Tag Archives: buddha

Peeling the onion

When I peel an onion

I have to peel the onion one layer at a time.

At the beginning, the outer layer looks attractive and beautiful…. it can be golden, white, purple, yellow.   The onion looks full and healthy.

Then I start peeling more and more layers.  The first layer is the initial and basic concepts about life.

Religion, values, patriotism, family, professionalism….

all the ideas and concepts I started learning from early age.

Which, of course, are just ideas and concepts.

The more I peel these layers away, the more I peel away these ideas… which I also call illusions.

Because they are not in the here and now….  they are fabrications of my mind.

All the memories…. all the goals…. all the dreams… all these ideas keep me away from the present moment.

So I keep peeling away all those basic thoughts and ideas that I have been taught.

And, the same way that I peel and onion, and can irritate my eyes, they get watery, and I start crying,

The same way I feel when I peel away all of these ideas… the concept about religion, about my family,

my country… my culture… my hobbies…. my profession.  My… my…  my…

All of these ideas , which also implied ownership, are not based on reality, or the here and now. 

I peel away and I also start crying , because… they are just illusions.  They once made me  happy… secured.

But it was a temporary happiness… it was a superficial state of identity and belonging.

So I cry… because I feel sad….sad because I miss this false sense of security.

But I bravely keep peeling away, to see the reality of this existence…. which I call Life.

And when I finally reach the center of the onion…. what do I find there?

What is at the core of the onion? What is at the center of life when I peel off all of these ideas?

No more religion… no more patriotism… I don’t  belong anywhere … profession is just a title …. dreams are just imaginations … I don’t own anything … because it is all an illusion.

What do I have left, then?

Emptiness. 

That is what I have left… the emptiness of life.

Is this a sad conclusion?  Or is it just it ?

Simply being…. it is not good…. it is not bad.

It simply is.

 

 


I AM : The ultimate experience

I used to think that death was the greatest mystery of our existence. But I have learned that death can be explained easier than life. Death is mostly understood by the fact that it is the experience of transferring to another state of existence . Although what happens to our consciousness after death remains a huge mystery , the experience of death itself is as far as we can possibly go in our empirical and tangible world.  We can all understand that death is the end of our current existence as we know it.  Our bodies decompose and our minds , if they actually exist, enter the unknown.  We cannot begin to understand the unknown.
But what remains a huge mystery to me is not the end of existence , but existence itself.   The mere state of being aware.  And not only aware, but aware of ourselves.  Aware of the “I.”  The “self.”  How can we know what or who we really are?  How can each of us differentiate from other “I’s” or “selves.”? How can we even use the phrase “I am?
Religious scholars and teachers interpret the bible’s use of the phrase “I am” by referring it to God, or higher power.  It is used mostly to describe the eternal and “present” God.  It was written in the book of Exodus that when Moses asked God whom should he say sent him to liberate the Israelites from Egypt, God told him to tell Pharaoh that “I am” sent him (Exodus 3).  In the Gospel of John , Jesus also referred to himself as the “I am”.  Because of these references , scholars decided to associate the “I am” with the divine being or God . It is also agreed by most religions that God is omnipresent. He is everywhere. He is the eternal present.

In Buddhism , being in the present moment, or mindfulness, is one of its teachings to help avoid suffering.  To be aware of the present moment.  The here and now.  Is experiencing the here and now the same as experiencing God?  The “I am.” ?

Was God trying to teach Moses that He is the Eternal Present (“I am that I am”)?  Was Jesus teaching us that the resurrection (a new life) is in the eternal present, as opposed to in the future (“‘I am’ the resurrection”)?

But what exactly is the “I” or the “self.” Could it simply mean the “eternal presence” that we all ignore by focusing on the past and the future?
The present moment, or the here and now, is all we really have.   Everything else is a fabrication of our minds. We fool ourselves with the notion of reliving the past (remembering stories of past heroes and events) and anticipating the future ( maintaining hope and having goals ).  These mind created phenomena is what keeps us living an illusion, which then can turn into depression, anxiety, regrets, and fear.  We create our own heaven and hell in our own personal minds.  All of this while missing the here and now.

Is the “I” , the self, an illusion?  Are we truly individual beings?  Or are we connected as one big entity, while believing that we are separate beings?  And what about the phrase “I am?”  .

When I use the phrase “I am”, what can I use after it to accurately describe the self?  I am human?  I am a person?  I am a body?  What is being human, person, or body?  I am a parent.  I am a patriot.  I am a writer.  Which one of these are true?

None of the above.   Since they are all fabrications of the mind.  They are all identities that I use to attempt to create the nature of the self.  And while I write this post in this blog, I still keep using the word “I” as if it means something.  Or someone.  What is it?

Furthermore, saying ” We are ” or “They are ” can be questionable.  Not everybody will agree with whatever characteristic you give to a group of individuals.  But when it comes to identifying with the “I”, how can you question your individual present?

In its purest form , I am is simply I am . Nothing else… No other addition can make it more true . It is simply identifying myself with the present moment.  With the eternal present.

I am is the ultimate mystery.
The ultimate experience .


Emptiness. Equality. Essence.

I have written a couple of posts in the past which define the nature of this blog. One of them is Surrender, Simplify and Serve (the subtitle of the blog) and Patience, Peace, and Presence. These are essential themes that have transformed my life recently.
This current post is about three other topics that have also given me a more profound meaning to life.

Emptiness is simply the process of denying myself. It is the difficult step of getting rid of all the falsified ego that poisons me.  It is making room for something else.  Something bigger.  It is truly liberating because it involves “cleaning” our minds from the falsified ego that bonds us into a fantasy.  The ego prefers to be inflated, to be full, and to shine.  But it is truly a false way to happiness.  Emptiness will free us from the illusion that the ego is based on, and helps us return to our true selves.  It is based on surrendering.  Which creates patience.

Equality is the idea that everyone is truly the same. We are all worthy of respect.   There is no one more important or better than anybody else. It is NOT what the Ego is about. I read somewhere recently that the Ego never feels equal to others, but inferior or superior to others. Equality is the true nature of all humanity collectively.  It surpasses patriotism, racism, nationalism, classicism, and so forth.  Instead of classifying and compartmentalizing us, Equality actually unifies and simplifies our lives.  Because it is the realization that we are one group of beings with similar nature.   When we think only about ourselves , which is human nature, then we practice selfishness, which is my definition of evil. So, yes, human nature is evil, because it is based solely on serving the ego.  But when we genuinely think of others and live to serve others, the same way we would do it for ourselves, then we live beyond human nature.  It is supernatural.  It is divine.  It brings peace.

Essence is then the true nature of our beings. It is the pure state of existence which would ultimately bring eternal Presence.  We do this by simply serving each other.  The true nature of our existence is to serve and help one another.   It is who were really are.  Which then brings us to experience Presence.  And Presence is what we should live.
My prayer, my hope  has been that I experience emptiness, equality, and essence in my life.

Surrender leads to Emptiness, which creates Patience

Simplifying leads to Equality, which makes Peace.

Service is the Essence of life, which brings us to Presence.


Let’s just Be

Being is a scary state of existence.  It is a challenge to experience acceptance.

Acceptance is a hard pill to swallow.  Resistance is more common, but damaging. Why is it damaging? Because it leads us to suffering, tension, and self-deception.  Resistance creates hatred, anger, and conflict.

Resistance is manifested when we judge and discriminate.  It also happens when we avoid, ignore, and ridicule.  Resistance also takes place when we pray and wish for a convenient circumstance.

But simply being and surrendering to what is, leads to peace and joy.  It is not easy.  That is why I also call it the “narrow path” and our “salvation.”

It is equal to denying the self.  It is the same as living in the moment.  It is also being one with the universe.

Being is wanting what we already have, which leads to joy. It is not convenient.  It does not indulge.  It is far from satisfying our desires.  It is rather peace and joy.

So when I am hungry, I will embrace it.  When I feel discomfort, I will observe it.   When loved ones are lost, I will nourish the memories.  When I see unfairness and abuse, I will acknowledge its pain and suffer with the victim.  Almost as if I am turning the other cheek.

When others judge me and criticize me, I will accept it, learn from it,  and prevent from doing the same to others.  When others show contempt and hatred towards me, I will remain calm and wish them well.  The same as loving my enemies.

It is not natural or pleasant.  But it brings peace and joy.

So I challenge you.  I plead you.  Don’t resist life’s uncomfortable circumstances. Don’t judge or criticize.  Accept and observe.

Let’s just Be.

 


What kind of Atheist or Believer are you?

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/15/the-six-types-of-atheists/

The above link has been a popular blog post that CNN published recently regarding a new study that identified different atheists.  It invites some of us to try to identify with a particular type of atheism.

It looks to me like the beginning of the development of various “non-religious” denominations.

In the “religious”  or Christian world, there are those who identify themselves as Catholic, Pentecostal, or Episcopal.  There are also those who prefer to be called Baptists, Lutherans, or Methodists.  There is also the Church of God, The Church of Christ, the Assemblies of God, and the Church of the Nazarene.  Furthermore, there are others who attend the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Unitarian Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Scientology Church.

There are people who are labeled as conservatives, moderates,  liberals, creationists, evangelicals, and missionaries.  There are those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and those who believe in the symbolism of the scriptures.  There are those who believe in the story of creation, and those who believe in evolution.  There are those who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, Baptism in water, praying to saints, and the intervention of angels and saints. There are those who believe in the Rapture, others in the second coming of Christ, and others believe in the Resurrection of our bodies in the latter days.

Not to mention Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jewish, the Baha’i faith, Wicca, and many other organized  religious affiliation.  The list goes on and on of the different kinds of churches and belief systems.

How much more division and labeling are we going to embrace?  How much contrasting are we going to endure?

According to CNN’s article, there are six main types of Atheists (is it a coincidence that they came up with the number 6?).  There is the “Intellectual”, the Activist,  the Seeker/Agnostic (which does not sound like an Atheist since it implies seeking something transcendent with an open mind), the Anti-theist, the Non-theist, and the Ritual Atheist.  What will they come up with next?

This is why I don’t necessarily like the idea of using labels to identify myself.  It tends to separate us from each other and from ourselves.   I have written that I call myself a Reflective Christian.  This does not imply any particular religious denomination or philosophy.  I am just a person who seeks and strongly believes in serving the poor, like Jesus, Ghandi, and Buddha taught.  Period.  If this description is not enough to fit the popular method of labeling and categorizing, too bad.

Do you identify yourself with a particular religious group?  Or are you more like one of the six kinds of Atheists?  Are you an “ABC” (Atheist, Believer, or Confused)?

I would like to hear about your opinion on this matter.

Thanks for reading.


Conversations with God: A Review of The Shack book

I will try to give a brief review of this book without giving away the plot.

The Shack is a story about a man named Mack who suffers the loss of his daughter victimized by a serial killer.  While still grieving her death, he receives a note in the mail supposedly from God, inviting him to meet him exactly at the place where his daughter was murdered: an abandoned shack.  Mack decides to go and meets three individuals who introduced themselves as the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  The conversations are casual and friendly, trying to normalize the interactions as if there were four human beings talking to each other.

This book pictures God repeatedly condemning the idea of independence from Him.  In chapter 8, God says  “When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to each other”, implying that independence would lead to hierarchy and authority.  Mack reasons that authority is used to refrain people from fighting endlessly and getting hurt but God explains beautifully that in a selfish world, authority is used to inflict great harm.  I believe that the key word is not independence or authority, but selfishness.  Being selfish is the root of all evil.
According to God , we humans ” embrace fear and pain and power and rights so readily in our relationships” but our choices are not stronger than His purposes. We don’t understand it now, but one day we will. I think this is all a human author can say about the possible reason why God allows evil things to happen to people.  We can never fully explain or justify evil, which is why so many people conclude that God is evil or simply does not exist.

But going back to hierarchy, doesn’t the Bible teach about the man being “the head of the household” like Jesus is “the head of the church”? And didn’t Jesus relied on God the Father to do his miracles and fulfill God’s will? Doesn’t the Bible also teach about slaves submitting to their masters? Clearly, the Bible does teach about the importance of hierarchy.

In chapter 12, God uses the analogy of sinking in water and encouraging Mack to allow God to rescue him.  “When you start to sink, let me rescue you.”   While reading this, I ask myself : are we sinking?  Are we unsaved and desperately needing to be saved?  I believe we are sinking in our own selfishness and need to be “rescued” by learning to reach out and serve others in need. We need to genuinely rescue others from injustice, hunger, and illness so that we can be rescued from our egos. But God says we cannot do this with our own strengths.  I can believe that, except that we don’t necessarily need to be saved from “eternal damnation”, but we actually need to be saved from ourselves.  The ego gets in the way of genuinely helping others (which can be called sin if you want).  Emptying ourselves from the ego so that we can fill ourselves with genuine care and love can also be interpreted as being dependent on God so that we can live the Kingdom of Heaven (“blessed are the poor in Spirit” Matthews 5).

God also said in chapter 12 “I don’t create institutions…”.  This is an important statement to remind ourselves with.  Humans create institutions, including religion.  God, on the other hand, is about relationships.

In chapter 13, God teaches that lies are like fortresses that need walls (justifications) to make us feel secured, but it does not work.   God uses our choices to work perfectly into His purposes.  He says “All evil flows from independence, and independence  is your choice”. He also says “True love never forces” and He further explains that love has true meaning when He allows consequences of our choices be manifested.  But, does true love also permits God to allow people to suffer eternally in hell? What happened to grace?  And wouldn’t true love allow us to be independent somehow? For example, my love to my children would not be selfless and complete if I don’t allow them to live on their own and have their own lives outside of my house. I would want them to succeed in life without depending on me forever.  True love would mean being willing to let go.  Maybe God’s love does not function the same  way as a human father’s love.

In Chapter 14, conversations get even more interesting.  God states an important fact when he says that emotions are neither bad or good.  “Most emotions are responses to perceptions” and “Just because you believe something firmly does not make it true” are  statements I agree with.  The description of expectation versus expectancy nicely illustrates how important it is to maintain a relationship alive instead of killing the relationship with rules and requirements. If I perceive my relationship with God by simply being fixated on the rules that I must obey (the Law), then my relationship with God is based on fear.  But if I accept  the fact that I am imperfect and accept God’s grace while living a simple life, then my relationship with God is further nourished and deepened.  If I expect my wife to do certain things to make me happy, then I would be greatly disappointed and will quickly start building resentment towards her.  But if I focus on simply being with each other in good times and bad times, everything else becomes secondary.

Farther in this same chapter. God says “I don’t want to be the first among a list of values: I want to be at the center of everything.” According to this statement, God does not want to be #1 in my life, or be the most important thing in my life.  He rather be involved in everything in my life.  This idea conforms with the concept of not idolizing an erroneous image of God  by attending religious services , but simply living life to its fullest.  In other words, stop looking for God in particular places and during very long repetitious prayers, but live God in everyday life.  When we idolize God, we put everything else behind.  When we “live God” , everything else is included.  We can do this by practicing compassion, mercy, forgiveness, service, peace making, and simplicity when we interact with family, coworkers, strangers, and friends.  Everybody we commune with; everywhere we go; every time.  Otherwise, we run the risk of treating everyone else with contempt and hatred, while “loving” an idolized God.  Livng the Kingdom of Heaven instead of searching to go to heaven.

God says that religion uses the Law to condemn and accuse.  Mack asks “Then why did you give us those commandments…?” and God responds “Actually, we wanted you to give up trying to be righteous on your own.  It was a mirror to reveal just how filthy your face gets when you live independently”.    So this answer implies that the Ten Commandments were just another reminder of human’s tendencies to be independent through rules and regulations and controlling others.  So it wasn’t God’s attempt to keep us straight?  I understood that the Commandments were ways for God (or humans) to keep control of a chaotic mass of confused people in the middle of the dessert.  Anyhow, the book also implies that we don’t have to follow the Commandments anymore. So I don’t have to love God with all my might since Jesus forgave my sins and it is all about grace?  I believe it is true that God’s grace is unimaginable and enough to redeem us, but we should also not take for granted the importance of loving our neighbors as ourselves, being truthful, avoid greed, honor our parents, etc. while we live the Kingdom of Heaven.

I also think that having a genuine love and care for others would automatically lead us into obeying the Commandments, without having to worry about breaking them.  It is almost like learning  a new language by trying to memorize a long vocabulary list and grammatical rules, versus simply speaking the language with others in everyday conversations and learning as you go.

“Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver…to release you from something that will eat you alive..” is a true statement that we should all learn from.  We should let God  help us “take on the nature that finds more power in love and forgiveness than pain.” At the end of the book, Mack pardons the killer by repeating himself “I forgive you, I forgive you…” To me this sounds simplistic and superficial.  Do people really forgive by simply repeating this phrase? Is this realistic?  Jesus taught in the Gospels that we should forgive 70 x 7.  I am not sure He meant to “fake it until you make it.”  Maybe Jesus did mean it like that.  At the end of the story the reader is left in the dark about whether Mack spent a real weekend with God, had a near death experience, a psychotic break, or simply a dream.

In the After Words page, the author talks about a “new revolution of love and kindness.”  This is what I call the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Life that involves a radical change of behavior that reflects selfless acts of service and compassion.  Whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim,  an Atheist, or whatever you decide to identify yourself with, we all can agree that this kind of revolution is essential in today’s world. I could say a lot more about other parts of the conversations that Mack had with God, but I will only limit it to what I have written  on this post.  I may have more input in another post.

The Shack is a book that clearly reflects the Christian’s interpretation of what God would tell us about suffering and His love (although not fully explained). However, it is fair to say that the author attempts to address life’s most difficult questions with kind words and reassurance which reflects an unconditional love from a graceful God.  It emphasizes on relationship instead of institutions and authority.  It stresses on dependence on God rather than independence and self-righteousness.  It magnifies  on grace rather than guilt. It reminds us of God’s unexplainable purposes being bigger  than our fruitless and selfish choices.    If I ever have a true conversation with God about suffering and His love for us, I think it would be similar to the conversation that Mack had with Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu.


We Need to Stop ….

 

Sometimes we simply need to stop.

Occasionally we need to pause….

Once in a while, we need to slow down and breath … deeply.

Wait instead of rush.

Decelerate instead of accelerate.

Observe instead of look.

Relax instead of tense.

Forgive instead of retaliate.

Smile instead of smirk.

Let go instead of hold on.

Walk  instead of run.

Be poor in spirit instead of rich.

Pacify instead of fight.

Simplify instead of complicate.

Balance instead of go to extremes.

Accept instead of deny.

Weaken instead of strengthen.

Be instead of pretend.

Sometimes we need to acknowledge that everything ends.

Occasionally we need to accept our limitations.

And simply be who we really are….