devouring everything around us. It doesn’t work, we need to disappear, disappear in Him, disappear through Him so that He will appear in us. When we disappear He appears. May the understanding of our true nature be clear and may we stop being afraid of it, stop creating a nature which is not ours. Let reality be our truth, let the truth be our path, let His will be ours.

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Sincerity in Faith

As we proceed through life we discover we have certain things and we lack certain things, there are times when we feel a sense of want, times when we think we need something, when we are caught by the desire for something we want. In this state of intense desire or longing we can be overcome by emotion, overwhelmed by the fear we will not get what we want. This desire can be excessive longing for a certain man or woman, convinced our life is incomplete without that person; it can be the desire for money, convinced our life is incomplete without wealth; it can even be the desire for health, convinced our life is threatened by some terrible illness. The mind approaches any desire much the same way—to understand how desires affect us we have to understand the mind’s approach to desire. The mind looks for satisfaction in the world, it assumes the world is a place which will give us what we need to be satisfied, to satisfy our existence and our desire. But the world is a place of limits, not a source of abundance, fulfillment is necessarily incomplete. When we look at things which are limited for fulfillment, we fail to understand their limits. Until we look for fulfillment in a place which is limitless abundance we cannot be satisfied, we cannot find peace. There are different ways of understanding this, easy enough on an intellectual level, talking about it on an intellectual level, but this is basically hypocritical: if our understanding resonates only mentally all we are doing is discussing concepts, it is hypocrisy until

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we absorb it entirely, in the totality of our being. Until we make this recognition a functioning part of who we are we are not engaging reality. This means sincerity, the depth of our sincerity. If our beliefs are not sincere we are not at peace, we exist in fear of what is missing, what is lacking. This fear can be paralyzing, it can keep us from moving on, it can paralyze us emotionally and physically, it can make us sick. To understand our own nature we need to realize that our base desires, which are incapable of sincere belief in God, want to keep us in this state of desire. The lower self is attached to the world, its life exists in the world where it wants to keep us, and so these desires go on reminding us of what we need, what we do not have. With this insistence on what we need, what we do not have, what we have to be afraid of, they accomplish their purpose. They paralyze us and the forces of darkness and illusion have us in their grip; they have paralyzed us, made us their own because we believe in the world. To transfer our belief from belief in the world to belief in God entails more than just talking about it. To have sincerity, to be in that place of faith, certitude and determination with deep strength and conviction requires a complete change in who we are. There is a difference between someone who believes in worldly things and a person who does not, reactions are quite different in those who do not have such ties to the world, who are not bound to it in the same way. They float more easily in the world because it has little effect on their priorities. If the world is all we know, if we have not spent time trying to know something beyond it, if we have tried to search for kindness from the world, tried to find positive things there, suffering about everything which needs correcting in a place we wanted to make utopia, this worldly dream becomes our reason for existing. But perfection already exists in the world, what is missing is our ability to see it, our failure to believe sincerely that God is in control. We do not see perfection because we lack absolute faith, certitude and determination, because we do not believe deeply what the scriptures and other holy books tell us about God, about His existence within creation. We see things and make judgments from our own limits and perspective, just as the angels made judgments from their own perspective before the creation of man. The angels, seeing to the extent of their capacity, told God that man would cause problems in the world, why should they bow to someone who would cause problems? Human beings were created to know more, even though there are degrees in our capacity. We might think we are in tune with who we are, that we have some idea of human capacity, that we are enlightened although we remain at some lower level. This means we have created an idol of our self for our self, believing in our own version of reality, of truth, when this is contrary to what has been revealed. We must always believe in the possibility of enlightenment, we must also always believe there is more. This is the necessary humility which allows progress, which keeps us functioning in this world with His will, not ours. As soon as we think we have achieved a certain state, we have lost the understanding that we come from Him, we belong to Him and go back to Him. If we are afraid to go back to Him we love the world too much, we believe in it too much. The reality of our belief that we want to go back to Him must be sincere. To understand sincerity we should look at the stories of Abraham, the stories of Rabia. They would accept no substitute for Him, an essential understanding. Rabia said, “I do not want heaven and I do not fear hell, I want only You.” When Abraham was in the fire he rejected everyone who came to save Him because he wanted God, He wanted only God’s help. This hunger for God must develop in us, this desire for God must develop in us. What is inappropriate for the world can be appropriate for God; we must be sincere in our desire for Him, He must be a genuine part of our daily existence. We have to walk with Him, we have to talk to Him, we have to integrate our existence in His.

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Secular society will never understand this relationship with God—as we move towards secularism, this relationship is less and less understood. In ancient cultures there was no separation of church and state, and in reality there is no separation, but for harmony among different beliefs we have developed this to deal fairly with each other politically. It is necessary because there can be fanaticism and intolerance in religions, still, we have to live as though there were no separation between God and anything. We have to live in the world pretending to believe in it. This world demands certain things of us, we have to be actors here without bringing that act into our life; if the act becomes our life this world is our stage, and it is not real. We should distinguish our world from reality, and integrate them correctly. May we each be deeply sincere in our beliefs, sincere enough to feel the presence of the divine at every moment, so aware of His vibration we are free of every fear. May we be content with our understanding of the perfection in His creation, content to know He is caring for us at every moment, He does not forget us for a moment. He is closer to us than our own jugular vein, closer than the beat of our heart, than our thoughts. May we know He is the essence of our life, may we be exalted in that certitude wherever we go, whatever we say or do.

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The Choice We Have

The world calls itself modern—today’s world is a time of discovery, a time of innovation and radical developments in technology. We think of the past as a time of darkness and not knowing, we think of this as a time of enlightenment and knowing. We believe we can repair the ills of the world with the discoveries of today. Modern medicine can wipe out the devastation of disease, modern psychology understands the mind and the psyche in ways which have not been understood before. This is the arrogant propaganda sold to modern society: our modern culture is hip and cool, we are all-knowing and all-accomplishing, all we have to do is jump on board for the ride. But the truth is that the state of mankind has not changed over the centuries, the condition of man has not changed, the life of man exists essentially within the same limits. We make much of the fact that our lifespan is longer now, this confirmed by the statistical evidence gathered in our modern day, although we ignore both the transience of life and what lies beyond. More than that, we have lost touch with ancient knowledge and the ancient understanding. We believe we now have new explanations to understand human beings. We believe in an evolutionary theory of human growth which has us developing in an unbroken progression, we do not contemplate a human existence which has developed, regressed and needs to develop again.

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The arrogance of our society stems from the collective arrogance of a community, a culture, a civilization which has overwhelmed us and kept us from understanding our true state. If we buy into this arrogance we believe anything can be done if we have the right pill. In the late sixties and seventies enlightenment was sold in pill form, anything can be had with a pill. Now health and vitality are sold as pills. There is always some external way to correct whatever is wrong with us, to take us to a different place; the arrogance of this civilization is the belief that all these external things are products of our advanced civilization. This civilization has forgotten God, it has forgotten the masters of wisdom, the words of the prophets, the words of God and His instructions. We have had knowledge of who we are, what we are and our state of being, knowledge preceding the oldest civilizations and recorded history. This ancient knowledge is still available, but it is almost entirely ignored by modern society, and because it is ignored, it appears to be hidden. It is not hidden, it is just not visible without the effort to look for it. We think we have to undertake a great search to find it, yet it is openly available in so many different places. The attitude of this culture, this society, makes it appear difficult to find, difficult to understand and difficult to enter. None of that is true, a foundation in this ancient understanding is the easiest and most natural way for man to exist, the correct way for man to exist, the way man was intended to exist. Our civilization and our culture however, have told us we should be something else, we should adapt ourself to the arrogant stereotype now on display in the world. This is true of our own culture, and others everywhere, because the truth has been obscured. From the time of the prophets until now religions have gone through major changes which have produced the same results in all of them. First comes the word, the word comes through the prophet, the prophet teaches the people, the prophet passes away and a religion forms. At first the religion deals with a small group, then it deals with a larger group, then as it deals with a much larger group it becomes political. Once it is political it is institutionalized, once it is institutionalized there are considerations other than the development of the individual, the institution has to be protected. This has happened all over the world, on every path. We need to move back, deinstitutionalize ourself, we need to step back from this imposed civilization, enter the reality of true human nature and learn what it is. This repositioning, this stepping back from society and going the right way is a key to saving ourself. What society and civilization have to offer now can be understood by looking at the heroes of modern society, by looking at what the media display as important in society, looking at the lives of these people. Understand that something immensely powerful exists which the world does not recognize as sensational enough to write about, not enticing enough to sell newspapers, magazines, or to be put on television. If it does not produce advertising revenue it is not shown. Even though our lower inclination is for things other than the holy, we do have wrong inclinations, understand that we have aspects of ourself which are different. Now that wrong inclination, the inclination for things other than the holy is rampant in civilization, rampant in ourself because it has become a principal way for enterprises to make money. The ability to make money guides and determines what stays in the forefront of our system. If we changed, if we wanted to receive something different and demanded something different, this world would change, but we get what we demand, our society is a reflection of who we are. When we change the image of ourself the image of our society changes. How do we change our image, how do we change what we are, who we are and what we want to become? Genesis tells us we are created in the image of God. Although we cannot comprehend the majesty of our Lord, we have been given hints which help us understand His majesty and His nature, hints which come from being told of God’s gracious qualities. If we learn these qualities and incorporate them in our own state, the low inclination we begin with will be eliminated in the presence of the highest inclination. This does not happen with outer occurrences, it happens with inner occurrences, with work by

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the self on the self, within the self. It does not happen in parades, in stadiums, in marches, it happens in quiet times, in intimacy with our Lord. Intimacy with our Lord is available to everyone. The world does not talk much about mystics who are said to exist in ways beyond the scope of normal men and women. This is not accurate, each of us is involved in the mystery of man and God, each of us is created to be intimate with our Lord. We have lost the inclination for that intimacy, lost the thirst for this understanding, the yearning for this knowledge. We need to bring it back, bring back that yearning, that thirst and that inclination, because nothing else is satisfying. If we look at our lives carefully we understand we have no true satisfaction until we begin to walk the path this way, becoming intimate with our Lord. That has always been the reason for our existence. No matter what civilization has to say about the reason for existence, that has always been the reason for existence. Truth is not ordinary, not commonly sought. Since finding the truth and incorporating it in our existence requires stepping outside the accepted, it is a struggle. We need to take that step, we have to take that step, we have to want that step and understand what awaits us by taking it. What awaits is greater, more magnificent, more valuable, a larger understanding than anything the world has to offer. Because it lies hidden in the world, if our attention is focused on the world our interest in God, our awareness of God, our yearning for God may all wane. We have a choice, we can either take hold of the world and consume it, or rid ourself of these desires, change our focus, change our attention. We can change what we consider important in our life, change our priorities and move towards an understanding of what intimacy with our Lord means. On this path there is satisfaction, there is peace, on this path we can have rest, we can be the exalted beings God intended us to be. That is the choice we have to make in our life. Many scriptures talk about God’s gift of free will. If we look at life closely, if we understand the human condition and peer deeply into what we are, what we do, what happens during our life, we realize this free choice God has given us comes down to one thing, either we choose Him or we choose the world. This is the only choice we have to make. Our arrogance is so complex it makes us think our choice is not simple, our choices exist on a grand scale, both complex and subtle, nuanced beyond imagination. This is merely the hypnosis and the magnetic attraction of the world. And what does the world have to offer in the end, why are we hypnotized, magnetized and confused by all the sparkling things of the world? We have an inclination, a disposition for all that. This means if we are going to change, our inclination must change, a change which requires discipline, instruction, understanding, and just as important, it means being in the presence of someone who understands the lie. If we talk only to people who have been lied to, they cannot tell us the truth, they know only what they have been taught. We need someone who has stepped out of the world into a separate place, someone who is no longer attracted by the hypnotism, the magnetism and apparent complexity of the world, someone whose desires have disappeared, someone who has controlled the lower inclinations in another way. This has always been the work of mankind. There are books on this which are thousands of years old, yet we talk about psychology as though it had been brought into the world a hundred years ago. The arrogance of our civilization, our time period, the arrogance of a few which has spread through society, all this makes us forget the great teachers of the past, those who saw the truth and were given God’s authority to disseminate it. We see only what is in front of us, but we have to stop forgetting and look in different places, in different directions. We should understand the continuity of human beings and see how we fit into that continuity, we should understand the reason why man was created. We have to ask the questions, who am I, why was I created, what is my purpose in life, where do I go when this life ends? We have to ask these questions, look for answers and go on that search, then teachers will appear. We will be shown the way because we are intended to find the way, this is intended for each of us.

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We need to set our own intention to do that, and when we do, it coincides with God’s because this is His intention for us. We should make His intention ours, and when the two coincide this is the time of miracles, the time when things happen which are beyond words and beyond description. When glory and radiance come into focus all the usual expectations of civilization and mankind, all the usual explanations of what is happening around us disappear. That glory is for us, it really is, and it is available, truly available. We must believe in its availability. This path we are on has been a study for thousands of years. When we talk about those who have gone on this path before us, we are talking about the holy beings whose purpose it is to help and assist, we are speaking about those who have traveled for Him in His way. When we speak of those who have done this, all the good beings of the universes come to help. This path is the purpose of our existence. We need to understand it clearly and take steps on it, securely and with discipline. May God help each of us be firm and positive in this purpose.

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Balance

I used to wrestle when I was young and the first thing they taught us was how to stand, how to be balanced. If we are not balanced it is easy to push us over. The first exercise was rocking back and forth on our feet, finding our center, finding a solid standing position so that when we received some impact we did not fall down, we were capable of sustaining our effort. Even though we think we are balanced as we walk around, we do not have the necessary balance to withstand a heavy encounter or assault. There is a difference between the balance for walking and the balance ready for some encounter. Similarly, the first thing we need on this path is balance, a balance including the capacity for encounter. Our path lies in the world, we have not chosen to become monks, we have not chosen a path away from the world; this path entails encounters which are not easy, not just walking down the street. Some encounters are like wrestling, some are actually war. To survive these encounters we need great balance or we fall down. How do we center ourself, what keeps us off center? Why do we lose our balance, our center, what creates our center, what is a correct center, what is an incorrect center? To be at peace is to be centered. What takes us away from our peace, what destroys our peace? Emotional reactions can shatter our peace; it is difficult to be balanced if our face is turning red and we are shouting.

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This is not balance. Now the question is, how did this emotion creep in, how did it take control of us, how did we lose our ability to comprehend and deal with the situation confronting us, how did this happen? When the trigger is pulled the gun goes off, a loaded gun can create an explosion with the capacity to kill. What are our individual triggers, what sets us off, do we see the finger going for the trigger, can we do something about it? Is there a way to put on a safety catch, something to give us time before the trigger is released? One of the sharpest instruments we have is the tongue which can cut in an instant, our words can be devastating. There is a teaching story about a man who used to keep a pebble in his mouth—he had to take it out before he spoke. This meant he stopped any immediate reaction, he put a brake on his words until he could trust his center, his balance. Are we ready to trust our center, do we have a balanced reaction or are we unprepared? We need to know the answer and be completely honest about it. Do we want to be the kind of person who can taste eternity or not? If we do, we have to be radically honest in a way we never have before, we have to face those aspects of ourself which are less than exemplary, we cannot be afraid, we cannot be afraid to look. If we think we are important we have to break through this wall of self-esteem to see what is there. If this self-esteem is so critical that we are upset when our sense of honor or pride is hurt, how can we ever look at ourself? We are not talking about what other people say, we are talking now about what we say to ourself, what we think about ourself, know about ourself; if we refuse to look we will never see. In one sense there is a certain point at which we create ourself. This means we have to know who we are, we have to remove some things and encourage other things to come into existence. All this occurs with God’s help, it occurs with humility, it occurs in a state of prayer, a state of grace, a state of supplication. We must initiate the process and remain committed to it. The great teachers tell us they can show us the way, give us a mirror, but we have to do the actual work, they cannot drag us along without our own active effort, a profound effort. Compare this effort with the surrender of Abraham’s son when the sacrifice of his life seemed to be demanded. He was ready, he was ready to be cut open, that kind of surrender. When we go to a master, a teacher who can help, we have to permit the surgery, we have to sit still, be in a state of balance without reaction. This is not easy, sometimes because of the idea of ourself in the past which we hold sacred. In much of the world pride and honor are held in such reverence they cannot be violated. There are some who kill if their pride is violated, some who kill if their honor is violated. Why do we insist upon respect, why can we not handle disrespect, what does disrespect do, what do certain words do to us? There are teaching stories about gossip, about the effect of certain words on us, many stories. One story is told about a man who came to his final judgment with good deeds listed on his behalf that he was not responsible for, things he did not do. When he asked about this he was told people had slandered him, had lied about him. Their good deeds were taken from them and given to him. There is another story about a teaching master who sent someone a cake to thank him for good deeds which would be attributed to him because that person had slandered him. We should understand the subtle nature of justice when we talk of God and the truth, learn how to understand these things. One great master, slandered repeatedly by a certain individual, met him on the street one day and gave him fifty rupees, a lot of money at the time. He explained that he gave it to him because people who slander us take on our karma, they remove it by saying these things about us. We should try to understand those we think have hurt us. If we keep our distance they can help us, they can actually be positive for our growth in another realm as long as we understand it this way. When we are not balanced we cannot even hear this explanation, the words make us angry, the explanation does not resonate for us; it makes sense when we are calm but not when

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we are agitated. We need to be in a place of peace, a place calm enough to understand its grace and benefit no matter what happens all around us. From this place of peace we can pray, we can have the whole world healed. God willing, we can have that resonance in tune with truth, the resonance of His reality which means our vibration is in tune with His, it comes with us. This is a way to bring peace to our friends and companions, to bring grace to our neighborhood and peace to the world. A truly great saint can bring peace to a large area because of the resonance which accompanies him or her, a resonance aligned with truth. If we develop this we can bring peace to those we know, those we spend time with, we can change lives without words just by being who we are. With that true stillness we change, our body reacts. We experience the silent transforming prayer as it travels through different parts of our body, with that true stillness we feel it travel through our body, it is real, this resonance exists. Not only does our own body respond, but also those who are close to us respond. This resonance can change our world. We need to let this happen by staying in that state of balance, refusing to react when the world invites us to react. To be still is hard work, to do nothing in certain circumstances is particularly hard work. We need to understand when action is necessary and when it is not, every situation requires this understanding. Unnecessary action can cause chaos, something to avoid outwardly as well as inwardly in our thoughts, in our relationships. We should be totally correct, there should be a recognition of reality flowing through us in everything we do, keeping still enough for truth to resonate. Balance is critical, emotions play havoc with that balance. This does not mean we are emotionless, it means we recognize what is happening inwardly, we learn when we can act and when we need to withdraw. Psychology today tells us to let our anger out, but when we do we become a barking dog inspiring all the other dogs to howl with us. We need to remove ourself from conflict, not with cowardice but bravery, the ability to be restrained, to understand a situation which is out of control and back away from conflict, unnecessary confrontation. Road rage is a perfect example of meaningless rage, of confrontation without meaning. Those who treat incidents on the road as a personal affront have a disease of the heart, of ignorance, of control, there is no reason to confront such people. An enlightened teacher lets us bring our emotion, our rage, our problems and pain to him. We bring it to him and he absorbs it, showing us how to deal with it, he accepts us as we are without reaction. Some disciples are so overwhelmed by the world, so out of control emotionally they have to be held like babies. This is the extent of sickness in today’s world, people cannot cope with their situation and self-medicate, becoming alcoholics or drug addicts because they cannot endure their pain. This is one type of reaction, another is believing the pain has an outer origin, someone out there has hurt them, justifying the injuries they, in turn, cause. Such reactions put our soul in danger; harming others hurts our soul, drugging ourself hurts our soul. We need to be balanced, avoid reaction until we know how to react, until we can love in the face of adversity. Most people do not want to be saints, do not comprehend the reason for saints, but we are meant to be perfected, we are supposed to be saints. When we move collectively away from this possibility we enter the created unreality we have made normal in our culture and many others. We need to return to the loving, kind, understanding beings we are supposed to be. We should look at those who have taken this path and become examples like them, understanding the depths we need to penetrate. We have to help ourself and then help others, it works this way, a natural progression. As we become better we can help others, we are an example for those who will become examples themselves, and this is what keeps the world going, nothing else. Those who have the intention to be like our enlightened teachers keep the world going, this is what God looks at, why He sustains the world.

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We need to understand the importance of our role in creation. Scriptures tell us if we bring one life to God it is the same as saving the whole world. We should start with our own life, save ourself, then if we bring one other person with us we have saved the world twice. Know who that one person is, it is all of us, on a good day we are all one. Work towards this, be content with it, satisfied, be happy and joyful because we can only do the work in this joy. Negative emotions pull us away, positive emotions keep us working as we develop the qualities of God, slowly learning not to pay attention to anything else. The rest of it is all there, it stays there, but we learn not to pay attention to it. May God help us all long for this path and keep us firmly there, may He make us strong enough to help others.

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Opinions

May the peace and blessings of God be with you, now and always. Opinions are interesting—they are the things other people have although we have absolute truths, something which creates serious problems in the world. We notice exchanging opinions with other people, as soon as we come to some subject close to their heart we are no longer dealing with opinions, we are talking about truth. Even when we are unable to be objective about someone else’s opinion, we fail to grasp that what we accept is grounded in the same kind of reasoning. We consider our point of view valid and theirs ephemeral, we think they are floating on air, their opinion will change when they understand and rise to a higher level of consciousness. We should understand there is more than one way of seeing things, we should be more tolerant of other perspectives. We are not required to agree with them, but we are required to be tolerant, a difficult thing. In certain situations we frequently see the opposite, we see people repeating what they have in their mind again and again, as if repetition makes it valid, so convincing it cannot be denied. Some people shout, thinking perhaps if they speak louder than anyone else they make it valid. People have different techniques in their conversational approach to validating their opinions, to establishing them as more important. How dearly we hold onto them, how important it is to us that they prevail in our circle of friends, acquaintances or family.

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Different cultures have opinions about certain things, opinions which become the truth within that culture. If we apply that truth to another culture it might not have relevance. In our culture, wealth and status go together, fame and status go together. In a Tibetan culture the collection of things does not give us status, different things give us status there. When a Tibetan comes to a culture like ours where amassing things gives status, it seems very odd. For us to adjust to a perspective without fame or the collection of things takes work, it requires a change in our sense of who we are. Power in our society is a measure of status. In other societies power is avoided, power is a burden people do not care for, but here we do not see it as a burden, we see it as grace, as something given to us because of our greatness. This is our way of looking at power. Now all these things have a place, every opinion has its place. Some of our opinions actually change during our life, and this should persuade us to understand more than one point of view. People on this path live in a state of paradox; if we cannot live in paradox we cannot understand the mystery of creation or the mystery of existence. If we truly believe in God, we believe in what we cannot see, we believe in the truth revealed to us, we believe in things that are inexplicable, yet we believe them while allowing others to believe what they believe. We do not have to agree with them and we do not have to change them either. The ability to walk through life as a vibratory example of the truth, instead of as a sword cutting away whatever is not the same as itself, is rare in this world. We need to be that rarity, that jewel of creation, something which does not impose itself, an example we are drawn to because of what it represents, not because of what it can do to us, what it can impose on us or intimidate us with. Some of us have encountered this kind of teaching, we have brushed up against this kind of being, we have been given the privilege of living in the presence of a vibratory being who was transmitting reality. Within this vast illusion we were in the presence of something that touched reality. Can we touch that reality, can we let go of everything we hold onto, all the opinions we have, be free to be touched by what is real? Are we open enough to be touched by it and not resist, are we brave enough to accept what is different from what we understand without running away, hiding or denying it? The truth is so serene, so beyond the mind’s comprehension it frightens the mind. Unless we are stable beings, secure in our roots and without attachment to the egocentric guidelines we have established to define ourself, we are going to have trouble. If we have defined ourself too specifically, if we think we already know who we are, when we are shown who we really are we are going to run, we cannot accept anything beyond our own definition. All these things we call opinions define us, they define us not only for our associates, more importantly they define us for ourself. When the opinions we hold dear are exploded, it means we have exploded, we are exposed to ourself. When we are exposed to ourself, when we see what we have gone through, the things we have done, different things happen. There might be pain, shame, embarrassment, anger, resentment, all these things can well up because everything was already so well organized, completely in order, why does anything need to be changed? I already know how things are, why do you have to show me something else, aren’t I in charge here? No, I am not in charge here, we are not in charge here, and when the explosion comes which is the test of who we are, when that explosion comes, it is the test of what we will become. The question we have to ask ourself is, are we ready? When the time comes, are we ready for all we have held dear, all that we know, all that we imagined, all that we think is real to disappear, to explode before us with nothing left to hold onto, no mileposts to tell us how far we have gone down the road, not even a road? The open space is just that, it is the open space, free of this world. Can we be free of this world? We become what we have attached ourself to. Be careful of what you attach yourself to. As we attach ourself to certain things, we start to resemble them. Did you ever notice that some people eventually look like their dogs, they look like their wives or husbands? All this can be positive or negative. If we attach ourself to the right things it can be positive; if we attach ourself to the physical form of our wife that is one thing, but if we attach ourself to the godliness in our wife, that is another thing, another look. And if she attaches

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herself to the godliness in us, that is also another look. As we grow older we begin to look like each other or like the light in each other. These are the choices we have to be inwardly free enough to make from day to day. This entails not being weighed down by opinion, not being concerned with what other people think, not needing to convince other people we are right, because we are not. Right or wrong, we just are not. We have to understand that in reality, God alone exists. God exists, not our constructs, our thoughts or any of the things we have assembled. We have to enter the joy which none of these things we worry about have, we have to enter the joy of this immense freedom we have been allowed to glimpse, which has been given to us in our lifetime. There is great freedom within if we let ourself live it. To live it we have to stop holding onto the things which prevent us from living it, and we know what these things are, things which are different for each of us. Some of us have the thought that a certain person is wrong and keep telling us why he is wrong. As long as we keep thinking this way, as long as we keep explaining why that person is wrong, we are forgetting what is right, what can be right with ourself. We make that wrong person an idol—we spend our time with an idol, even if we think he is our enemy. We need to let go of everything including enemies, we need to find friends who have nothing to give us but God, friends who want nothing from us but God, friends who have no use for anything but the God within us, friends who bring us closer to that point. We need to look for such people, we need to find these people and stay with them. A group of people like this can be found anywhere in the world, a group like this can be found right around the corner. We have to understand their sweetness and let it bubble up, we have to let the sweetness bubble up in ourself too, because we have that sweetness as well. We need to be skilled in our understanding of what holds us back, we need to be skilled at stopping whatever it is, skilled at sitting still and praising Him, saying all praise is Yours, O God. It is not more complicated than that. We are on the right path, we are the path, the mystery, the universe is here within each of us. We are mirror images of each other, there are no differences. All we have to do is praise each other and once we do, everything else becomes incidental. We should understand what comes first, what comes second, third and fourth, understand our priorities in this life. We cannot let society set our priorities, we cannot let pop culture set our priorities, and we cannot let anything driven by self, by money or power set our priorities. We cannot let the standards of the world be our criteria of right and wrong. That would be a sin against our soul, a sin against ourself, a sin against the lives of friends and companions, those we love, our children and family. Pray that God will allow us the understanding to avoid this. May God help each of us enter that clear space, that space without restriction where we are not held down, a space where we are not driven by opinion, where self-evident truth does not have to be imposed on others, where we no longer need them agree with us. When the time comes agreement will come, when the time comes everyone will know. Our only job is ourself, to be His friend, then we can be true friends.

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Transparency

If we look at water, clean water, we can see through it, it has no color, it looks uniform, no separations. They say water looks this way because it is not arrogant, an interesting perspective because we use water for purification. Since we think of water as a way to cleanse ourself, it makes sense that it should be free of arrogance. By pouring something over us which is free of arrogance, immersing ourself in something pure, it affects our own arrogance. The Abrahamic and other religions all have rituals involving water and cleansing before prayer, or ritual immersion as a form of cleansing. To go on this path to God cleansing is involved, all the religions are concerned with cleansing. If water alone could do the job it would be easy, but water alone does not do it. Water helps but something else must go on, inner cleansing is different from just washing with water. If our hands are dirty and we wash long enough the dirt comes off, but like Lady Macbeth who could not wash her hands clean, we have to find a way of cleaning ourself inwardly. What is this purification, how are we supposed to understand it? There are qualities which belong to God and qualities which belong to the forces of darkness and illusion. In world politics we see the use of qualities which do not belong to God, leaders who say that for a period of time we will do these things to accomplish certain goals, the end justifies the means, the end justifies

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what we do. In our own personal situations we notice the same kind of reasoning, we find it is acceptable to behave a certain way if we believe our intention is pure. This means we have given ourself a special dispensation to enter the forbidden because we think we can, we think we know better. There is a reason to understand the difference between right and wrong, a reason for religious rules, what is permissible and what is forbidden. When we believe we can go into the impermissible because we expect certain results, we go to a place which is degraded, where we are soiled inwardly. Whether we are dirty for right or wrong reasons, as long as we are dirty we are dirty. We cannot carry this uncleanliness around, we have to be cleansed, we are what we bring with us. If we are angry with people who are doing things we consider to be incorrect, if we use this anger presuming we are dispensing God’s anger at something inappropriate, all we are doing is being angry. There is a story about the prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law ‘Alī which is relevant here. He was in the midst of a battle and about to strike someone when his adversary spat in his face. ‘Alī dropped his sword as he realized he would no longer be fighting for God, he would be fighting in anger. When he explained to his opponent why he had stopped fighting the man surrendered to that truth and purity. This is the level of understanding we need: if someone spits in our face, is our anger God’s or ours? When we interact with people, are our actions clean or do we become self-righteous, assuming we know better than they do, their religion is incorrect, therefore we will force them to do what we think, force them psychologically, physically or with bribery, whatever it takes. First, do we have the right to behave in this forbidden way? The answer is we have free will, choice, we can do what we want— whether it is appropriate or not is another matter—but let’s not talk about the effect we have on someone else, let’s talk about the effect we have on ourself. The purpose of religion is to change us, it is not to change our neighbor, our friends, people we know, it is not to change people in other countries but to change who we are, to put us in a state which is appropriate for God. If our focus changes, if we think we are the instruments of change and justify keeping the qualities of anger, of hatred and meanspiritedness, this is what we become. We cannot deny this is what we carry around, but we are self-righteous about it, we say this is not about us, we are merely using it against them, this anger is a judgment, it is appropriate. If this is what we think we are missing the point, when we are angry we have anger, when we are spiteful we have spite, and that has nothing to do with anyone else. We tend not to see the underlying baser qualities in ourself. When a person is jealous he might say to himself, that person is arrogant, my angry response is appropriate for his arrogance, while he fails to see his own jealousy. We should understand our responses, just as water is clear our relationships with others should be clear, should be clean of any forbidden qualities. If others cannot see what we do with clarity, if we are devious and complicated, hard to understand, if we have mixed motives we are no longer transparent, no longer like water. When we are not transparent it means we have picked up all the stuff, the garbage of the world and made it part of ourself. We incorporate all this stuff and justify our lack of transparency: I have to behave this way in that situation or they will grow up incorrectly; I have to behave this way in that situation or these people will go on the wrong path; I have to be the way I am because this person’s arrogance is so great he needs to be corrected. We think we need to be the cure when the reality is we have to see what purity can do. This is difficult to understand, one reason why we need a teacher. If we are transparent we can cleanse others with our transparency, just as water cleanses us, but we cannot do that with qualities which reflect something else. If we are in this transparent state it means that God can come through us, there is nothing to block Him. When we are not transparent He cannot, those qualities which are not His block Him. He did

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not put the things in us which keep Him from being there, we pick them up and swallow them, we make them a part of who we are destroying our transparency. Once that transparency goes we are lost as true human beings. If we want to be true human beings we have to be transparent again, without motive, without judgment, without many of the standard things of the world. We need a new set of standards to replace the worldly ones, godly standards which understand the sickness in the hearts of others, standards which let us act as a balm for that sickness, as a remedy for that sickness which only purity can cure. There is no other remedy for this illness, we cannot cure people by beating them, by shouting or telling them what to do. When they have that sickness they cannot hear, they cannot see, they have no idea what we are talking about, all they can feel is their pain and the reaction to that pain. Think for a moment about the things we do in reaction to pain which make us lash out against others. To get beyond this we have to get beyond our pain, we have to come to a transparent place; when we carry our pain around with us we are not transparent, we are filled with pain. People who carry their pain around can be dangerous, terribly dangerous, they make their pain a justification for so much of what they do without realizing their pain means a reaction to many things and a lack of transparency. They fail to understand they can change their reactions because they do not know how to change them. We can help them change by showing love, by being love, letting the qualities of love, kindness, mercy and compassion come through without judgment, without trying to mold people. If they feel our love they trust who we are, they know we are standing right there to catch them if they fall. Unless we do that we cannot help, we cannot help unless we understand their state, feel their pain as if it were our own. Just as we have to do away with our own pain to become a true human being, we can help others by understanding and loving. We do away with our own pain by learning to love, we do away with our own difficulties by learning to love. Love becomes the fire which burns these things away. If we can be a fire for others we help them burn these things too, burn them away through God, through His grace, His glory. This is something we can do only if we are transparent. As long as we have motives, reasons why things should be the way we want them to be, as long as we try to maintain our own vision of the world with our own thoughts and ideas, we are not transparent. This is not a simple road to walk, but it should be our objective, then we can be helpers, assistants, assistants to the whole world as our transparency begins to appear. Even if it appears for only moments at a time, His will can come through, His truth can come through, we can be small beacons of God’s light in the world. This is the work of a true human being, to be a beacon of God’s light. As we wash externally with water we have to keep washing inwardly with love. We have to love God, love ourself and love His creation. Understand what love really means. Apply a cleansing balm on ourself, then through Him we can be a balm for others. This means being detaching from everything we have attached ourself to, things which often have to do with willfulness or a need to be in control. As long as we need to control other people we cannot be transparent, as long as we need to impose our own will we cannot be transparent. Our will colors us, it makes us less than pure, it contains the root of arrogance which is a source of separation from God. Creation moved away from God when it came into existence, and as it moved farther away from Him it acquired the illusion of independence. With that sense of independence came arrogance. There is no independence from Him, if we were without God for an instant we would disappear, if the universe were without Him for one breath we would disappear. We are always sustained by God. To be true to this, true to truth itself, we must let go of the arrogance which does not accept that we are sustained, which believes we are independent. When this feeling of independence, this need for independence leaves, when we realize our dependence on His glory we become glorious, we do not lose, we gain

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the thing which created everything, and this becomes part of our existence, part of our being. That happens when we make ourself transparent. May God help us understand the nature of transparency, may He help us disengage everything we are attached to in this world. May He help us know His will and become beacons of His light.

Perception

Different people look at the same things but have different perceptions, colorblindness for example. Even without physical disabilities we perceive things in different ways, we draw different conclusions from similar perceptions. Perception or the ability to be aware of things, to see things clearly is worth examining. It should be evident that something about the perceiving individuals makes them perceive things as they do. The colorblind example is an obvious physical problem, but our perceptions are also related to our mental and emotional state, we perceive things, both examples suggesting we perceive things because of the way we are. If we do not examine the way we are we will not understand why we perceive things as we do, we will not understand our perceptions are inherently prejudiced. In other words, our motives color the way we perceive things. If I wanted

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the Yankees to win the World Series and they swept it in four games, it was a great World Series, but if I was rooting for the other team which lost in four straight games, it was one of the worst in history. Yet it is much more subtle than that, more subtle than merely understanding what colors our perceptions in every situation. As we become clear, as we begin to let go of the motivating self and stop identifying ourself with teams, and there are many teams in this world besides baseball teams, as we stop identifying ourself as part of a specific team, a specific club, a specific race, a specific language, a specific culture or a specific way of being who we are, our perceptions change, suddenly they are not clouded by our attachment to our team. We do have to be careful about forming teams, the teams we choose to be part of. Does God have a team? Right now, each of us has in some way joined a team on God’s behalf, a choice which leads to confusion, leads to perceptions about the nature of God’s response, His favoritism, His relation to the team we joined, the team we consider ourself part of. It is almost as though we have no choice if we do not detach ourself from association with the team. This is similar to tribalism, except that the tribes we are talking about now have become larger and larger—one tribe might consist of twenty-five percent of the world, the next of another twenty-five percent. Within the larger tribes, within the larger teams, there are subdivisions, and while these subdivisions often fight among themselves, when they face a completely different team they come together, the similarities are more evident. We group ourselves into sets of people whom we define as we define ourself, with whom we see certain similarities. To understand the difference between a religion which is named with a capital letter and religion which uses the lower case is a leap of understanding. When religion forms a team it is religion with a capital letter, when religion is the path to God it is merely religion. Our path is certainly religious, it is thought of as religion, but it is religion based on tolerance, on the knowledge that there is one God. If there is one God, is it possible that you and I have a different God? Is it possible that other people who proclaim there is one God can worship a God who is different from our God? Can Christians say Allah is different from their God, can Muslims say their God is different from the Christian God, can Jews say the Christian God and the Muslim God are different from their God? Do we have the understanding that God exists, do we worship? If the way we worship is more important than God, what has happened to us, who have we become, what is the point of our worship, our understanding of God? This has to do with attachment, it has to do with the self. As long as the self needs praise, needs the comfort that it is right and others are wrong, an understanding which makes the self more important, more worthy, as long as we believe that, we are in trouble. Once we are free of attachment, when we worship God as we have chosen to without being concerned about what others do, without insisting they choose our way, then we can enter a relationship with God, enter the reality which is God. This does not mean we should give up our governing principles, nor does it mean we should change the way we do things, but it does mean we should be tolerant of others, it does mean we do not impose our way on others. Our way should be the way of example, revealing the conversion to God, revealing a melting in the presence of God, we should be that example. There is no room for anger in religion, there is no room for anger in the worship of God, no room for extremes, yet we engage in anger, extremes and finger pointing, even though there is no place for comparisons in our worship of God. The command in scripture is simple and right to the point, it says you go your way and I go mine, you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe. This is not complicated, we do not need to discuss it or argue about it, we do not need to fight about it or be angry, and we do not need to be emotionally disturbed. We need to learn how to leave each other alone. Imagine people leaving each other alone; the world focuses on what happens when people do not leave each other alone.

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We need to enter that open space where our attachments do not force us to bother someone else, where we are not bothered by someone else. Not only do unto others as you would have them do unto you, do not bother others and do not be bothered by them. We should understand this kind of relationship on both an individual and a global basis. If this understanding were selfevident, people would have a much easier time. There was a step in this direction at the founding of the United States with the separation of religion and government. It was a big step, one of the big things this country did, allowing people to form their own relationship to God, something we need to allow, we need to encourage within ourself and others. We are here to assist, to help, but not to compel. We need to act of our own volition whose truth lies in alignment with God’s volition. If we are aligned with attachments to the world, we act with worldly volition, we act against our own best interests, not knowing who we are. This is something we can know only when we drop the attachments, when we make it critical to let go of things, critical not to tie ourself to movements, religions or groups which cloud the sense of who we are. In the obliteration of selfhood, the relationship to the world is over, the relationship to attachment is over; it is only in this obliteration that reality can be seen, that truth can be seen. Let us allow ourself a glimpse of this self-annihilation, allow ourself release, take off the chains of karma and birth, of everything we were born into, everything we did with self-interest, the things we thought would push us ahead, monetarily, romantically, wherever we wanted to move. Let us drop these things; once we drop them clarity will emerge, the ability to see without being blinded by things other than God will emerge. Then a new life begins, a life of freedom untethered by attachments as we stop dragging all that baggage with us everywhere we go. May God release each of us, may we be free, may we understand the great joy of freedom, understand the nature of burdens. Too often we think these burdens are the gifts we have been given, when the truth is they are our chains. May God release us from false understanding, from false perceptions, may we see the truth which is His alone.

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Diseases of The Heart

Some people are good at taking love but not so good at returning it, giving it back. Why do people act the way they do, what does it take to recognize how we behave? We seem to have only a limited ability to recognize our own emotions, possibly because emotions limit consciousness, they overwhelm consciousness in the same way that alcohol and drugs do. Strong emotions overwhelm our consciousness and keep us from thinking clearly, we think through the emotion, the qualities this emotion brings with it. We have everything inside us, including a lower and higher self. Many of our emotions are attached to qualities of the lower self. When these emotions take control of us the lower qualities are in control, we learn to think this is who we are. Now we are confused, we fail to see these qualities as a strange, invasive force making us behave in unacceptable ways, we see these qualities as ourself, who we are, and this is just like consuming alcohol, it makes us behave differently. There is nothing we can do about it until the alcohol passes through us, until it no longer affects our capacity. There are two considerations here, first, what these qualities do to us, and second, what we can do to understand ourself better when these qualities rise up in us or in others. Many of the difficulties we have come because of what might be called diseases of the heart, in other words a heart without purity, a failure of purity which causes inappropriate actions. If we understood

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appropriate actions completely we would recognize when we are being overwhelmed by something inappropriate; if we understood inappropriate actions completely and governed them, we would be able to stop them. Let us think about this—psychology tells us to let our emotions out, to feel what we are feeling, express ourself during the feeling. But if this is not really who we are, if it is merely a passing state, we can cause harm, especially if this is a thing of the moment, something which stays for an hour and leaves. Anyone who has ever had a fight with his wife and said things he regretted later understands what I mean, anyone who has ever had a fight with his child or a friend and said things he regretted later knows what I mean. We have all done that, said things we regret. If we have control over our tongue and our words we know when we are overwhelmed, we know when it is time to take ourself from that situation, go to a private place, close the door until the emotion passes. It takes restraint and appropriate conduct, good qualities, respect for different situations. When we practice that appropriate conduct with our language, our words, we bite our tongue before we speak. This means we stop ourself from saying things we should not say, this is discipline, self-restraint, the ability to move away from a situation. Why do we find ourself in situations where we have to bite our tongue, why do we stumble into situations which make us angry with other people, what motivates this? There are so many reasons it is impossible to list them, we all have a different list, a different pattern most of which we acquire in childhood. There are so many examples. Think of someone with a cruel parent, so cruel that whenever the parent walks into the room the child is fearful, profoundly uncomfortable with a fear which becomes the ruling emotion of that life. As adults we might self-medicate with alcohol, but as children this is not possible. What can they do instead? They create another emotion to mask the unbearable fear, what alcohol does, something to deaden the emotion. But what emotion takes away fear? Anger, anger replaces fear of the parent, they are angry with the parent because it is easier to live with anger than with fear. When we think about this, remembering a situation when we were fearful, we realize anger gives us more control than fear. Both are holes in the heart but they are different. As we are growing up whatever we do repeatedly becomes a pattern. Science recognizes that any action we repeat again and again creates a pathway in our brain stronger than pathways for things we have not repeated so often. Spaced repetition is a way to learn, the reason why multiplication tables are taught every day, again and again. By repeating something this way it becomes a pattern, we develop a pathway in the brain so that we do not have to think when someone says three times four, twelve jumps from our mouth, we do not have to work it out. Children who use calculators cannot do this, not because they are unintelligent, but because they have not had spaced repetition to build their response, they get answers a different way. Thirty, forty or even fifty years later, if we have developed patterned responses to uncomfortable situations we go automatically to the most accessible groove in our brain when we are troubled. If anger is the most accessible pathway, when we are uncomfortable we become angry. What we learn as a child is written on stone, what we learn as an adult is like writing on water. Science talks about grooves in the brain, those grooves on stone are the same. Early childhood experience and the way we interact with our parents both have much to do with the way we grow up, with emotional responses when we are grown up. Someone who has been loved as a child, with decent parents who have taken care of the child appropriately, is still not safe. There are the children on the street, situations outside the home we have to deal with. We have a variety of environments, those which are difficult can lead to the self-medicating responses of childhood, usually emotional in nature. When we are adults we have similar things to deal with, still not easy if we do not know how to act. We have so many automatic responses to pain, to something we interpret as external attack, the pain we believe gives us license to react anyway we want. We rationalize our action, that person caused me pain, we slap back automatically as if we were swatting a fly.

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A sarcastic tongue can be automatic, emotional outrage can be automatic. How do we cure this in ourself, how do we handle this and so many other responses from ourself and others? There is a range of subtle things that might happen since anger is not the only response, it could be slander, it could be envy, resentment or scheming. Some people are obsessive about setting things right when they think they have been wronged. Any of this can occur if we look at situations inappropriately. Once we understand that people react because of their pain, once we understand that we react because of our pain, that these responses are merely to mask the pain, we know we have to find a remedy for all this pain. What solves the problem, what corrects the inadequacy of the heart instead of masking it, making it worse? The answer is love, true love, real love. If we have been a stranger to love all our life we might be incapable of loving without the intervention of a loving being. One of the attractions of the truly great teachers is extraordinary love; one of the attractions of a successful group is making us feel safe, allowing love to develop and grow. Love does two things, it lets us understand the difficulties other people have, and it lets us understand what we encounter. Love teaches us to act in a way which is different from the responses of our usual pathways, our grooves. If a baby soils its diaper a rational adult who loves the child will simply clean it up, that is the end of it. Parents who scream at their children do not understand how to deal with them; when these children become adults they might not be able to handle anything without shouting. The ability to absorb the pain which others direct at us is something we have to learn how to do. If we cannot absorb pain to a certain extent, always reacting as if it could be stopped by some external force, we are lost in our own emotional frailty. Pain does not come from the outside, although it can, I am not talking about the Cambodian holocaust or Rwanda, I am not talking about that, I mean the interactions in a theoretically peaceful society where we cause each other such pain. We need to learn how to associate with those who act inappropriately without letting their actions affect us. There are different ways to do this. First is avoidance altogether, and severance of a relationship is sometimes the only cure. We need to be the doctor in such a situation. To reach the level where we can be the doctor in personal situations is difficult because we must first be our own doctor, heal ourself. Once we are cured we can be the cure, we understand the pain and how to stop it. How do we make love recognizable? In the civil rights movement Martin Luther King Jr. did some amazing things within the movement itself, he made it nonviolent, pacifist. He did other things too. Look at some of the film footage showing African Americans wearing signs that say I am also a man. He embarrassed people into understanding things without being aggressive, his people wore signs saying I am also a man. If there was any humanity in those who saw that, it moved them, and if it did not move them it moved other people with the power to write laws and make changes. We have to reach the humanity within each being, something which does not happen overnight. We touch it by getting each person to understand we are not invulnerable either, we recognize there is a problem, we understand they have a pain we can help them with, and this is what we can do with love. At a bookstore in Toronto someone recently asked me how he could help his alcoholic friend who was not listening to the advice he gave. When people are in a state like alcoholism, in any state of masking pain like anger, resentment, jealousy, obsession, any difficult emotional state, they cannot hear what we say. They are so engaged by their own situation they refuse to believe anyone can possibly understand. What can we do with people in that state? Either we make a commitment to them or we do not. For some we cannot because it would be self-destructive, for others we might be nothing other than an enabler, but we can love them in an unconditional way without accepting what they do. If they trust us, if they know the love is real, the love is truly caring, they might begin to listen, then we can get them additional help. These things are not cured in a day.

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In the way that people are physically addicted to alcohol, they are physically addicted to their emotions. These things have been ground into our brain so deeply that we have to recondition ourself. Transformation is the hardest thing, and this path is all about transformation. Most people do not want to change, they do not want to change because they perceive themselves incorrectly, they see nothing wrong. The person who lashes out at us for some perception of inappropriate behavior thinks of himself as a little baby protecting himself with anger, he thinks of himself as the kindest, most lovable creature without recognizing he is now a monster protecting the baby. He is not that baby any longer, he walks around as a monster. We run into monsters, different degrees of monster we need to handle, both the outer monsters and the inner monsters. May God help us all with that understanding, that patience, that transforming love for ourself and those around us.

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Love

We spend our life looking for love, turning many corners expecting to find it, looking into many faces expecting to find it, going everywhere expecting to find it, but first we should search for love within, then we will be able to see it out there. We can be in either a loving or an unloving state. The unloving state could be nothing more than stubbornness, the state which refuses to love. What is this refusal of love, this stubbornness that keeps us from loving? It comes from all the things we are attached to other than love, our deliberate refusal to give them up, it comes from the separation of the self from others, a sense of mine and yours, a sense of differences, everything supporting our base desires, it comes from an egocentric perspective on existence. All that keeps us in stages of the unloving state, a state in which we are not our true self. There is the self which is part of the merging totality and the self which is separate. If we confuse the two, if we do not know the difference between them, we spend a lot of time not being ourself. This negative part of us has to be eliminated, it should not be part of us; our inclination to stay in that place keeps us from reality itself. Love exists, God exists, and we can put an equal sign between them, God is love. When we are in a state of love we have the possibility of aligning ourself with God, when we are in an unloving state we cannot be aligned with God. Think about it this

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way, heaven is being in love, true love; hell is not being in love. Do we understand what these metaphors truly mean, where they direct our understanding, do we understand if we cannot be in a state of love we are taken away from Him? Hell means being taken away from Him, being separate from God; heaven means being with God. We should learn how to love, we should be in this state of love at all times. Find reasons to love, find excuses to love, we should create situations for love. It is our ticket to God, without that ticket we cannot get through the door, the door available to lovers, the door open for lovers. The key to this door is the vibration of love, this door disappears for love, it makes the door disappear, it makes all the veils disappear, love makes every separation disappear. We need to make separations disappear, something we have to do before anything else. Access to bliss, the bliss of being with God, is available through our access to love. We should study the foundation, understand what makes love begin, understand how it occurs and why. We should yearn for it when it is not within our reach, this means our heart must melt. What does the melting heart mean? When something melts its form and structure disappear. Now we have given form and structure to illusion, we have given form and structure to the things separating us from love, the form and structure separating us from God, this is what must melt. Since we have institutionalized illusion we need to melt the institution, we have crystallized illusion and we need to dissolve the crystals, dissolve the self in the realm of love so that no particle remains. Undissolved particles separate us from truth. We need that dissolution, a dissolving, a melting. For an understanding of the melting process, think about being stubborn, when we melt that stubbornness things change, attitudes change, the way we exist changes, our state of being changes. When a child is stubborn he can create a storm, but as it passes the child’s beauty comes back, he has melted, melted because of something that happened outwardly. Outer love can melt us inwardly. Interaction with a saintly being who loves absolutely can make us melt; unconditional, unrestrained, overflowing love changes our being. If there is any hope for this world, it might lie in this kind of love being spread from person to person by people who understand its strength, its unconditional nature. Love is not diminished because people do not accept it, love does not react in anger when people do not accept it, love is not resentful. Love is a melted state, things in a melted state are liquid, a liquid finds it way around things, solids are blocked. Lava is rock at such a high temperature it has melted, nothing can withstand a lava flow, the temperature of that lava is so high any solid in its way is consumed, it melts too. We should be a lava flow—the rock, this solid rock that we are must be raised to such a high temperature the rock melts. When this rock melts the heat affects everything it comes near. Understand the metaphor, understand what we need to become. When love is so genuine, so unconditional, it cannot be thwarted, cannot be stopped, cannot be held back, this is hope for our existence. We pin our hopes on many things, but if we understand the reality of this love, where it comes from and where it goes, we can understand our relationship with God. This love comes from God, it goes back to Him; He created us with the ability to experience this love, this state of existence. Recognize when we are not in that state and yearn for it. To understand it and remain there must become our priority, because unless it is it will not overwhelm us. We are so busy dealing with all the things which exclude love, which do not have time for love, so busy this love can in no way overwhelm us. And yet we cannot appear to be overwhelmed by love all the time without looking like a madman, someone crazed by love for God, crazed by love. We need to understand the importance of love in a balanced state, understand how critical love is on the path to reality; only in a melted state of intense love is reality available.

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God has many attributes, His strength and splendor, His patience and forgiveness, His compassion and mercy, and they are all bathed in love. When conditions demand strictness or severity they are severe because of love, they are severe within the understanding of love. Severity is not an isolated quality, none of His attributes are isolated, they have a certain cohesiveness, they temper each other, they balance each other in a way that we too, must be balanced. If we are to manifest some excess, if we are to be out of balance, let the off balance be in favor of love, in favor of kindness, of tolerance, of loving kindness. It is much safer to push ourself in that direction. It is much easier to push ourself the other way, even though horrifying things can happen if we are off balance going in the wrong direction. It is difficult to stay in balance, difficult to walk the line of perfection. If we are going to err, to make a mistake, our mistakes ought to be on the side of compassion, of tolerance, on the side of the melted heart. We need to concentrate on this and pray for it, keep asking God to let this melting go on, to raise the heat. Since God is the One who provides the heat we have to ask Him for it. When it comes, we must not be afraid of the fire, we need to get used to this fire which will save our soul, we have to walk through it understanding what it does. May God give us the right understanding of love, may He give us the strength to let all that separates us from this love fade away. May He grant us the ability and the effort to separate what is not ourself from ourself, to be rid of everything which is not love, which divides the world, which does not accept His truth and His reality. Can He make our love strong enough to take us towards Him unceasingly, with devotion and reverence, surrendering to His will? He reaches out for us so powerfully that if we just put ourself in His way, He will bring us to Him. We need to fall into His way, there is no other way, there is no choice but love. There are moments when love is strong, we feel it as the body starts to tremble and we react differently. We change physically, our state changes as we recognize the truth, as we recognize ourself, as we recognize the truth within ourself. We usually hide from ourself, but these moments of grace and love lift the veils, pulling us into reality. Although we might kick and scream we cannot help but go. If we learn to relax we can do this, we can go there even if this melting process is not easy. If it were easy more of us would be in that melted state. Let us be those who melt easily, let us be wax instead of stone, then God willing, a small flame can melt us. May we be clear about our choices, clear about the truth and its availability, no longer hidden from the truth, no longer hidden from what God has for us. He has everything that is best for us, but we are stubborn, we continue to choose alternatives, we continue to create situations which make us believe something else has value. May we make these distinctions correctly and see that one truth, His truth, that one love, His love, and make this our choice.

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The Resonance of Peace

May the peace and blessings of God be with you, now and always. Much of the difficulty in the world is caused by the need of some individuals to distinguish themselves, to identify themselves as superior, different, as better. This need for distinction, the need to be separate is directly opposite to the need for unity, for merging. The path to God requires the disappearance of the self. It should be evident that the path of purposeful distinctiveness, purposeful separation is opposite to the work required for genuine peace. The prophets came to bring the message that there is a path to God, there is a way to approach Him, there are instructions and rules governing the state of being which allows this. Different prophets came to different groups of people. Many of us today have known holy men whose circle we have stepped into, not a large circle, a small circle where we began to learn. At times, now and in the past, some people have wanted their circle to be bigger, some people have thought the circle was more important than the message, that increasing the size of the circle was more important than the path itself. If this process evolves without any checks, eventually the religion becomes more important than the prophets, the religion becomes more important than the message.

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This phenomenon begins with individuals wanting to distinguish themselves, proceeds to groups wanting to distinguish themselves, then to religions acting as individuals who want to distinguish themselves, to be separate, to compel others to join them. Their sense of superiority is enhanced by the number of followers. This problem at the root of many religious troubles is difficult to eradicate. Change makes the hierarchy of religions feel threatened. Take for example, the teacher who talks of tolerance for all religions, who teaches there is no significant difference among them, at their core they all carry a message we can follow to take us to God. This teacher who explains how following the truth of any religion can bring us to our destination, how that gives us the right to practice as we choose, this teacher will clearly have trouble with the authorities in any group trying to promote its own way. Religions have become, in a large sense, not only a business but also much more than a business, they have become identities for people, what makes them tick, what makes them think they are who they are. For many the religion has become their reason for living; for some the support and spread of a certain religion, finding converts for their religion is paramount. What happens eventually to those who want to distinguish themselves most, who strive for distinction, who will gain converts at whatever cost, these people end by imposing their version of the truth, their way of seeing things by whatever means necessary. They lose any sense of boundaries, any sense of limits. Scriptures talk about such people who have lost their sense of limits—we are to speak to them, bring them back to the permissible, we are not to compel them, we are to advise them, remind them. If we present ourself as purveyors of religion, if we are trying to get our religion into the marketplace, if we use force, if we compel, we have lost our sense of limits. If we lose our tolerance we have lost our sense of limits, we have also lost our sense of the way, our sense of the true path. All the religions need to be reminded that their path is the path to God, and this path to God is an individual relationship between each man or woman and the Creator. Religion prescribes a method of return to the place we came from. Once we lose sight of this, if we think of world dominion for religious purposes, or for any utopian purpose, we have changed the basic function of religion. We do not believe in this world alone, we know that everything here will disappear. If we think we need to build religious monuments in this world to the glory of God, we do not understand the glory of God. God does not need our monuments, God does not need us to proclaim Him, God needs us to be like Him. If we do not understand that, we have lost the understanding of the difference between words and a state of being, we have lost the understanding of the difference between slogans and a state of being. We have come to the point where we are talking instead of being, we have lost the vibration which is God and no longer understand resonance. The true path is about His resonance. Creation is what God has made. He does not need us to create temples, to create monuments, to create marches or movements on His behalf. He does not need us to wave His flag, He needs us to be like Him. He needs us to carry the vibration of peace and tolerance within us so that when we walk into a room peace and tolerance enter the room, so that people can feel peace and tolerance are with them, His truth is there understood with loving kindness. His truth is not understood with harshness, it is not understood with separation. Peace among human beings exists when we are peaceful, and peace is available through oneness with God, not in any other way. We cannot merely proclaim we are peaceful. Wars and civil wars occur because there is no peace in the hearts of the people. Even in the absence of apparent differences people create occasions for separation. Without a relationship with God, without love in the heart, without that peace of the inner being, without the reality of individual peace, there is no true peace even if we proclaim it. We have to understand the reality of peace, and as people of religion, as people who walk a path, we have to be first to proclaim tolerance, first to proclaim kindness, we have to be first to proclaim love, not just for those who are like ourself, but for everyone.

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This does not mean we should lose our own way, that we should separate ourself from our own way, but it does mean we should make our way pleasant to those we meet. We need to let them understand we follow this path because it has melted our heart, because there was a genuine conversion, the way opened within us, the way of God’s kindness and love. This is what we need to represent, and when we encounter people who are not like that, our love needs to be strong enough to be constant at that meeting. We need to be those who sell the message, not the package, and we need to know the difference. A well-wrapped package with nothing inside is a great disappointment. We have to show that we are more than the wrapping paper, that there is more within than meets the eye. In any case, this eye cannot see the truth, the inner eye sees the truth. We should learn how to perceive things differently. For this there is a need for an individual relationship, a mentoring program. We need mentors for our growth, understand that we need an individual relationship with a mentor. Now this word mentor can be used in many ways, it can mean a teacher, a sheikh, a guru, a rabbi, a minister, it can mean a priest. If the connection is genuine there is a relationship. Then we ourself must become capable of having such a relationship with others, take on the mentoring we are given and pass it on. This cannot be done unless it is up close, unless it is done by taking on the burdens of those we are with, by having the patience, the time and wisdom to understand those burdens and deal with them, to show through our example, through what we have learned how burdens can be removed. Such work does not happen with hierarchical commands, it happens on a personal level, it happens one heart at a time. We cannot wave a wand to make people walk the path of peace and truth. The karma, experience and burdens they have accumulated, the fascinations of the world are so overwhelming it might take years of digging for an understanding to develop. Sages have told us it can take many years, yet we think we can proclaim and change states of being when words are all we proclaim, philosophies are all we proclaim. There is an aphorism going back to the fourteenth century which says that the true path used to be a state of being without a name, now it has many names but no state of being. If they were saying this hundreds of years ago, what about now? Is it something we talk about or is it something we are? Is it something we tell other people about or is it something we are? When someone meets us do they think my God, something is going on here, I am aware of it, I can feel it in the vibratory reaction I have to this person. Is this what is going on, or are we just talking? In ancient biblical times certain people tried to reach God outwardly. They built a great tower making it as high as they could, thinking if they kept building it higher and higher they would eventually reach heaven. This was an external projection of an inner desire culminating in a worldly creation. The Bible tells us God put an end to this by diversifying the languages spoken by those people building the tower. When they could no longer communicate, they could no longer build the tower. For those who understand, the lessons here are plain. Initially, we understand we cannot build a stairway made of stone to heaven, but as we look deeply we find our way to God comes by ending the separations among men, and we begin with external separations like language, culture and race. They are not true separations, we have to see through them, we have to see that we are not separate, that we have been given hurdles to jump, we have been given difficulties to surmount. If we all speak the same language, if we all come from the same culture, the same race, we take it for granted we are going the same way, but these are merely external similarities. Do we stop to understand each other’s hunger, do we stop to understand each other’s pain, do we feel each other’s pain, do we know each other’s difficulties, can we see the presence of God in each other? Do we understand that our true sensibilities are found in a level deeper than language, culture, color, race, nationality or religion? They are not the inner unity where the truth is found. These are things we need to know as human beings, things we need to know and actualize to create a world where we can live as God meant us to live; it happens one heart at a time. When we are more worried about shouting at other people, telling them what

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they should be doing to promote peace, if this is our path we have lost the purpose of our life. We need to shout at ourself to be peaceful. One person’s truth can be tyranny for another. To insist that everyone wants our truth, everyone needs our truth, even if they do not want it we should force it on them, this turns God into a tyrant. We need to understand and be tolerant in a way that does not disturb our true intention, forgiving in a way that does not interfere with our own forgiveness. The commitment to our own path should be strong enough so that our dedication is unswerving. We can only remind and advise, as the prophets did, we cannot compel. If we understand this state and live it as an example, we can show others who might also freely choose to live this way too. With God’s help, the major religions will begin to understand this, the fanaticism which has taken hold in so many parts of this world, in so many different ways, will begin to fade. Fanaticism is destructive no matter the label. We all believe our own label is acceptable, not fanatic, but we must have tolerance no matter the label we choose. As people of the path we have to be tolerant in every situation, we have to bring love to the table, bring God’s way to the table. We must be that peace; if we are not models of peace who will be, where will it come from? If we become human beings who are vessels of God we are filled with peace. To look for it in any other way, in any other place or for any other reason means only that true peace is not available, it is merely an imitation which will fade and crumble. Do we believe the world is held back from destruction because of the saints, the great holy beings and friends of God, or do we believe we are protected by armies, guns, diplomats, political movements and politicians? Do we believe that those who have purified themselves and become vessels of God can influence what goes on around them, that their resonance can influence what goes on in the world and make it peaceful? Do we believe we can be someone like that? If we do, what are we doing about it, what are we doing to purify ourself, to make peace resonate through us? If we do not engage the process of transformation to become a true human being, we are promoting illusion rather than truth and reality. This transformation is the work we have been given, the work we must do. May we understand it and be transformed into vessels of God’s will.

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Time and Enlightenment

The journey of life passes through many stages. To have a quick view of this journey we can read biographies, that way we can go through someone’s life in a couple of days. This should give us an idea of how quickly time passes, what it means to understand the passage of time. They say enlightenment can occur in an instant, something we should always remember, something we should keep as a point of reference, a focus we should not lose. Our hope lies in that, it is our reason for existence, our sanctuary from the chaos, the torture and anxiety of this world. We should look at that moment in time when enlightenment occurs, a moment which always exists, which is always the same moment. The difference from moment to moment is merely our misunderstanding of time, time which has been described as the skin of illusion. Time allows us to organize illusion, to give illusion some historical reference or progression which reinforces the nature of illusion. That moment of enlightenment does occur, but it occurs outside all this history, outside of time; it is the moment we break free of history and illusion, we break free of our biography, existence in this world. We change worlds, we change roles, we pass through illusion into reality. Now God has sent many prophets and enlightened beings, many teachers to show us what this is like. My experience with one such teacher has shown me the positive understanding of these beings, an understanding they use to take others from wherever

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they are to a place closer to reality. When we are caught by the torpor of this existence and lose our focus on the possibility of enlightenment, the world surrounds us and beats us down. What beats us down is the attempt to find some reality in this world, something we cannot do. The myth of Sisyphus is everyone’s life, it is not a myth, it is what the world is: we keep trying to accomplish things that cannot be accomplished. Reality does not exist in the context of the world. We keep trying to create institutions which are immortal, situations which are immortal, we keep trying to create all this in a place which is mortal. We do all this in the mortal world expecting to create something immortal. The legal system has created institutions like corporations, limited liability companies which do not expire, which are theoretically immortal. There is an assumption they can exist forever, they do not go through the normal testamentary dispositions a human life goes through, and they are not subject to the laws of human life because they have been created with a version of immortality. When we look at the world, we treat these institutions as if they had some kind of immortality. Nevertheless we see that things do break down, great nations do fall, civilizations crumble, things which peak fall to the ground in time. Something like our exploding DNA which brings us to the end of our life also exists in everything else in the world. As long as we exist in this worldly realm we are subject to all the things the world is subject to, volcanoes, tornadoes, earthquakes, typhoons, massive destruction, eruptions. If we study the sun we learn there are periods of extraordinary volatility. When intense sunspots occur they affect our weather, our transmission signals and everything on earth. We learn that this volatile ball which heats us will explode one day because it also exists in the temporary, just as everything in the world does. Faced with the temporary nature of things, some philosophers dealing with the critical nature of our existence, looking for a way out, concluded that man invented God to defer insanity. Understand that man did not invent God, it was God who created man. Every enlightened teacher and the communities which coalesce around their presence are the proof of that. Such teachers alter lifestyles, they alter focus, the way we look at things, our attitudes, our ability to understand their existence alters the way we live our life, it alters the purpose of our existence, our expectations, the way we think, it alters who we are. The opportunity we have exists within this alteration; it is the work accompanying the alteration which makes truth available. If this alteration does not occur, if this understanding does not develop we might become cynical, skeptical, with incoherent values, we might not have the ability to differentiate right from wrong. Then there is only the kind of existence ruled by thoughts such as if it feels good, do it. The arrogance which goes with this insists that the products of our minds are the gods of the world—whatever it is we can think of, we are entitled to do. This is called the morality of individual choice, a morality drawing us deeper and deeper into illusion. In reality, man does not make the law, God makes our law. Unless we understand that true law exists within His divine nature we cannot find our way; if we lose His divine law we cannot find our way. Teachers are sent to the world to show us examples of divine law, of acquiescence to it in action. Interaction with divine law brings us to an understanding of the possible for our own state, for our own being. As we compare the gratification of the world with the gratification from acquiescence to divine understanding, we begin to know what is possible in each world. Once we acquiesce to divinity and taste it, we know there is no greater taste. If we do not slow down long enough to taste it, if we are so overwhelmed by the magnetism and hypnotism of the world, if we are so pulled and turned around by the deceptions of illusion we never learn what acquiescence to divinity can do. If we believe our own ability to comprehend and resolve things is so great that we do not accept the divine, we will never know this taste. If we

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never know this taste we never know the possibility of our true nature, we never understand our birthright, understand who we can become, understand what is intended for us, we never know the reason for our creation and existence. If we do not accept the divine our life is filled with the torture of the world, it can become a life of rage and anger as we experience everything working against our freedom, everything our sense of freedom objects to. The world does try to bite us or beat us, if we choose to live there that is the life we have. To escape, we have to remove ourself from the plague of the world and move into reality. There is a side door to the right of our stage where we can get out, an exit we have to take while we still function on stage. If we do not take that exit we must face the hurricanes and tornadoes, the volcanoes, and we are hurled in every direction. May God help us understand the true nature of our existence, may we make the choices which take us to Him, accepting His divinity, His essence.

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A Sense of Awe

A sense of awe can produce maturity. Great and wise teachers can inspire this awe. If we come before them, off the street, full of ourself, immodest, needing attention, needing love, just desperately needing something, they stand us in front of a flame which produces awe, a transformation occurs, awe transforms us. It makes us modest, mature, surrendered. It can put us in a state like a bride’s, ready to enter the next maturing phase of our life. If this process continues we are ready to understand the truth of this existence, the truth of reality. God gives us many chances to understand His truth. The world is in a constant state of re-creation, if God suspended His sustenance for even a nanosecond everything would disappear. Sustenance is the act of creation, again and again. Why does God keep re-creating us this way? He does it to bring us to the place where we can know Him, where we can become a being who has no beginning or end. It has been explained that if we enter the place of light there is no night, there is no tomorrow, there is only today, only now. Darkness disappears, it no longer returns, there is no separation between past and future, there is only now and light. Even the

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separation between our substance and reality no longer exists. The need for separation is gone. When there is no night, when there is no other side, no dark side, One alone remains, One who is eternal. We should not be afraid of merging, becoming one, but many aspects of ourself have that fear because these things do not want to disappear, they know that in the act of becoming one their worldly life ends. They are the qualities which are not God, qualities which know only separation and differences. They have a will to exist, understanding that if we find the truth they are finished, there is no room for them to exist in the truth. They struggle to hide the truth from us, trying to make us something other than what we are, presenting us with images which cause states of anxiety, states of fear, states which keep us from understanding our true self. We become our own enemy, not allowing ourself to be content, paying too much attention to the world, to the manipulation of things which have form, believing that contentment lies in the manipulation of such things. Qualities which are other than God’s keep us focused on outer things; we mistakenly believe that there is some kind of safety in the outer, that by gathering and assembling the things of the world we can create a protected situation where we are safe. There is a traditional story about a man who was told he was going to die within a few weeks, given the exact date of his death by a wise astrologer. He decided to go to a faraway mountain and hide in a cave. Taking a few servants with him, he instructed them to roll a huge rock across the entrance to the cave and take it away a few days later, after the appointed date, then the Angel of Death would not be able to find him. When he entered the cave and his servants had rolled the rock into place blocking the entrance, he discovered someone was already there waiting for him. The Angel of Death said, “I couldn’t believe I would find someone in this remote cave, but I was told you would show up, I was told the exact moment I would find you.” The truth of the world is beyond our comprehension, beyond our ability to understand, yet we have been told since childhood this world is understandable. Science tells us it knows the answers to everything, it understands creation; in fact, the reality is that creation cannot be understood by man, creation is God’s realm, God’s domain. Science lives in the world of night and day, but God does not. The world of night and day has a different reality from the world of light. Scientists hide in their kind of knowledge as protection, just as we hide in our worldly possessions, expecting them to protect us. Ostriches hide when they think they are in danger. They dig a hole in the ground and put their head in, believing they are hidden from the world. When the hunter comes along, with one stroke the world is over for the ostrich. We have to learn not to hide like an ostrich, we have to learn that no protection exists within the world. The only protection is with God.

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Control and Responsibility

God has only to say, “Be!” and something is brought into being, it exists. If God wants something to occur it happens, we are subject to these events, we are subject to God’s wishes and intention. However our memory is short, we are so arrogant we forget the nature of our place in the world. When we lived in an agrarian society, to maintain a livelihood we understood our reliance on God’s gifts on a daily basis. We realized that crops would grow if there was rain, but rain was not under our control, nor was drought, the climate, too cold or too hot, this was not under our control. As time passed we developed methods of manufacturing and production. We used to live on the land in a factory without a roof, then we created factories with a roof, a roof which gave us the illusion we no longer depended on God for our sustenance. Here we could control the weather, control the elements, control our life as we could not before, and this we have called the advance of civilization. With this advance we have drifted away from our reliance on God, drifted away from the belief that control is ultimately in His hands, not ours. This must have something to do with our short memory span, our inability to grasp reality as we are overtaken by illusion, by the media, by forms of technology. Our technology has so overwhelmed us it has begun to replace our belief in God with a belief in

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technology and the power of man. We now believe that if we say, “Be!” it can be so, we believe that world governments can dictate peace, world governments can dictate prosperity, can dictate tolerance, and on a more local level, we believe our government controls a variety of situations. Now we seem to believe that we can legislate everything into existence, we can legislate the reduction of poverty, we can legislate education, we even believe we can legislate peace. We live in a world lying between prehistory and history, between that agrarian society and this technological society. Different parts of the world exist simultaneously in different stages of history, in different cultures with different levels of technical capacity. Some who live with limited technology believe in its danger, some who live with greater technology believe it can solve every problem. Thinking, conscious people live in a world where they see beyond their short-term memory, they see certain principles in this world controlling the lives of everyone around them, they have an inkling of the condition of man, the true condition of man not subject to historical change. Were human beings different in the fourth century from the way they are now, were they different in the sixth century, is there a difference between the condition of a man riding a donkey in an agrarian village and a man in the space ship on his way to the moon, are they subject to different things? There is no one alive from the fourth century or the sixth century, there is no one alive from 1850. It is apparent that we live on this earth for a specific span of what we call time, no matter the advances science has devised; we have not been able to overcome the ultimate situations of life, hunger, disease, old age and death. All this is part of our condition no matter how much we worship our abilities, our technology and the superiority of our intellect, we still cannot overcome these things. In our struggle with life and memory, we readily forget the problems we cannot overcome, we ignore them until they are presented to us in a powerful way, the sickness or death of a close relative, a mother or father, the sickness or death of a brother or sister, then we have a perspective on our mortality which we lost sight of and confused with technology. When we reach that point of being truly conscious of our mortality, our limited stay in this world, we are more open to God, an openness which takes us to new areas, new vistas, then our belief in the precepts of religion becomes more important for our existence, for our life. Perhaps the attractiveness of the things in the world is responsible for our inability to remain focused, perhaps they make us fall away from the understanding of what is real, the reality described for us by God in His scriptures, described by the saints, the prophets and friends of God. They have explained both the nature of reality and this transitory phase of our existence, they have explained there is more than this world, there is a resurrection, a judgment and life after this life. When we are unaware of our mortality we are unaware of this reality; as we come closer to an understanding of mortality, a more realistic view of mortality, we begin to understand the nature of existence in its entirety, instead of our short-term phase of existence in this body on earth. Let us call being conscious of our mortality being awake and being unconscious of it asleep. When we are awake we are more aware of our inability to control things around us, aware that we are subject to the laws of God, to the way He has disposed events and things, including our involvement with them. We are aware that our push or inclination to have things behave a certain way, to have them develop as we want them to is not in our control, even when we believe we are in charge. The more we are asleep the more we take this world as reality and immortality as the nature of our being. We believe it is up to us to push and pull our existence in different directions. These directions can be either moral or immoral; the point is we think we can push and pull, we think we can control events. When we have a true understanding of what morality is, that belief in control is immoral in itself, whether the events we push towards are moral or immoral. It is immoral because we have taken upon ourself something which does not belong to us. We do

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live in the world, we have been given instructions for life in the world by God, we have to do what is moral and right not only for ourself, but for everyone we engage as well, everyone we touch or encounter, everyone we influence or who influences us. We are in a dual situation, two positions at the same time, a situation which might not seem possible as we float between them. We might never find a place where it all comes together, yet we have to deal with it, we need the patience, the perseverance and faith that we will eventually find the place where we can see both worlds simultaneously, where we understand them both. We should move forward with the understanding we are obligated to do all we can, knowing at the same time the results are not in our hands, giving homage and praise to the One in whose hands everything is. We must never forget the dual obligation. This is the detachment we lose in our sleeping state; when we lose that detachment, no matter what we do, if it is right it is only by accident. If we fail to understand that our positive acts are not ours—they come from compliance with His will—we have lost our way. When we recognize that our way belongs to Him we can truly learn who we are, we can grasp reality and know that the two worlds are located next to each other. This path means we act as if we believe in the world, but understand there is nothing here to believe in. We do our duty, we do what is necessary in this world as if it were reality, knowing that it is not. None of this is easy because our first responsibility is always to Him, we have to know that our first responsibility is always to Him. By behaving this way we change, we become less in a positive sense, less arrogant, less demanding, less insistent, less all-knowing. It is not simple, the solutions here are not simple, to act when we do not exist is not simple. To understand that when we look at each other or at the world where everything appears to be one way, but is actually different, this is not easy, yet it is what we have been handed. We can choose to deal with it or go to sleep, we can walk through the dream as if it were reality, giving homage to the dream, giving praise to the dream and nothing to the reality of our existence, no thought to the limits of our existence. Accepting the dream means not thinking this body will decay in time, not thinking it will disappear, it means giving no thought to resurrection, to the judgment which will come, no thought to any of this as we act. We do not remember that God provides for each of us, that He holds each of us dear; if we mistreat any of those He holds dear, we are mistreating our relationship with Him. The ability to make things happen is not in our hands, although we have to act in the world as if it were. More important than the results of our actions are the things we do to produce results. If we act in inappropriate ways because we believe in specific results, we have violated the core of our existence and being. We need to neutralize every aspect of the self which acts against God’s will, we need to neutralize every aspect of the self which acts beyond the bounds of the behavior prescribed for us by those who know both worlds. Even though we do not know both worlds, we have to act as if we did. Performance for both worlds must be carried out simultaneously. The only thing which can hold everything together until we exist in reality is strong faith in what God and His prophets have prescribed for us. First, we need to be sure the teachers we follow are teachers of truth, then follow them. We cannot make up our own rules. By following theirs it opens something up for us, a sweetness, a taste of what is available, the reward for following and understanding reality. This available sweetness is greater than any treasure the world can give us, it is an understanding which protects us from all the fluctuations of existence. When things are not going the way we think they should, we think things are out of control. At that time we are incapable of seeing reality and we think perfection has slipped away even though we are incapable of seeing perfection. Everything is in God’s hands, He controls everything. When we think we are in control we have lost sight of reality, when we think that armies and navies control power in the world we have lost sight of reality, when we think politicians make ultimate decisions we have lost sight of reality. Still, we have to protect ourself, we need appropriate government, we must move in careful, positive

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directions knowing that final control is in His hands. This knowledge must temper us because the only person we can control is ourself, the only control we have is to put ourself in His hands. This is the only true choice, any other means we have lost our way, it means we have taken the wrong fork in the road, we have taken a path which leads to desolation and death, not for the world but for ourself, for our true life. May the focus necessary to find our way be given to each of us. When we are not focused, may He give us the faith to restore our sight, to heal our blindness so that the truth will be clear again.

Ego and Emotion

Some people call love an emotion, but if love is described as an emotion that makes it a lesser kind of love, a love which entails things that give us satisfaction. This kind of love, this kind of emotion is deeply attached to our ego, to our sense of selfhood which is so powerful within the ego with its built-in range of attitudes. The ego is proud of the self, protective of the self, and in its own way develops a sense of honor for the self. This does not mean that things developed by the ego have any ultimate reality, they merely exist within the self. When the ego’s pride is in pain it reacts emotionally. Since the ego is tied to self-love, to love of

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the things it considers important for itself, if it sees its pride, its arrogance or importance attacked in any way, it reacts, it reacts in two ways. First, it feels pain, a pain similar to a knife wound. If our ego is sensitive, if we have not learned to withstand the pressure of daily existence, if we have had difficult experiences when we were younger, inadequate love and care, our ego might be starved for these lower emotions. An ego starved for these emotions can be a powerful agent searching for self-gratification, deeply in need of gratification. When these needs are unfulfilled in a basic way, it feels wounded, and when it is wounded it reacts like an animal. We should know this about ourself, understand how and why we react when we feel someone has caused us pain, understand how and why we react in response to someone we think has attacked us, on whatever level. We should also be aware of what we think of as an attack, aware of how sensitive we are, of what has made us so sensitive to a word, a look or to someone else’s lack of concern for us. Why are we offended, what do we take for offense, and when we are offended what is our reaction? If we feel some sort of pain, next we develop a system to alleviate it, to bind the wound, stitch it up, stop the metaphorical bleeding, the infection. If we are ever going to make progress on this path we must specifically understand the qualities we use when our ego is hurt. Resentment might bind the wounds of that ego, that pain, and then if we lessen the importance of the person who hurt us, if we diminish him, we lessen our own pain because he was not significant enough, not worthy enough to cause us pain, and now we can begin to heal. We do not heal by examining the pain, we heal by demoting the critic, by reducing the importance of the person who caused us pain. But as our resentment builds we are in pain more easily, our view of humanity shrinks, love for our friends and companions shrinks, our ability to interact with anyone else shrinks unless they overwhelm us with praise. This process can begin when we are young if we do not receive enough attention, if we do not have enough love, a process which builds through our life unless we catch it. We are negative in many situations to lessen the impact of what we expect, we anticipate pain and negate the experience before it occurs, we negate the people occasioning the experience before it occurs. By diminishing everyone around us and promoting ourself, they have no emotional impact, they do not affect us, they are not worthy of affecting us, and we become cold, hard, like stone. God sends people to this world who can bear the pain of the world, they bear it without complaint, without resentment, without a hateful reaction. These people are called saints, enlightened beings, friends of God. If we are in pain and fortunate enough to come before someone who takes on this pain, we can be relieved. We should know people who can bear the pain of the world, we should ourself become someone who can bear this pain, have the ability to absorb it and deposit it in a place where it does not fester or put the world and its people in danger. We should be able to understand the cause of this pain, understand how to defend ourself from it, not react to it. It is easy enough to say detach yourself from the world, do not expect anything from the world, easy to say if you have no expectations you will not be disappointed. These are easy things to say, but we forget how tied we are to our ego, ignore that we have lost control of certain responses which can sneak up on us, catch us before we know it, and all our learned reactions are repeated as we feel cornered, waiting for attack. We should know our own nature, study it carefully to see what we have learned to use as the remedy for pain. To be truly detached, to be free of this emotional self which is so overwrought and dramatic, so capable of overtaking us, we need the practice of prayer, the practice of negating the self on a regular basis. If we do not experience the negation of the self regularly, it is hard to avoid being overwhelmed by our emotional needs, our jealousy, our resentment, our self-glorification demanding all that. Kings are no different from beggars in this way, everyone has that tendency. Those who have less of this are rare, those who have less of this can help us. We are not truly capable of giving until we overcome being negative and become positive instead. We

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must engage a genuine negation of the perceived self, a genuine negation of the egocentric self, of the base desires which function through that self. This can happen only by being aware of the self, by actively practicing its negation through different exercises of prayer. The key to this understanding is that I do not exist. If I do not exist how can I hold all this garbage, if I do not exist how can I be offended, if I do not exist why do I need to protect myself, if I do not exist why do I need to roar in defense of my inner being, if I do not exist what is so important? The point is we have made that self, that ego, very large and we have to reduce it in size; this is what becoming small means. It means being able to disappear from everything reaching out for us. As we walk down the street and notice someone looking at us, we should not think it has relevance for us, we should not believe someone who cuts us off while we are driving is doing it deliberately, that anyone who honks his horn at us has some kind of relationship with us, they are people we have never met, never seen, yet we take their actions personally, seriously. Our life is not personal in that way, it is not about ourself and them, it is about God and ourself. If we bring any other consideration into the equation we can end up with qualities which separate and destroy, we can end up in that egocentric situation which arises when we think we do not have the respect, love, admiration and homage our status deserves. This is difficult because we are not willing to think of ourself as less than excellent, one aspect of our difficulty. May God help us understand what resentment is, may He help us understand what jealousy is. To understand His qualities we need to understand our own qualities. May He keep us from being confused, may we see the hidden evil qualities within ourself and tear them away, may He give us the strength to tear them away.

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The Way We Act

We play many different roles on many different paths, some we are conscious of and some we are not. Let’s think about the acts we are conscious of. To display certain reactions in some situations we know how we have to act and respond. We project a deliberate persona in these situations to produce the responses we need. If we do this over a period of time we become good at it, and if we are sufficiently aware of other people’s requirements, we are also good at knowing what personality will evoke specific responses from others. We acquire a list of characters we know how to play, we have an index of acts we know how to play. As we encounter different situations in our life we pull out these different acts and personas. It took years to develop the cast of characters, it took years to understand how to use them, how to manipulate situations to make them turn out the way we wanted them to. We are now so good at this they do not appear to be acts any more, not to the people who watch or to the people with whom we interact. If we do not sustain the consciousness of having developed these acts, if we do not have a broad view of our own history, we forget how and why these acts were developed. We forget how difficult they were to develop, we forget the unsuccessful situations when we said afterwards, if I had only said this or if I had only said that, situations which taught us how to build our act, how to fill out the persona, so that the next time something similar came up we remembered to say this and we remembered to say that.

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We are the culmination of years of role playing, of developing characters for each of the roles we play. Our success as it is measured by the world often has a lot to do with our ability to play these roles effectively, our ability to play these roles so that they do not look like roles, they do not look like acts, they look genuine. When an actor prepares a performance he has to rehearse, first learn his lines and study his character. He rehearses to learn the staging, to be comfortable with the scenery, with the choreography of moving and walking, to be comfortable with the costumes and with the time period, then he begins to know his character. Method actors try to leave their own sense of self and inhabit the person they are portraying. Are we not doing the same thing in all our roles, do we not have a rehearsal period to study who we are, an educational process to teach us the role we want to play, to learn appropriate lines for that role? Isn’t our education learning the intricate details about situations so that we acquire the ability to play a role correctly? Think about it, think about the way we have developed a set of personalities and characters through our life, think how what was brought into this world by God becomes a character for the play of our life, in some cases, many characters for the play of our life. What is this act we play, what is this act which has become our method for traveling through the world of illusion? How conscious are we of our act, how conscious are we of the person we play, have we forgotten the training we had to come to this point, where we play the act we play? Can the actor on stage forget himself to such an extent during his performance that he actually is the character and no longer himself? They say the best actors do that, and the best actors of the world do that too. Forgetting their true nature, forgetting themselves entirely, they have given themselves away to the character they have created for this world. They have done this with rehearsals, with practice and the constant perfecting of the act. There are so many different acts we perfect, the kindness act, the anger act, the generosity act, the resentment act, the embarrassed act. We have gone through so many of these emotions again and again, so many of the same situations again and again. Do we ever really have any fresh, new encounters, are we ever really new, is anything we do done for the first time, or are we so rehearsed there is no longer any originality, there is just a smoothness, a slickness which is so well developed we have fooled ourself into thinking our performance is the reality? There is another act we have to start rehearsing, we have to start practicing, the act of having no act. Courtesy, the right conduct, means rehearsing how to do this. We do not know how to act appropriately, and so we are told how to act appropriately. We do not know how not to have an act, and so we have to rehearse the act of having no act, we have to make that our state, part of our daily routine. We have to investigate our acts and say we are not going to behave that way any longer, we have to go through our reactions to things and say we are not going to react that way again. We have to understand why we have rehearsed all these acts. The simple reason is the motivation of selfhood, the urge to advance the self. If we look at what we are doing to advance the self, then say to ourself we are going to stop trying to do this, even if only for an hour a day, we will stop this routine behavior advancing the self. We will enter the act of no act, we will enter the place where there is no self-motive, we move without the motivation of selfhood, our motive is changed. We need to know what the new motive is, we need to understand how to develop this new act because the world does not teach it, we are not educated in this at school. Nevertheless we have to see this is still an act, we do not know how to be selfless, we do not know how to exist without anything, we do not know how to act without self-motivation. We have to try to act without the motive of self, rehearse it, practice it, practice being without the slickness, the smoothness and the rehearsed acts we have put together all our life. Give up the acts, even if for just a moment, see what we are like without them, see where we go without them. Try having no preconception of what it is like not to have an act; we do not know what it is like not to have an act because we have lived our life with these acts. When we give up all our acts we find ourself beyond where we were; we know only where we are, we do not know where we are not.

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We cannot make up what we do not know, but we do need to practice understanding that we do not know, we need to practice staying in the open space, practice giving up the conceptions we have and see what happens. Just see what happens when we sit in a quiet space without conception, without association, without conjecture, without motive for ourself or for others. See what happens when we go into that open space where we do not know what exists, but we are ready to take what is given by our Creator, where we are empty of everything that has filled us, empty enough to take what is given by our Creator. We have to become what we first were in our life, before we became all the personas we use in illusion, we have to rehearse giving up these personas to be ready for reality. Reality is beyond anything we know and understand, reality is that open space where all the games, all the motivations of desire and the mind have no place. We need to go to that place, go there step by step, slowly but consciously, and consciously means with wisdom. Wisdom is knowing that we did not understand before, an important step, coming to the place where we can say I do not know. This means wisdom is dawning, wisdom is beginning to break through the hard crust of that ego which proclaims to know everything. When we enter the space where we are humble, truly humble, without the act of humility but with real humility, it takes courage. Part of this humility is admitting that I do not know, we enter accompanied by the fear of I do not know, going to the place of I do not know to see what happens there. It takes a certain courage to go there because even though the fear of I do not know is with us, we say I am going to pass through this fear, I am going to allow it and see what happens. I know my God is merciful, I know my God is compassionate. If I let go of everything I have and rely on Him alone, it will be all right. We need to step into this state for some part of our life. If we cannot, if we cannot consciously make this kind of effort, we are destined to live in illusion. That is the alternative, the choice we have to make. Do we want to search for worldly gratification, and there are so many different forms of gratification, or are we willing to enter the place we do not know, the place we fear? To go there we have to give up everything we know, our sense of importance, our narcissistic ego, our self and the motivations of self. We have to do that to enter the promised land, the land promised by the saints, the prophets and the friends of God. Do we want that or do we want the world of sight, sound, touch and feel? This is the choice given to us; we need to decide where we want to go. Just as we need to practice courtesy in order to become courteous, we need to practice the nonactive to enter the active reality. Even though we are merely rehearsing the nonactive we have to do it, but we do it with the understanding that we are only acting, unembarrassed about our acting because we have to begin somewhere. We have been attached to things all our lives, to detach ourself from them will take time. We have to practice detaching ourself, practice letting go, practice becoming something other than what we are now, we have to develop the new persona of no persona. It is not an easy thing to do, but it is the only way. There is nowhere to go, we confuse ourself by thinking we need to have directions. We are there, we are always there, we have never been anywhere else, but we keep looking for directions. Excuse me, how do I get there? By sitting still. What kind of direction is that, sitting still? We sit still and forget everything we have learned. What kind of direction is that? It is different from the old directions which did not take us anywhere. The directions we received to go everywhere else make a big circle taking us right back to where we started. We have moments when we are there, when we can be still for a little while, my God I am here, this is the place I am supposed to be. I exist now within the understanding that You are all that exists, that the separation between You and myself is beginning to disappear, and the ‘I’ that I keep talking about is beginning not to matter anymore, the You I do not understand is gradually becoming all-encompassing, gradually being understood. We have to pray for such moments, begin rehearsing these moments because a time will come when everything else will disappear, that moment is all there will be. If we have not rehearsed, if we are not ready, we may not be allowed to enter. We have to be prepared, we have to be prepared to be here, to be there while we are here. Let us prepare to be here, to be there. God

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will help because that is what He does, He wants us to be here, he wants us to be with Him, he wants us to understand. He wants us to give up our acts because when our acts are finished we have His act, an act beyond imagination. May this happen for each of us.

Maturity

If we observe a fruit tree in the springtime when it blossoms, first we see a flower which slowly blooms and dies, then the flower is replaced by a small fruit which grows. If we watch the fruit we see it not only grows, it also changes, as it grows it changes. If we pick a piece of fruit in its early stages it is quite different from the later stages, there are obvious differences, and if we pick it at the right time it has the right taste. This fruit goes through a maturation process, after maturation there is decay. At a certain time the fruit will fall, the stem can no longer hold its weight, it can no longer take nourishment; fulfilled, it falls to the ground. Once separated from its sustenance, the process of rotting begins. Initially, the rotting is actually maturity, for awhile it is sweeter, but the sweetness becomes rot. People are not like fruit although they do go through certain processes just as a piece of fruit does. One problem with people, unlike fruit they do not necessarily become sweeter with age.

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A human being starts as a small child in need of nurturing by its mother, it cannot exist on its own without nurturing; incapable of caring for itself it must be cared for, this continues for some time as the child slowly grows. That part of growth is more or less automatic, as it increases in size other things happen as well. When children mature physically their shape changes, their features change, they become capable of reproducing, they grow through different stages of life we label teenager, adolescent, young adult, adult, middle age, late middle age, then the senior years, old age. Like fruit, people change in appearance with the passage of time. A piece of fruit has just a single season, human beings live longer, although we can still equate this to a single season. As a human being becomes older the world thinks of him as no longer immature, and we have laws which define maturity. In some places we are considered mature at thirteen, in other places at eighteen or twenty-one. In dealing with immaturity it is commonly said we are not responsible for our actions, the treatment is different for someone who is mature, who is responsible. When we reach the age of responsibility we are answerable for what we do. Laws in most civilized societies are merely basic outer laws which deal with stealing, maiming or hurting, laws to keep us within the definition of what we call civilization. There is another kind of maturity, another kind of responsibility for human beings involving maturity which has to do more with ripening than growing old. Understand there is a difference between growing old and ripening, ripening leads to sweetness, growing old brings the decay which does not necessarily produce sweetness. We need to mature as human beings. What is maturity, when do we become whole, complete as human beings, when do we become what we are supposed to be, what path takes us to what we were intended to be, what do we need to assemble in our life for that? As we grow older physically certain things happen to us, our body changes; first it grows more stable and then it becomes less stable. We acquire the experience to deal with the world we are thrown into, things we could not handle as infants. Suddenly we have been here for ten years, thirty years, fifty years and more, the world and everything attached to it become more familiar, more commonplace. I have seen that, I have done that, I have experienced that, it is no longer new. As children we are constantly plunged into new experiences, a sense of wonder because we have not seen these things before, we have not experienced them yet, we have no memory of them. When we are older, just as we once knew only how to get from our house to school, we now know the direction to many places, we seem to think we know our way around, but this is shallow knowledge. We see and recognize, therefore we know, as if seeing and recognizing were knowledge, as if seeing and recognizing were understanding, as if they gave us even a measure of understanding. In one sense, of course they do give us a little understanding, they do let us find our way around now when we were lost as a child. Whose knowledge are we comparing with ours, a three-year old’s? Is this our standard, we know more now than we did when we were three or five or seven? Now we have experience, we have seen a few things. Is this a significant level of experience, a significant level of recognition, of knowledge, understanding? We have the technology to take us from one place to another faster than before. Does this constitute understanding? We seem to be satisfied with surface things, with manipulating surfaces, manipulating form on that surface, manipulating what we see. Do we consider what we do not see? When we have a pear, before we bite into it, can we see how sweet it is? Do we see the sweetness of other people, do we see the source of sweetness for the world, do we see the source of all created things when we look at them? What happened to the wonder we had as we grew up when we saw things for the first time? What happened to that time before we were bored, what bores us now? How often do we stand in awe before a blade of grass, how often do we miss the blade of grass in the field as we walk across? Especially in springtime when everything starts to bloom again, how much time do we spend recognizing the wonder all around us? What was dormant is suddenly alive again, what seemed to be dead is different. This is a springtime revival, but do we study the revival in our own state of being? Do we have a seasonal revival of our understanding, where we came from, what sustains us, how we bloom, do we bloom? Do we die more and more or are we more

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and more alive? Which path have we chosen, are we stagnant or are we revived with the recognition we are born again, today, for the first time, today, for the first time recognizing our vitality in the history of today? Or have we done that already, has that vitality run through us once before and that was enough? Maturity is the understanding phase; if that maturity is to develop we need to be young again, to return to the place of wonder, the place of awe which has seen nothing before, the place which discovers the route every time we go as if it were the first time. Is it a miracle that everything has remained stable since we saw it last, is the rising of the sun something we take for granted because it happened yesterday? Do we have the right to take things for granted? If we do we have fallen asleep, we are no longer moved by the wonder of creation, no longer moved by the wonder of everything around us, no longer moved by the beauty of our friends on the path. We are no longer moved by the love in the heart of a bird and the song it sings, no longer moved by the squirrel climbing a tree with a nut in its paws, no longer moved by the things we see which we have seen before, still as amazing as the first time we saw them, yet we have lost our sense of awe. Maturity is the ability to stay in a sense of awe, to understand what we do not understand. Maturity is not falsifying our perception of the self, but seeing it as it truly is. It is looking at who we are, simultaneously understanding our limits and our glory, giving credence to what created us. Maturity is understanding that we have not yet fallen from the branch, we are still attached to it like unripe fruit. Maturity is understanding that our life is given, given to us every second, again and again. Maturity is understanding our true place in creation, coming to grips with it, being astonished by it and praising the One who created it this way. When this state emerges, when this awe prevails, when that praise comes from our heart with true thankfulness and gratitude we have entered a place of true youth. May humanity enter our hearts, may it waken us to true humanity. May we be in perpetual awe, in wonder of Him, in wonder of His creation. May He guide us, make us mature and bring us closer to Him.

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The Paradox of Liberation

What the wise teachers have taught is a subtle teaching which requires subtle understanding. We are told we need to find liberation, the freedom of our soul, but to find this freedom we have to be bound in certain ways, we have to be bound to find our freedom. This world is a difficult place where we have so many trials, so many problems, yet here we are looking for the liberation of our soul while we live in this world. We encounter people who treat us unkindly, who treat us unfairly, who mock or deride us, who cause us difficulty, and still we are bound to forgive them, to find that liberation we are bound to forgive them. If we cannot understand this forgiveness, if we do not realize how we are bound to be forgiving, liberation cannot be ours. We have duties in this world which means we have to find jobs, we need to be successful in the world, nevertheless when we are successful we make enemies, people are jealous of our success, but we are bound to our duty and bound to liberation, we have to do both. Sometimes if we are kind, generous and good to people, we are accused of acting with ulterior motives, people say there must be a reason why we are kind, generous and good, they do not understand that searching for liberation means we are bound to be kind, good and generous. And sometimes when we are honest and sincere in our dealings with people, they might think they can cheat us, in fact, they might, yet we are bound to be honest and sincere whether people treat us correctly or not, whether they cheat us or not.

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The world is full of paradox; we feel inclined to react as others react to us, while we are bound to behave in the specific ways we understand to be our duty. If we are truly looking for liberation we have to understand the rules of this path, we have to understand how narrow this path we have to walk is, and not stray from it. Those who interfere with our state of being as we try to do what we are supposed to do is not what this is about, this is not about ourself and others, it is only about ourself and Him. When we shift our focus to them, no matter who or what they are, our liberation is interrupted, eternally interrupted. In our understanding of this we still have to do all that we need to do, and do it correctly, within the bounds of the permissible. Without the appropriate foundation there is no liberation, without the understanding of right and wrong, the adherence to what is permissible, liberation is unattainable. Things in this world are confusing and subtle. The world tells us if we can do anything we want, we are free. Now we live here in Philadelphia, a rather free place, we are free to run amuck, free to engage in almost any activity we can think of as long as it is within the bounds of what is permitted by law, or if a policeman doesn’t catch us, but does doing any of this or even running amuck give us freedom? What is freedom, what does our sense of freedom mean, what does it feel like, what does it really come from? Philosophers talk of different kinds of utopia, they write about freedom in the world, peace in the world. One of the great lies was communism, the promise of freedom through economic equality, we would have our utopia in economic equality. What kind of freedom is it if we cannot say what we think, if we cannot work where we want, if the government does not allow us our relationship with God? When we cannot put our relationship with God into practice, when we do not have a relationship with God, is that any kind of freedom or is it merely being bound to the hypnotizing attractions of the world? We should be able to understand the subtle difference, understand what it is like to be hypnotized, to be asleep, to fall off the true path believing we are free. We should know whether we are actively engaged in our liberation or in our destruction, and recognize the difference. This is not something which happens on the outside, this doesn’t happen between someone else and us, it happens entirely within our own state of being. Teachers of truth and wisdom talk about it as the ability to remove ourself from the lights, the fascination, the magnetic, hypnotic attractions of the world, and go to that inner world of peace where God exists. If God does not exist within, in our own heart, He does not exist for us; He might exist for others, but He does not exist for us. We must establish that relationship between God and ourself, it is the point of being here, the point of our coming here, the point of our life, the only peace we can know, the eternal peace which comes from an actual relationship with our Creator. The world is not a monument to our existence, it is not the end of everything, it is only one phase of existence. We believe there is more than one world, there is the world of souls, there is this world and the next. When we lose sight of the transitory nature of this world and put all our attention on a passing state, we have lost sight of our complete itinerary. If our itinerary includes going to Florida and to Sweden, we should bring both light clothing and clothes for cold weather too; if we forget one part of our itinerary and end up in Sweden with nothing but shorts and a tee shirt, we are in trouble. Since our travels consist of more than this world, if we prepare for this world alone we have made a fundamental mistake about existence—we are not prepared for the rest of the trip. We need to understand this other portion of our being, of our existence, and the journey we have to prepare for. When we are given a blessing by an illumined being, what is the blessing? The blessing given is in terms of provision for us in this world and in the next world, sustenance in this world and liberation in the next. We should understand how to sustain ourself in this world, fulfilling all the duties we have in the appropriate way, attentively, bound to them as if they were real. We should also understand the obligation to our soul, the obligation to our Creator because the journey, the itinerary continues, we have to be ready for the next world. Things which keep us tied to this world, which are monumental in this world, are of little significance in the next, nevertheless the things God binds us to in this world are monumental in the next. The ability to be calm, to be forgiving, to love others even when they do not love us, this is not about our relationship with them, it is about our relationship with God who loves everyone,

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who is patient enough to wait for them to love Him, He has all the time there is. We are part of His creation, we are part of His plan, we are part of Him, and we should act as He does within the confines of this ephemeral situation. The truly wise teachers give examples of the next world, examples of the qualities which transcend this transitional state, examples of what continues beyond here, what takes us to the next step on this trip we call our life. They tell us there is no need to fight, if we know what to do we can proceed, if not, they can direct us the right way. We need discipline in our lives, we need to correct ourself, take hold of our own existence. We are no longer babies, we are mature now and maturity entails responsibilities, responsibilities to others, to ourself. The exercise of these responsibilities is a display of our maturity. Self-absorption, egoism, pursuing titles and status are a display of our immaturity, it is giving credence to this world as if it were permanent, not temporary. These teachers are travelers, they do not stay in one place very long, they are hard to hold onto. If we want to travel with them we have to ask for help. If we ask them the way they are ready to show us, but first we need to empty ourself of everything we have established so far, we have to give up the beliefs of this world. Understand that we have swallowed such a quantity of beliefs we do not even recognize them—they are so entangled with our inner self we cannot separate them. Once we believed so strongly in this world; now slowly we begin to taste the lies of the world. There is still a lot of cleaning to do, this is our work, the washing, cleaning, the purification we are bound to. We are bound to purification, to acts which purify us. We have to wash and scrub correctly to be clean. When we polish others we also polish ourself. Understand that when we forgive each other we are forgiven, when we give we are given, when we love we are loved. We create our own dynamic through this dynamic with others, something we must work on with great gentleness, kindness and love, binding ourself to it, not wavering from it. This is the reason we are given a community, all the difficult people give us an opportunity to practice. If we want to ascend to the next step on this path we need to be in the appropriate state for admission. We have heard these illumined teachers talk about their insignificance, describing themselves as tiny as an ant, and we understand this means they can go into places others cannot. Only the finest particles can pass through a filter, we should become these finest particles, clarify ourself to be such fine particles. God’s love helps us do this work; the more we are committed to this love, the less we worry about the people and things of the world the more significant are the changes which occur. We no longer need the things we used to need, we are no longer bound to the world in the same way because we are bound to Him. The more we are bound to Him the greater our liberation. May each of us understand this and choose to be bound to Him. May He grant us the glory, the love, the kindness and grace which are His to grant, the compassion, mercy and loving kindness which are His to give, the balm which soothes our hearts, our state of being. May we do His work in a state which is compassionate, merciful, kind and loving enough to represent Him.

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Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi

Holiness

Since we spend so much of our life in the mundane, the transition from mundane to holy is something we need to think about. In the midst of the worldly we need to take ourself to another station, another state, another place. We know that already, but how does it happen, what does this juxtaposition of the mundane and the holy mean, how do we accommodate these two aspects of our life? Many religions have ritual ceremonies for this transition, most involve water. In Christianity there is baptism, acceptance of the way, usually a thing which occurs once signifying entrance to the holy. In Judaism there is the mikvah, a purifying bath the rabbis in older times used to take before the Sabbath, immersing themselves completely in water, making a transition. In Islam there are ablutions, the ritual washing before prayer five times each day. In all of them we have the understanding of transition, the understanding that transition is necessary to enter another state. Let us go beyond the outer signs of transition and talk about its inner actualization. What occurs within us to make this movement from one place to another, what attaches us to the movement taking us to holiness? We are born into the world where we develop a certain ability to deal with it, a belief in that ability as we become confident of the things we learn, our ability to survive, to take care of ourself. We love our abilities, especially if we are good at things and confident—that very confidence impresses us and we love with this too.

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Now those who are not as competent find themselves in a different situation, perhaps one reason why some say the transition is easier for simple people, easier because they are not so in love with the world, they have less authority, they are not so in love with themselves. The role of mind and desire functions at the root of this. Our mind is a tool dealing with the world, desire drives that tool; they are at the root of our attachment to the things of the world. To shift into the unworldly we have to activate what is not run by the mind. In the opening stages of this shift we are not certain of these other areas, we still have to use the familiar tools to go where have not been before, even though that place requires other tools. Our desire for the world takes us deeper and deeper into the world, yet we can use desire to move away from it. For our first steps then we use desire, although we use it in a different way. The desire we once had for the world we turn towards God with a new understanding. As long as we are using desire our path is to that extent impure, but if we use that one desire to blot out all the others it can be a cleansing process. If the desire to know God, knowledge not possible in the context of desire, if the desire to know God brings the understanding that we have to give up desire, we are using it to do away with worldly desire. We are still using something we are familiar with, yet we are using it in a different way, using it as a transitional tool to take us towards God. As we cleanse ourself of attachment to the world we need patience, the desire to know God is not going away until desire goes away. As long as we are attached to desire which originates in our elemental, physical self, there is no cure for desire. Only when we go beyond desire do we enter purity; we must have the patience to outlast our unfulfilled expectations. Patience is the ability to do away with expectation, the ability to be peaceful and nothing else, to be calm and nothing else. There can be no expectation because expectation creates anxiety, reinforcing the elements. Serenity cannot exist with expectation or desire which both limit our connection to truth. This is our struggle, our daily battleground. One way we can focus is to keep examining our motives, keep asking why, why am I in this state, why am I doing this, what is my intention, what is the purpose of this intention, what’s in it for me? When we recognize there is something in it for me, for the egocentric self, we know our attitude is wrong. The self functions in everything we do, difficult to give it up, difficult to give up the clamor to exist, to see the world in a new way which does not include the self, does not see it as the focus of whatever we think or do. We have spent a lifetime building up this self, making it disappear is difficult, hard to analyze. We need to imagine the world without us, ourself without us. This sense of ‘without us’ offers a place where motive becomes a mirror which is wiped clean, a place where we have no agenda but God’s. This place is a different existence. God is everywhere, we cannot package Him, put Him in a corner or hold onto Him for safekeeping. What we can do is let His essence flow through us, this is a way to know Him within us. We have to be a vacuum tube, empty, but something can be pulled through. When truth is pulled through it is there, when we are completely empty truth flows through us, but we cannot hold onto it if we are not consistently empty. Once we fill ourself up again the truth can no longer flow through, we have created blocks, obstacles. Truth comes and goes, purity comes and goes, emptiness comes and goes. Learn how to go to a place of emptiness, a place without motive, without expectation, a place where everything goes on without us, without our image. Here there is serenity, peace, the great understanding that existence goes on without all our pushing and pulling, without our participation. This is so unlike the way we have lived and the record we keep of our history. Our life has been based on the things we pushed and pulled, we have recorded an autobiography, we know what we have been through, what we still go through; in our limited way we know what works in terms of pushing and pulling. No matter our worldly status we all go through this, we have taken care of washing ourself, feeding ourself, we have to take care of these things. No matter how we do it, we do it whether we are a beggar or a king.

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On whatever level we live, our life certainly fascinates us. If this is our only point, if we are so fascinated by the self we are lost in the same fascination we had at the age of three, “Look at me, look what I can do!” We can spend a lifetime doing this, and we probably have had moments when we knew success or accomplishment, as if they had been our achievement, our responsibility. We should stop being clever, get over the need to feel special, get over our sense of a separate life. God exists in everything, everywhere; if we define ourself as separate our definition is exactly opposite to His. As the definition of our separateness grows our ability to converge with His totality falls away. We have been told to examine the major religions because together they constitute what has been sent. Study them, incorporate everything, be tolerant, be inclusive. As we separate others we separate God. If we separate ourself from Jesus we separate Jesus and what he taught, if we separate ourself from Moses we separate Moses and what he taught, we are missing that. Unity means including everything, there is no unity with just a portion or part of the whole. This means we need to be a repository for every good thing, we are not separate, we are inclusive. This state of inclusiveness, the state of nonseparation means certain other qualities naturally abate. When we are part of everything there is no resentment, no caste, no status, no difference of religions, we are inclusive, everything is part of who we are. We should see ourself in this expansive way, we need to be like God, expansive and all-inclusive. He created everything we see, both the right and the wrong, the wrong must be eliminated but everything right must be included. Every step of the way we have to be inclusive, we have to keep bringing everyone in, not pushing anyone away. There are dangers in this world we need to be aware of, certain things we have to stay away from. This does not mean we cannot be inclusive, it means we have to be careful, understand what we can safely integrate and what we cannot, understand where we can walk safely and where we cannot. Our openness should be intact, if openness shuts down God cannot pass through us. This understanding must be strong, our understanding, cleansing motive must be strong. To make the transition from the mundane to the holy is something we have to practice because we do always return to the world, like dolphins who dive but still need to come up for air. We have bodies, we are not without bodies, we do have our worldly nature. When we are engaged by that worldly nature we must be able to come back to our spiritual nature, we should know what makes the transition and practice it, make it part of our capacity. Focus can help with this transition, we need to be aware, know when we are too worldly, too separate, and make the transition, we need to pray for the transition allowing us to recognize His grace. We have an outer performance and an inner performance which the outer can represent, we need both. What is not the same inside and outside is hypocritical; be attuned to the inner and the outer, make that unity complete, do not be separate, do not have one way of acting here and some other way there. Truly enlightened teachers treat us all the same way whether they have known us for twenty years or we have just met, there is no difference for them, but we react differently with everyone. For the luminous teacher there are no strangers, everyone is included, everyone is a friend. We need to develop all the qualities of such holy beings. Our ability to go to a mosque, a church, a temple or a synagogue, to pray sincerely there is a sign of growth, a sign of our ability to be inclusive, to be an umbrella protecting everyone without differentiation because God does not differentiate. He does not give more to one and less to another, He does everything fairly, with justice, and we should also be fair and just.

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These are basic things, part of being human in the true sense of being human. If this humanity spreads real change will occur, if even one of us becomes truly human change will occur. We do not recognize how great an influence one true human being can have on the world. If a few come to the place of holiness everything will change. May we search for light, may God bring peace and tranquility to the world.

Being and Becoming

Spirituality is about being not about talking. We can talk all we want, but unless we become, talking is of no consequence. There are certain individuals who have become what they talk about, and in that case the spoken word carries the resonance of reality. This is an extraordinary phenomenon; if we can sit with someone who has entered reality there is an opportunity to learn something from the words themselves, but if the words come from a person who does not exist in that reality the words are of little consequence. There is a story about a prayer leader who was reciting the Qur’an one day. He happened to be a man who had memorized the whole Qur’an. On this occasion someone was sitting in the assembly listening to him, looking at him, sometimes smiling happily

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and sometimes making faces and noises as if something was wrong. When he had finished his recitation he came up to that person, “I saw your displeasure with some of what I recited, and I saw you smile in other places. If you think you can do better, why don’t you? Here is a Qur’an.” The man replied, “I can’t do that, I don’t know how to read.” The leader of the prayers said, “Why are you showing signs of displeasure when you don’t even know how to read?” The man answered, “Well when I looked at you, some of the time as you recited I saw the light of God’s plenitude coming from your mouth. At other times, when it wasn’t there, I showed my displeasure.” The man fell and kissed his hand. Even with the recitation of holy words there must be a resonance, a specific state of consciousness for a true impact, a true understanding to come through, for the words to resonate the grace they have. There was a man who wanted to find Khidr Nabī, a being known as the eternal prophet. The man sat imagining him for days until finally he drew a picture of Khidr Nabī on a piece of paper, folded it up and put it in his shirt pocket. Then he walked around everywhere asking all the people he met if they knew who Khidr Nabī was. One day he ran into a man who said, “I am Khidr Nabī.” The man took his picture out, looked at it and said, “No you’re not!” and walked away. Because of his preconceived notion, his entrenched imagination, he had missed the opportunity to find the real Khidr Nabī. To enter the spiritual path and truly begin to understand it, we have to begin by finding ourself, by knowing ourself. Most people in the world have spent a long time imagining who they are, and then one night they draw a picture of themself, fold it up and stick it deep in the recesses of their mind. This is who they become, and every time they have a chance to discover who they truly are, they check this new version against the picture they have drawn. When it fails to match they keep going. In our present state we are incapable of finding spirituality unless we conclude we have something new to find, unless we understand we have to change something, unless we understand we need to be transformed. But the question is, how does this transformation occur? The transformation cannot occur as long as we have a picture of ourself folded up neatly in our shirt pocket or lodged deeply in the recesses of our mind. When we do that we are limited by our own imagination, limited by a picture we have drawn of ourself, we cannot go any farther because we have established the parameters of growth defining existence, the parameters of our capacity to be. To find out who we really are we have to break through the understanding of these limits, these parameters. This is difficult because most people have no idea what lies beyond that imaginary description of themselves, no understanding of where there is to go because they do not have the courage to step into the unknown. The first thing to do when we begin the journey to find our true self is burn the image, this picture of ourself, throw it in the fire. If that picture lies deep within us we have to step into the fire, something it takes great courage to do. It means something must die, our notion of who we are must die, and the death of our imagined self is impossible for us to comprehend while we live in illusion. Early in the twentieth century during World War I, there was a major battle in Turkey at Gallipoli when Ataturk, the Turkish leader, formed an army to hold off the Europeans. He told his recruits, “I am not asking you to fight, I am asking you to die.” He needed men who were willing to give up their lives to save the country. In the same way, we have to be willing to give up our imaginary lives to save our souls. This is the choice we are given, not a path for cowards because there will be a death here, the death of all we have conceived, all we have imagined, all we have held dear, of everything we have considered to be reality before setting out on this journey to the truth, all that must die.

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How do we take such a journey, how do we become what we have not been before, how do we become this other being which comes into existence when the imaginary being we are now has died? How does this happen? If we do not find someone who lives in reality to show us the possible, we will be incapable of conceiving it, limited as we are by our own imagination, by what we think we know. Since we hold so strongly to our beliefs, our conjectures, to what we think is real, we need someone with the ability to release us from these ideas. The only person who can do this for us is someone who has already done it for himself or herself, and then that person becomes a mirror for our own possibility. Even if we discover such a being, we are still required to take some positive, affirming action, we have to be engaged, we must make an effort, an effort which begins with stopping. We need to stop being the way we are, a difficult thing to do. A train traveling at one hundred miles an hour heading south has to put on its brakes and stop before it can turn around to go north. Putting on the brakes at this speed is a serious business, the train squeals and screeches, throwing off sparks, it takes extraordinary effort. We have to apply our own brakes in the same way, go through all that screeching, throwing off sparks as we stop going in the direction we have been traveling our whole life, as we turn around and proceed in a new direction. Once we stop we can at least sit still, sit without the momentum of the world pushing and pulling us in every imaginable direction. When I first met a great holy being all I could do was sit in front of him and be amazed, fascinated by what I was sitting with. Fortunately, I was able to sit without conjecture, sit without trying to figure out what he was talking about, without trying to understand what he was saying to me, without trying to make sense of all the things I had never heard before. It was sufficient for me to be in his presence, sufficient to be in the presence of those qualities which are reality, a transforming process which went on for an extended period of time, an actively engaged, actively passive effort. I did this because I was so convinced something positive would come of it, so convinced inwardly I was able to put forth the effort to be at his feet and sit still. To begin the spiritual path a certain kind of humility must develop, the humility to stop, to surrender, the humility to understand that we do not know. As long as we are certain we know we remain the enemy of our soul; as long as we think we are controlling the world we are the enemy of our soul; as long as we know where we are going we cannot go there because we have a preconceived idea of each step, we have drawn a picture, we are merely following the outline produced by our imagination. We have to stop conceptualizing in order to enter the open space, a space in which we do not know what will happen, in which we are ready to stand with our eyes open, without fear, accepting what we see with humility, awed by the glory, unafraid of being burned, stepping willingly into the fire of reality. We go as volunteers to give up illusion for the sake of our soul, a major step, a step for our state of being, a step towards finding reality. Until we take this step everything else we do is merely imagination, until we take this step we are talking without becoming, conjecturing without becoming, we are drawing pictures of reality instead of stepping into it. If we are serious about this path we have to learn to bow our heads to its truth, learn to put our heads appropriately on the ground, humble in the understanding that we do not understand, humble enough to beg for the grace which is only His to give, humble enough to ask that guides be sent to us each step of the way. We must surrender to God and give up this world. We must lose our sense of self, our illusory sense of self must dissipate and be reborn in His will, in His qualities; we must be lost to the world, nothing more than a burned out shell to the world.

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The Politics of the Rock

The heart should be a place melted in love, but too often it is a rock, a hard, difficult rock which reacts to the world in a rock-like way. What happens to the soft place in a baby to make it the rock-like place it often becomes? When a baby enters the world it has not landed yet, it has come into time and space, but it is still not actually here, it remains in another world until slowly, it is rooted in this world. Children have different experiences when they are brought into this world, some are born into strong, kind, nurturing environments, some are not. Sometimes, even what appears to be soft, kind and nurturing has an edge which frightens a soft child, and fear does terrible things to people, fear and occasionally the reality of what happens to their young lives. When children are frightened they might develop a mechanism to deal with that fright. There are different mechanisms; there is one in which they develop a protector, something to protect themselves from all their difficulties or invasive fears. Inwardly, the child is a soft, vulnerable being, but to protect this soft, vulnerable inner being, it develops a coating, a hard shell to protect what lies inside.

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Over the course of time, depending on the way this outer shell develops, or the extent to which it develops, often that soft, inner thing disappears, except for a small dot inside the mind of the person who still sees himself or herself as soft and vulnerable, while on the outside there is something like an enormous roar. This is what the world sees, but it is not the way the person thinks of himself, he thinks of himself as a soft, vulnerable, frightened thing with the right to do whatever he has to do for his own protection. There is so much illusion, so much rationalizing in this kind of thinking, such people fail to understand the monster they have created. If there is no space created for that soft, vulnerable being to exist, to be brought into the open, a space where people can be that loving, melted being, it will not happen. People have to feel safe, feel protected, and this does not happen quickly. First the outer shell must be broken, this rock has to be split, a long process. What the rock creates is different for different people. For some that rock becomes an impossible child, and that is as bad as it ever gets, for others it might be a biting, sardonic sense of humor, their protective force. Individually we create a shell, a rock, a tyrant to protect our soft core. At the heart of this is a failure to understand reality. We are not all blessed with wise parents or teachers, they cannot teach what they do not know. Until we have an understanding of reality, those who have not been raised with it feel the need to defend themselves from the world. They see it as a harsh place demanding self-defense. When we understand the truth of faith, when we understand that everything is in God’s hands, recognizing that our own capacity to defend ourself is limited, then we begin to replace our will with His. Religious movements are just as capable of creating rocks as authoritarian movements are. We should understand that we are a microcosm of everything which goes on in the world, of everything we see whether it is political or religious, whether it is a peace movement or a tyrannic movement, all this takes place inside ourself. We must stop at some point to take inventory, to assess where we are: this rock can become our personality, the person we are. We have been in the business of protecting ourself for so long, we have lived so long in fear that the benign, the soft, the loving are lost, all that remains is the rock. How do we turn this around, how do we enter a new phase? We have to give up fear, we have to stop being afraid—we can be afraid of almost anything. Different people have different phobias, the list is long. For us it does not make sense that someone else is afraid of that, and for him it does not make any sense that we are afraid of this. The point is that fear causes some kind of reaction, it is the anticipation of future events experiencing their consequences now. It means that we make ourself a fortuneteller, predicting what God has in store for us, fearing the worst possible outcome. This perspective stems from a negative way of looking at things, a way which makes us protective, we are certain misfortune will occur unless we intervene. The reality is that the only One who can intervene is God, the reality is that God is merciful, our future is in His hands, He only wants the best for us. He is the kindest, the most loving parent imaginable. We should start thinking this way, start thinking about our future this way, remember how important we are to Him as His vice-regent. He bestowed this importance on us, He will care for us, we must believe that. Strong faith is a key to ridding ourself of paranoia, strong faith is a key to shattering the rock which has surrounded our softness. Faith will replace that rock we are so ready to throw at any moment. Those who are on the receiving end of the rock sometimes wonder who the person is throwing it, wondering why they have to deal with it, why they even allow such a person to be near. We do not need to wonder about this; instead we should understand the truth and softness, the melting heart which is the heart of a lover of God. We must have the courage to be unafraid. It requires courage to be unafraid.

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Do you have the courage to step outside every seemingly normative thing in your life, to expand who you are? Do you have the courage to become more than the limited being you are aware of now? Do you have the courage to see the entire universe within you? Do you have the courage to let everything go, to put everything in His hands, understanding profoundly that this is the only route to true freedom? Do you have the courage to be free, or do you insist on being bound by illusion because it feels safer there than in the open space? When the time comes to take that step into reality, will you have the courage? When the time comes to say I have to leave everything I’ve ever known behind, will you have that courage? How can you have courage in the future if you do not develop courage now? To die before death requires a tremendous act of courage because we all fear death, we all have a vision of death. Part of that vision entails giving up everything we hold dear in this life. Do we have the courage to detach ourself from all that? Do we have the courage to give up the material things we hold onto as if they were sacred, do we have the understanding to reach that state of detachment, to be that detached? As long as we keep or hold onto things we are afraid of losing, we live in illusion. When fear goes, when fear of everything, of every little thing disappears, we can be free. We should know what we are afraid of because what we are afraid of separates us. We think we are brave when we defend ourself from the things we fear; instead, we should surrender fear, be unafraid. A state of fearlessness is a state of true faith, defined correctly as belief that what is supposed to happen is what is happening, that perfection exists and we are in the midst of it. The problem is we do not understand perfection, since we do not understand God we use our own judgment on the nature of perfection. We have to surrender this judgment, be in tune with what is going on, give up our own will which is not His. It is all a matter of willfulness, an insistence on our will, not His. If we can give up that insistence, fear disappears because fear often stems from the thought that my will is not going to be done. We have to surrender our will so that fear can be dissipated in its irrelevance. When two children are together and one of them is misbehaving, we tell that child to leave the other one alone, but it makes no difference, the child cannot do it, cannot ignore the other child, he just will not let him be. This is no different for us. What is it we just cannot let be, what is the degree to which we cannot let it be? Can we acknowledge it, understand what it is we cannot let alone, that we have to torment, play with, that we have to have turn out as we think it should? Why is our will so important we do almost anything to make sure things turn out as we determine they should? These questions have to be addressed inwardly, answers are different for each of us; we cannot legislate for others, tell others how to function and what to do, we can only do this for ourself, prescribe the process we alone have to undertake. If the process is correct, if we are strong enough, others will understand and do the same thing. There is a state of being which has stillness at its core, it brings stillness and serenity to those who exist in it. The great teachers are in that state, in their presence fear goes away, nothing unfortunate can happen. Fear leaves, we find sanctuary in their presence, but we are always in God’s presence, we are always in sanctuary. If we open our eyes we will see the protection, if we open our eyes we will see the glory, the grace. May the vision which sees that grace directly be available. Whatever our circumstances, wherever we are, may our eyes be open to that point of glory, open to that point of grace. May the fear be dissipated at each moment of our existence, may our eyes see the perfection of each moment and melt in His will.

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The Melting Heart

If we cannot see the truth in ourself we cannot see it in others, we are in a state which has veils covering our ability to see. Arrogance is one of those veils, a state blocking our ability to see the pure heart in another person. Not only does arrogance block our ability to see that others have melted in purity, but it also blocks our ability to see that the possibility exists. Until our own heart melts we will not understand this melting process in others. Enlightened teachers see through the veils which keep us from seeing our true self, they see through and beyond them. They see what is available in us that we do not see, they see it because they are in that pure melted state, they know what it is like and how it happens. When we melt we are softened, the veils are parted, then we can see the possibility in ourself and in others. In this state we see beyond the apparent, we see through the obvious to what lies beyond. This make a difference in the way we respond to the world. The master who sits in a room filled with people sees the light in everyone. Can we? If we cannot, why not? We cannot if our heart is not melting, if it is not, we do not see the light in others. Once we begin to melt, when we are with other people, even in a

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public place, we can look around and know what is going on. We can see it and feel it, we can feel their pain, their discomfort, their difficulty, but we can also feel the joy and see the light that comes from them. When this happens our interaction with the world and its people changes, we no longer interact with the outer shell they have created for themselves because we understand the shell, the transparency of the shell. We also understand why people find it necessary to create a shell and why they hold onto it. If we develop a relationship with them, if we have that vision and that capacity, we can help them break the shell. This is what an enlightened being does, he lets the shell break as a place of trust, love and confidence is created, a place where that external roughness and hostility melt away allowing what is beneath to come out. Once this happens to us it is our responsibility to understand how it happens, then how to create the circumstances in which it can happen for others. This is the miracle of the relationship between master and disciple, the master remolds the disciple. This happens because the teacher can see what is wrong, he is a doctor operating on the outer crust which keeps us from ourself. Slowly, he cuts through the crust so that we can handle it, it does not harm us. The teacher deals with the disciples according to their capacity, their ability to make progress, an ability which has something to do with their level of maturity. The immature cannot move forward quickly, they are delayed, stuck, as if they have not yet learned to read and write. Maturity is that simple, the immature are not literate, not literate in the world of the heart, not literate in the world of love which they do not understand. They do not know how to read the book, how to experience it, they do not know how to open it within themselves. They are incapable of that, reacting in an inappropriate way to love or anything else. Their lack of maturity separates them, and here is something which really defines immaturity, the separation of the self from the rest of humanity. Separation is the most immature state; when people in that state gather to form their separate, immature groups they proclaim correctness in their immaturity, correctness in their separateness, insisting that their version of separation is the only appropriate way to exist in the world. Understand the danger of this separateness, this inability to know other hearts, the danger to our soul if we are closed to love, closed off from the rest of humanity. Unless we understand this we cannot be in a space which lets us look at someone else, see through the veils and recognize who that person really is. When the person knows he has been seen truly, he might begin to weep. Things which have been locked inside cause the weeping, part of it regret for the past, most of it the joy he has discovered. There are many good people in the world, many who do not know how good they are. It is important to help them know, help them understand the possibility of true human existence, help them understand what happens when the external crust is broken through so that we deal with the heart, we deal with compassion for each other. We can help them understand the treasure we have when we are involved in each other’s lives in a peaceful, loving way. May we all understand how to look at other people, how see them appropriately, break through their outer crust so that they will find their own splendor. God created us in splendor, but now that splendor is hidden. It was not meant to be hidden, it was meant to be revealed, meant to reign over the world instead of the separations which rule today.

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The Creation of Adam

The creation of Adam, the first man, is a great mystery, and we are all related to this mystery in a very significant way. To understand who we are, we have to understand who Adam is, what his creation means because we are a re-creation of that original creation. To know ourself we can start with this question, why was this species called man created, why did God create Adam? We have been told by the saints and the prophets that God created the world and other beings before He created man. When God told the angels that He was going to create a being who would be greater than they are, with a capacity to know Him greater than theirs, certain angels objected, certain that if He created this being he would not be obedient, he would not do what God said, he would kill other creatures and argue with God. What the angels could not understand, and what we find it difficult to understand, is a state higher than our own. The angels could not understand God’s reasons for creating man because they did not know what God knew. In just the same way, we often assume things we cannot understand, we are limited by what we know, limited by our own state. God did have a reason to create man. The rest of creation had been brought into existence as things which He produced from Himself yet not from His essence. He wanted to create something that came from His essence. The Old Testament says that God

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created man in His own image although we are told that God has no image, we are told that God is incomparable, we are told not to create pictures or representations of Him, nevertheless He created man in His own image. Why would God want to create something in His own image, why would He want to create something like Himself? Before the beginningless beginning, God knew Himself through Himself, there was nothing else, there was only God. In His vastness He understood His own being, yet we can only understand other things by looking at them. To see ourself we need a mirror, but think about looking at a mirror without any backing while still being able to see ourself, to know ourself. God knew Himself in a way we cannot understand, He knew Himself by looking within Himself, there was no external reflection or image. He knew Himself from within Himself, but He wanted to know Himself from without as well, He wanted to know Himself as a reflection of Himself. God decided to create a vice-regent in this world, a king for the world under His dominion. He wanted to make something in this world which included everything within itself, in the way that everything was included within Himself. Of course this creation is not God, we cannot make that mistake, but this creation is the closest thing to God in the created universe. This thing He created He called Adam, the first man who was given dominion over the whole world. It is said that God created the world with two hands, everything else with one hand, but when He created man He also blew His breath into him, something which separates us from the rest of creation. We walk around with God’s breath within us, that breath which is the soul exists within us. As a symbol of His breath within us we are sustained by breath, our breath never stops, if it stops we stop. Just as our breath sustains us, God sustains the world, He continues to sustain the world. Interestingly enough, when Adam was given dominion over everything he was unhappy even though he controlled the world, all the creatures, everything in the world. He had a relationship with God which was a response to something higher than himself, in that sense a limited relationship, and he asked God for a companion he could have a relationship with on his own level, as a way to know himself. As God wanted to create a being who would know Him, understand Him and reflect Him so that His glory would be more evident, Adam wanted the same thing. The response to his request was a companion, Eve. Much later on the prophet Muhammad would tell us that half our path lies in marriage, we come to know ourself through marriage. How do we come to know God? By knowing ourself. This means the most important relationship we have in our worldly life is our marriage, and the second most important relationship in this world is with the rest of humanity. God put what he gave Adam in all of us, we have an opportunity to recognize it in everyone. Some of us recognize God in ourself yet we fail to see God in everyone else, rather like the angels who objected to the creation of Adam. Satan complained that God would create a being unlike Him, separate from Him, a creature who would do things with appalling consequences for His creation. This is the kind of thing some of us now say about other people. When we do, what are we like, what are we imitating and why? We say this because we do not recognize what Satan and his followers refused to recognize in man. We refuse to bow to others while we bow to ourself, we will not give that respect to others. Until we do, until we offer that understanding to everyone we do not have it ourself, we cannot see God. When we recognize God in ourself alone we are looking at our base desires, the animal aspect of our nature, yet we are different from the animals on this planet. If we look upon others as animals it means we have seen only the animal in ourself. If we see others as higher beings close to God, if we see the soul, the breath of God in other beings we can understand that in ourself. If we cannot see it in others we cannot see it in ourself.

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The ability to act correctly is such an important part of our life. How can we trust God if we do not trust what He has placed in others? How can we be worthy of trust? Either we are worthy of it or we are not. Our proving ground for trustworthiness lies in our relations with the world, beginning with the family, the way we act within the family, expanding then to our relations with teachers, with friends and acquaintances. If we say something, how important is our word, is it meaningful, are we conscious of what comes out of our mouth, are we conscious of the way we act? Do we understand what is right, is this understanding a part of our life? God created us as His viceregent, His trustee for this domain, and that implies His trust in us. We need to acquire a level of trust by earning the trust of those around us; we trust their hearts and they trust ours. We need to recognize our sameness, this immense glory where the unity of God exists. As we move away from this sameness we step into separation, the realm of separation from God. If we resist affection from our companions we resist affection for God, if we resist associating with our friends and family we resist associating with God. If we try to assert superiority over them we are trying to be superior to God, if we try to be the authority instead of letting them have their say we are trying to have authority over God. We are all made from the same cloth and woven on the same loom, we came from one Creator. Anyone who says your God is different from my God has a god who is just an idol. Either we believe there is one God or we do not, if we believe it then He is everyone’s God. We need to know our place in creation because the story of Adam is our story. Until we learn that every story is our story we cannot know ourself. There is only one story, His story, the one we have to include in our existence. We should learn the complete history of His story, the reason for the things He created. We should go to the realm of wisdom which lies beyond intellect. Wisdom cannot be explained by science, it can only be learned from those who live in that realm, who are in touch with divine knowledge, true knowledge which they have received from others who had that wisdom. Sometimes it appears that this knowledge has been lost to the world, that it cannot be recovered, but it is not lost, it is merely not searched for. We have to search, we have to make that effort. The world is a powerful place, everything God produced, everything He created has a certain kind of power or force, powers which have magnetic properties, hypnotic properties which fascinate us. We have a choice to make, we can be fascinated or we can move towards God. The world can point us to God or to the things of the world. It depends on the direction we choose, we can pursue the things of the world or understand that these things point to God. A sanctified being once said the world is God’s translator. Either we use the world to translate God for us, or we try to find the meaning of the world. If we try to find the meaning of the world it’s like peeling an onion, nothing is there at the end. If we are not looking for God there is nothing to find, He is the only thing there is to find. When we go in search of the wrong thing we are never satisfied. One main ingredient on this path is love, this is the path of love. We cannot form the right relationship with others unless we care for them, unless we care for them we cannot have the respect for others necessary to establish appropriate respect for ourself, appropriate respect for God. May we understand the nature of creation and proceed on that path to Him, the path He created for us.

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Understanding Love

When we set out on this path to reality there are certain fundamental questions we have to ask ourself: who am I, why am I here, what is the purpose of creation, why was I created, what is the purpose of existence, what is the purpose of this life? The answers are easy, living the answers is difficult. We are here because of love, we were created because of love, we exist because of love, we came from love, we are love, our intention is to return to love. This love we talk about is a powerful yet elusive quality. We have all used the word love, we have all been in love, we have all been in love with love, we all have had some experience of love in our life, but have we ever focused on love as the reason for existence, on love as the core of existence, love as the power keeping electrons within atoms in the place where they are meant to be? What is this love, how do we become part of this love, what does it do to us, do for us, through us? How are we in touch with this love, how do we understand it, what does it mean? When we contemplate a field of flowers off in the distance on a bright sunny day, we see the horizon, the different colors of the flowers and grasses, the gentle movement of the plants and small animals, we experience a sense of peace, of serenity. If that serenity grows and becomes luminous we have a sense of integration in an aspect of serenity itself, we feel as if we are part of the

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force driving that serenity, producing it. This is a taste of love. When we see a baby whose joyful laughter makes us smile automatically, for no reason other than the beauty of the baby’s existence, this is a taste of love. When we observe a gracious act which is totally selfless, understanding what has occurred at that moment, understanding it as something done on behalf of our Creator for the sake of His creation, done by a person who realizes the connection between the Creator and creation, we have a glimpse of love. When we remember that God created us so that we can know Him, that He has given us the gift of understanding, of being able to understand His qualities of compassion and mercy, this is the fragrance of love. When we sit in front of a great saint who looks at us with pleasure, a spark flies across the room with a smile that makes our heart pound faster, this is a realization of love. When we leave everything restricting us behind, when we abandon our worries and release the burdens of anxiety, when we are free in the moment, we are swimming in love. Love is what we live in, what we live for. The veils we create are like body armor keeping us away from love; we need to remove that armor. God constantly sends His vibration, His resonance of love into the world which is invigorated by His love at every nanosecond, yet humanity takes up arms to fight against this love. We do not have the patience to sit still and catch the scent of love, we do not have the patience to sit still to witness love. Instead, we take up arms to protect what we have created, believing it to be more important than love. The things we consider more important than love differ around the world in accordance with the culture we are born to, the place we live and the quality of life in that place. In the midst of this holy love steadily sent here, man habitually commits vile acts. Our ability to ignore reality and live in our own constructs is overwhelming, it brings tears to those who live in this holy love; our capacity to make hell out of heaven is so abundant it buckles the knees of those who are holy. Some who are hidden sit in prayer asking the rest of humanity to see what they see, asking the rest of humanity to understand what they understand, to feel the vibratory resonance they feel. Perfection exists around us yet we insist on imperfection. If inner patience and absolute contentment were in the hearts of human beings, it would change the world so radically we would no longer have the problems all around us now, if we had the patience to sit still for a week everything would change, but we do not sit still for a minute. The mind which never stops creates the illusions of reality we respond to, instead of ignoring them. When people ask how to stop listening to the mind, the answer is given in their question, stop listening to it. We know the mind is there, we know it is making us mad and foolish by telling us to do things we should not do, certain things we do not care about yet still do. The ultimate answer sounds too simple, nevertheless the root of the answer is that we do not know how to love on a greater scale, we do not know how to love for the sake of God. We love for ourself, our love is selfish love for the sake of the things we think we need, the things we have made important in our life, the things we believe sustain us, that carry us from day to day. People who have given some thought to their lives, people who have focused on this, understand that the only moments they have truly lived are those transcendent moments when we are aligned with truth, when they exist in reality. We spend a lifetime worrying, thinking about and paying homage to all those things that do not matter because we do not know how to stop. Stop just means stop, there are no options for certain things we need to stop, need to change. As long as we believe we have options, as long as we choose not to do the appropriate things we need to do, then what is truly appropriate for our life will not have the space to happen. To be doing what is appropriate means becoming appropriate beings. As appropriate beings we have to be in love, we have to be in love for His sake, in His name, His praise, His glory, in His radiance. When we understand this and make it our reason for existence we become appropriate, as we become appropriate our acts become appropriate, our essence becomes appropriate and we exist in reality. Until this happens we do not exist in reality.

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There are some societies or groups which will not admit us unless we have reached certain levels of realization, some groups have first, second and third degree memberships. We are told the world has seventy-three groups or tribes, only one of which is acceptable to God. The one acceptable to God is the one which is appropriate for God, and we need to reach that state of appropriateness. How do we do that? We do that by accepting Him, by allowing Him in our life in such a way that when we give something to Him, we give Him back to Himself, then we are appropriate. We become appropriate when God walks with us, God’s resonance moves within us. We need to recognize this in ourself and in our friends and companions, encouraging this in ourself and in them, praising what is worthy of praise and staying away from what is not. We should realize what is worthy and take appropriate action at the right time so that everything appropriate exists within us. This is the work of this path, the work of those who choose the path to reality. There are many things we can look for in this world; if we are searching for reality the key to it means existing in it. The great mystery on this path is that we have to become the key, it is not handed to us, it is not given to us nor is it found. We are the key—when we change we unlock the door, everything appears the same from the outside, but everything is now different. The difference is that we exist in reality. We do not see others as different from ourself, hunger is not something someone else has and I do not, pain is not something someone else has and I do not. In reality there is unity, if we are in reality there is unity in our state of being, unity between ourself and those God has put us together with. The places where we have been put, the people we have met, the people we have been given, the relationships we are involved with, they are the ones we are supposed to have, but we are supposed to deal with all of them appropriately, we are supposed to deal with them in reality. As that reality grows, as we are closer to it, we perceive the difference, the air is different, what we see is different, whom we see and how we see them are different because in reality we are engulfed in love, we see through eyes which love as God loves, as a holy being loves, we love like lovers of God. Things slow down, there is no rush, there is nowhere else to be because we are already there, there is nowhere to go because we are already there. The world exists and we are part of it in the truest sense. May the love which makes us keys to reality enter our state, transform us at the cellular level so that it touches our true spirit, every atom in our existence. May it touch that tiny thing given to us by God called our soul. May we exult in this love, understand its warmth, its nurturing, understand its inherent goodness, and may that goodness become who we are, may we have the ability to give it to others so that the world will treasure this gift from our Lord.

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The Path of Transformation

May the peace of God be with you, now and always. What is transformation, what is transformed, who are we, what do we need to know about ourself? Saintly beings have told us that to know our Lord we must know ourself. This means we must go through the process of learning who we are. No one else can do it for us, no one else can explain to us who we are, we must go through the process ourself, find out for ourself who we are. Scripture tells us there is no compulsion in religion, and part of what this means is that we cannot force religion on each other. Now take marriage, it is supposed to be a loving union of two people. We can force people to marry, but we cannot force them to be loving. When parents force their children to marry, they cannot force them into a loving union. That union happens when two individuals open their hearts to each other, when they love each other. It is the same with religion, only certain things can be forced. Society or the religious hierarchy controlling society can force attendance, force the performance of rituals, yet they cannot force the opening of the heart, they cannot force devotion to God or voluntary obedience to God’s law. All they can force is an outer obedience by punishing those who do not conform, and with the fear of punishment they create apparent obedience.

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A key to understanding ourself is the knowledge that we have two souls, one is the undifferentiated soul, the light of God in each of us, the aspect of God in each of us, the spark of God which animates us, and the other is the differentiated soul, the animal soul, the egocentric self. The animal soul centered on the self is egocentric, it acts to sustain the elemental self. Its purpose and inclination are to give sustenance to that self and fulfill its desires, as an animal does. A bear finds its own food, finds its own shelter, it breeds and raises its cubs, maintaining and sustaining itself and its young. We maintain and sustain ourself in the same way. We can identify certain levels of consciousness, the first three are feeling, awareness and intellect. We perceive something, we become aware of it, then intellect devises a process to deal with the information. A bear feels hunger, it becomes aware of its hunger and finds a way to satisfy that need. It kills a salmon, it eats berries, it invades a honey pot, but it satisfies its hunger. This is an intellectual process, the bear does not merely stand there waiting for food to fall into its mouth, it does something. We do something about our hunger in the same way, and we do something about our need for shelter, devising situations to satisfy these needs, all this is accomplished at the level of intellect. People can spend their life feeling desire, becoming aware of it, defining it and going through the intellectual process of satisfying it. This becomes their life, a self-centered life, a life so involved with the desires of the individual being it does not go far beyond that. These base desires are our animal qualities. Our lower self establishes a committee, a zoo of various animal qualities to satisfy our needs and desires. What does this menagerie of animal qualities do? If we are big enough it protects us as a bear protects itself, if we are not so big we might learn how to run as a deer runs, we become a runner to protect ourself. We use this menagerie in our interactions with the world, sly as a fox, fierce as a tiger, camouflaged as a chameleon, haughty as a cat, ingratiating as a puppy, relentless as a hyena, scavenging as a vulture, proud as a peacock, and so on. We use these qualities to create favorable situations for ourself, but since we have no respect, no desire and no inclination for God, we have no binding rules guiding the way we do what we do. And so we might become as dishonest and crafty as a fox; whatever works, works. We might become con men or thieves. The inclination which provides for the self allows no restraining regulations, and without regulations we are no different from the animals whose only rule is survival—still, the lower self can make progress. Just as an animal can be tamed, this lower self can be brought under control. The first thing we have to do is provide discipline for that animal which is without regulation. Where does the need for discipline come from, where does the recognition of this need come from, where does this dissatisfaction with the raw way our animal soul behaves come from? It comes from another level of consciousness, the fourth level of consciousness, judgment, where we ask is this all there is, and begin to question our existence. This can happen when we notice we are doing the same things again and again, finally realizing we are going around in a circle. What we do is a repetition of wanting something, getting it, forgetting the thing we wanted when we have it, then wanting something else. We have done this over and over again, but now we are a little older, we recognize there must be something else. With this recognition that there must be something else, we begin to acquire discipline, learning what is correct and what is not correct, the discipline of right and wrong. The knowledge of right and wrong has been given to us by the prophets who brought God’s words, who told us what is appropriate and what is not. We still have that egocentric inclination, that part of us which does not want to listen to this because that part of us is not interested in God, we still have the animal which is only interested in the self. We learn now there is more to us than the interests of the self, we begin to find out what else there is, and slowly start to walk the path of discipline. We are taught what to say and not say, what to eat and not eat, we are taught how to act with others and how

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not to act with others. Love and wisdom are explained, wisdom and the quality of love are explained to us. We begin to understand the power of love and the grace of wisdom. Slowly we change, slowly we tame these animals inside us, slowly we do away with many of the animal qualities we have acquired over the years to accommodate our needs. Nevertheless each of these animal qualities keeps demanding something for itself. Each one tries to occupy the forefront of our consciousness, and once it is in charge it works very hard to stay there, to be in control, it fights to maintain control as if it were fighting for its life. Whenever the higher self emerges at the front of our consciousness, the animal qualities fight to retake their position. As long as we think these animal qualities will not hurt us we let them back in, succumbing to the seductions they present, most commonly, power, fame, sex, money and property. Some of us are fortunate enough to realize that life means more than just fulfilling our desires, there is more to life that merely wanting and getting. Change is difficult however, the animals inside us are wild beasts which must be tamed. How do we do that? With love, immense love. We cannot beat them into submission because that will never make them truly tame; they can only be loved into submission. As the conflicting qualities within us are all vying for control, we have to move into a state where control is not an issue, a state where there is only love. This love will soothe everything, even the beasts within us. With this state of love we begin to develop the understanding that there is more to us than the endless need for things, this desire for things, this need to gratify our appetites. If we look closely we see our appetites are without limit, they run in every direction and we need to pull them in, to restrain them. Some of the things we have used in the world which have taken us in all the wrong directions can be used to take us in the right direction, we can change our appetites into a yearning for God, we can change our desires into a desire for God. Now we begin to use the tools we accepted in our animal life as tools for our life as a human being. The first thing we have to do in becoming human is to learn the difference between right and wrong. We need to take that first step forward, then the base desires begin to retreat because now there is a set of rules, now we are no longer just an animal, we are a being with guidance, we are changing. The transformation which is going on did not happen because of a beating, it happened with the recognition of love. Once we have access to guidance, have learned how to act appropriately with each other and with ourself, and once we have learned about love, the benefits of love, we learn about giving and the benefits of giving. We begin to understand the qualities of God. Think about the qualities of God, what does He do? He gives, He maintains us, He sustains us, He nourishes us, but not just for a little while, this is His unceasing endeavor. As we try to become part of His endeavor certain feelings overtake us, a certain state overtakes us, a cleansing which makes us understand what is worthwhile and what is not. We understand the difference between the path which is wisdom and love and the state of an animal, we know why we want this path because God grants us knowledge of compassion, knowledge of mercy. He allows us to experience an aspect of His qualities which overwhelms us with the beauty of that state, reinforcing our intention. The next step is surrender, to be totally at peace. At peace with what? We are at peace with the undifferentiated soul within us, at peace with the soul. The lower self surrenders to the soul, and we are left with the undifferentiated soul. Now there is no difference between us, between you and me, your hunger is my hunger, your pain is my pain, my love unites with your love. Then we truly enter the state of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. What does this mean, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Who are we? If we are the undifferentiated soul, who is everyone else? They are also the undifferentiated soul. Before we can enter the state of the golden rule we have to understand the nature of God in ourself, and just as important, we have to understand the nature of God in everyone else. If we cannot understand the nature of God in everyone else we remain egocentric, we see this glory working only on our behalf. But this glory is not for us, it is His, it is shared by all beings.

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On this path, sometimes one of our own animal qualities puts on the garb of a religious leader who tells us what we do is right, what others do is wrong. That leader can behave like a minister or a priest, our own personal preacher who sanctifies what we say and disputes what others say, who tells us how correct we are, how incorrect everyone else is. We have to be careful, the animal soul can masquerade as the undifferentiated soul, leading us wildly astray. We need to undertake this process of transformation and know how difficult it can be. There is a reason why prayer is a place of struggle, an actual war. Prayer is a battlefield where we can win, die or surrender. Here our victory lies in surrender, contrary to the rules of the world. These new rules are the ones taking us towards the reality we need to believe in, the reality we need to accept in place of the lies of illusion, instead of what the world keeps telling us, the things we read in newspapers, the things which belong to popular culture. All that is a lie, reality is hidden in the ruins of that lie, the ruins discarded by the world. The great teachers are often discarded by the world, yet they have the hidden gems of truth within them. They are not hidden because someone is trying to hide the treasure, they are hidden by mankind’s inability to see. God has put everything right out there in plain sight, but we are so blind we walk past without recognizing the truth even when it jumps out at us. We need to wake up; waking up means becoming aware of the state we are in, being conscious of it, being aware of it and doing something about it. If we are not in that wide awake state we are still hypnotized and attracted by the world, we are asleep. In that sleep there is no difference between our waking state and our dreaming state, it is all a dream, it is all illusory. We need to walk this path, take on these obligations, become people who are knowledgeable about God’s law, who understand it, incorporate and practice it in a way embraced with love. If we leave love out of the equation all the animal qualities come back no matter what disguise they wear, no matter if they wear the clothing of a beggar, a prince or a minister. If love and wisdom are not part of the equation, only our animal qualities will emerge. We need to recognize love, recognize wisdom and be drawn to them.

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Resonance and Light

Recently we met two people who were believers in God, believers who wanted to be with other people who are enthusiastic about their belief. Because we all shared this enthusiasm the experience was beautiful, rewarding, we shared common feelings, emotions and understanding. There was so much of this communal understanding it brought unity; when there is unity God joins us because He wants us to be one. If we do what He wills, His will is to be with us. Why do we have such meetings, why do we come together? We do this to understand how to align ourself with His will, something which allows Him to come among us, to be with us so that we can engage His joy shared with all creation. Here is a Creator who is compassionate, here is a Creator who is merciful. What has He done for His creation? He has let us know compassion and mercy. In His mercy He has given us the ability to experience compassion, in His mercy He has given us the ability to experience mercy, and what happens when we taste this food of His, what happens when we absorb these gifts? We come closer to Him, and by coming closer to Him a new field of vision opens for us, new ways to see are opened, the love which is our natural state begins to grow. Every time we meet we bring another log and add it to the fire, we make the fire burn higher, we make that thing which burns inside us, the love which grows inside us, we make it burn a little higher as we are set on fire, as we are inflamed. With the certitude that He is with us, that we are with Him, we are inflamed with the knowledge that our Father is with us, we are with Him, and then we are stronger, more steadfast in certitude.

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When we sit together sharing space, sharing the air, focusing on the same point at the same time, when we talk we are not thinking, when we listen we are not thinking, we are sharing what is coming through, what is given. We have removed ourself from involvement with anything but Him. He is providing this moment for us—the miracle of letting Him provide for us is being shared. When we think we can push and pull the world to make it do what we want we are not allowing Him to provide, we are deluded into thinking we can provide for ourself. When we are stuck in that place which thinks we are the providers, we are the doers, we are the knowers, we cut ourself off from Him. We need to understand our state, understand simultaneously the difficulty and glory of it, we need to understand what He allows us to do and what He has kept for Himself, understand what is right and what is wrong, then choose the correct path. Those who have surrendered to a teacher or guru need to understand what this word surrender means. Surrendering has strange implications for us in the west, but there is much more here than we think. When a child is angry with its parent or a parent is angry with its child, what happens? A separation occurs along with the pain of separation, the hurt felt because of something that happened, something the child or the parent did. Now how is this hurt reconciled? It is reconciled when one of them surrenders to the other, when one of them forgives the other. Surrender permits forgiveness, surrender and forgiveness together permit unity. When a wife fights with her husband or when a husband fights with his wife, they need reconciliation to restore unity. How is this unity established? The will of each is aligned with the other’s. This is the way it is among human beings, among men and women, and it is also the way between man and God, between man and his teacher. We have been given the explanation that God’s will is manifest through certain qualities. When we align ourself with these qualities we pursue Him, when we are not aligned with His qualities we are separate from Him. We have to surrender the qualities which are not His to absorb the qualities which are. When that happens we can pursue Him, He can show us what He is like, we have not stopped ourself from uniting with Him. Real peace in this world comes only when that alignment occurs. There is a stillness in real peace, a quiet which lets us hear the resonance which is His. Think of our bodies for a moment. We are made up of various elements, various things which combine to create us as functioning beings. We have been told by the prophets and friends of God that a particle of the eternal has been placed inside each of us, a tiny particle within our heart given to us by God, yet we are so overwhelmed by those elements we have lost the ability to comprehend that particle which is from God. Our work in this world is to focus on that bit of ourself which is His, then we can emanate His resonance. Everything we see has a certain resonance. A scientist can explain the different vibratory nature of things. All creation has a specific vibratory nature; the Creator has a vibratory nature, a resonance. Are we interested in the resonance of creation or in the resonance of God? We appear to have many choices in our daily life, many choices as we go through our existence, but choices are, in fact, quite limited. We can choose either the world and all that it implies, or we can choose God. Any choice we make associated with the world is not choosing God. Any time we choose God we forget the world. How do we choose God, how do we come to the point where making the choice for God is simple instead of a struggle? We need a certain attitude about our lives, an attitude which must be made easier. If we think life is a struggle, if we think life is difficult, if we think we have to use our effort merely to maintain our own existence, we do not have time to think about God. But if we go through our lives with ease, without difficulty, without being so focused on things which appear to be problems, it becomes easier to choose God. How do we cultivate an attitude which makes this possible when there are countervailing forces that make us think another way? Our ego tells us we are great, we can accomplish things, we can take on great difficulties and overcome them, we can move things, we are capable of important decisions, overwhelming decisions. Either we move into an understanding of ourself or we pull away from the state necessary for involvement with Him. Sometimes, we deliberately put ourself into situations which are difficult, which we find complicated.

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March 10, 2013

Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi
We need to move with ease through the world, we need to travel the path of least resistance. The world offers us many choices, and occasionally we decide we want things which do not come easily, which might not be meant for us. Take for example the mayor who wants to be governor, the governor who wants to be president, the president who wants to be emperor. The inability to be satisfied with our own position, the inability to be satisfied with the portion we are given is an obstacle on His path. There is a story about a poor man who used to earn five rupees a day. At the end of each day he would spend the money on food and fruit which he shared with his friends, then go to sleep at night, wake up the next day, go to his job chopping wood, earn five more rupees and do the same thing again every day. There was a miser who lived up on a hill, a very rich man who could see how the poor man lived. He said, “I don’t understand how this man can spend all the money he makes every day. I don’t even give myself a rupee to buy fruit because it will decrease my wealth, the most important thing I have.” He went to a wise man, complaining about what he saw, and the wise man said, “Well do this and see what happens. Put ninetynine rupees in a bag, throw it into the poor man’s hut, then go back up to your villa and watch.” The next morning the poor man woke, found the bag with the rupees inside. He began to count, “My God,” he said, “You’ve been so generous to me, you’ve given me ninety-nine rupees, I’m a wealthy man. If only You had given me one more, I would have a hundred, I would really have some wealth in this world.” After that, the man could no longer spend money on his friends, could no longer buy food to give away freely. He was too anxious, too worried about the little bag of money he kept trying to increase to a hundred rupees. When he had one hundred he wanted two hundred, when he had two hundred he wanted three hundred, a never-ending story. When do we say enough? When do we offer our praise to God who has given us such an overwhelming portion we can only praise Him for His kindness, for His grace, when are we in a state of complete gratitude? We can only be in that state if we decide to be in that state, when we are no longer grasping for more, when we are satisfied. We need to understand this kind of satisfaction, we need to understand what His grace is, what He has to give. In a profound way we are all the same even though we do look a little different, we have been raised in a slightly different way, we have circumstances which are a little different. Each creation is a little different from every other, yet if we spend our time looking at the differences we will never understand His point. If we look at each other saying this one has that, that one has this but I do not, we enter the arena of comparisons. Once we begin comparing we are lost, there is no end to it, no end to wanting more than we have. It is easy to accept praise. When we praise certain people we can get them to do anything we want, praise is their food. If we were to blame them as we praise them they might kill us. Praise and blame are perceived as happiness and sorrow. We should recognize a place where neither praise nor blame matters, where the only thing that matters is His love for us and our attempt to change our life. Attitude comes mainly from being either positive or negative. We need to place ourself in positive situations, we need to look at things and see what is positive about them. We should be for things not against things, we should move away from situations which makes us negative and move towards those which makes us positive. Isn’t being with God a joy, isn’t remembering the prophets a joy, isn’t thinking about the masters of wisdom a joy? The immensity and wonders of creation should give rise to great joy, yet for some reason we acquire difficulties which weigh us down. We must unburden ourself, we have to give our burdens to someone. God will take them from us, He will gladly take what we do not want without asking anything in return.

MIA

151

March 10, 2013

Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi
We have been told about the importance of charity. This point needs to be understood as well as the point of our relationship with Him—His relationship with us is the same as our relationship with others. Since His relationship with us mirrors our relationship with others, if we expect certain things from Him we should look at ourself to see who we are. We create our relationship with God through the relationships we create with each other. Understand that His judgment is different from the world which rewards those who have accumulated titles and wealth. God’s judgment rewards those who have accumulated love. There is a story about two deities, one called the goddess of wealth, the other the goddess of poverty. The two of them had been arguing about which one was more beautiful, and they asked everyone they met to decide between them. Naturally, the people were all too frightened to answer because they were goddesses, if they did not give the right answer they thought they would be killed. Finally, they asked a wise man to answer them. He approached the two deities saying, “Well now, before I answer I have a request, I want you to walk in and out of the room.” They did this, they walked in and out of the room, then the wise man said, “Here is my decision. You, goddess of wealth, are more beautiful when you come in, and you, goddess of poverty, are more beautiful when you leave.” Now who are we? Are we more beautiful when we come into a situation or when we leave it? Do people applaud our entrance or our exit? Are people happy to see us or happy to see us go? What is the condition of our life, what is the relationship we have with each other? Remember that God has put Himself in each of us. We must not forget this means every time we interact with each other we are interacting with God. Do unto others as you would have done unto you, that is a basic principle in all the religions. Who are you, who are the others, how do we need to act? First, how do we need to act with ourself, do we have appropriate respect for that God inside ourself? Where do we go, where do we stay, what sort of situations do we stay in, what sort of thoughts do we allow ourself to think? Once we are appropriate with God in ourself, can we accept God in other people, can we be their witness for what is inside them, can we look into their eyes as if we were looking into our own, can we see ourself in others? Are we separated by our skins or are we integrated in the best way, could we live in each other’s skins? When there is a moment we are so close we feel there is no separation, there is only one, He has joined the party. He has come among us because we are one with each other, completely together, not separate, and when we are not separate from each other, He is not separate from us. We must not be separate from Him, we must not be separate from each other. When we come together in small groups, when there are only a few of us, we can look at each other, we can acquire the ability to be aware of each other. God is simultaneously intimate with each of us and with all of us. We need to remember He is no more intimate with me than He is with you, an intimacy shared in an absolute way, beyond imagination in its glory for you and for me. If I think it is more glorious for me than for you, I have cut myself off from you and from Him, these are not the conditions He operates under. He operates the same way with all of us; when we are all one we are with Him. We have to understand this explanation, we have to pray to find Him in each other, find Him in the gifts we offer each other. The best gift we can offer each other is the gift of God who exists within us, who wants to come through us to each other, allowing us all to see the truth of ourself in Him. The great mystery is the mystery of man and God, the truth which exists in each of us. We all walk around with that mystery, we are as important as anyone else. If we believe God separates us, what chance is there He will be among us? Every religion, in its time, has moved towards and away from the understanding of oneness. When understanding becomes more institutionalized and restrictive it begins to separate people, yet there is a path of love which opens doorways beyond our comprehension. God is beyond comprehension, if we try to think about Him we limit Him, and we cannot place limits on Him. Stop thinking about Him, just let Him show Himself to us, let Him show the glory our eyes can see and our body can feel. This happens when we stop interfering, when we stop imagining, when we stop supposing and learn to walk His way, without expectations or conditions.

MIA

152

March 10, 2013

Insights on Sufism by E. L. Levi
Expectations keep us from movement. If we want something, if we strive hard for it and do not receive it we are disappointed, a disappointment which ends in negative energy. If we have no expectations we cannot be disappointed. We need to learn how to have no expectations, how to do what we need to do, treating this place as a school, as a test for us, a test to learn how to know God, a test whose results are not in our hands but in His. He only has to say, “Be!” and it is, while we struggle and struggle to make something happen. We think we can force that thing into existence, then when it does not happen we are disappointed, when it does we are happy. It is not the outcome God tests us on, it is the way we go about our life. They say it is not about whether we win or lose, it is about how we play the game. This is also one of God’s rules, our life is not about what we accumulate, our life is not about the status we earn, not about the titles we receive, our life is about the way we live it. What are the things we do as we go through our existence, what is our relationship with other people like, how much love do we walk around, how much love do we take from place to place? This is the reason for the existence of the great teaching masters who came to teach us a state of being, they came to give us an example of someone who is not attached to coming and going, to the status and titles of this world. In their presence we feel a joy we cannot comprehend away from them, the awe that such teachers exist. Think about such awe, think about being so overwhelmed we drop all thought of everything going on in our life because the thing in front of us is so amazing, so beyond comprehension it comes close to shutting our mind off altogether. Can we conceive of moments in our life when our mind has been shut off, can we imagine traveling on a boat and being thrown overboard? Our mind is shut off because all we can think about is staying afloat, everything else is suddenly of little significance. We have all been thrown overboard, we have all been dropped here, we are all here together, mortal or immortal depending on how we play the game, how well we learn to swim. We cannot swim with a piano on our back, we cannot swim dragging an automobile. There is hardly anything we can swim with, other skills are involved which do not include acquiring things, having things or taking things with us. We need to learn how to swim in His qualities. On the path to infinity we have an infinite number of thresholds to cross. Each one beckons us to call it home, yet if we decide to stay at any one of them we stop being a pilgrim and become a defender of thresholds. What does this mean? It means that every time we have reached a new plateau, every time we catch a glimpse of grace and say I’ve got it now, we have stopped. We need to have the steadfast humility which reminds us that the road is long, the journey continues, there is no time to stop, we must keep going. The fire of love is an interesting fire. Teachers of wisdom tell us when we get rid of our base desires we can be like them. That fire does not burn our good qualities, it burns our desires which cannot survive this light of love. When we expose animals to fire they run, and the animals inside ourself run away when the fire of love burns near them. They are ashamed, frightened of the things they have done, embarrassed when true love is there. They hide or run, only the part of ourself which tolerates light remains. Let us build a large fire, let us come close to the fire, then when we have the urge to run let us stand still. The animals inside will run away, but that part of us which is one with the light will stay. May we know that inner place which accepts light, which is one with light. May this light illuminate our lives.

www.thewitnesswithin.com
MIA 153 March 10, 2013

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