Summary of opening talk for experienced meditators at
Retreat at En dor, northern Israel, September 6, 2015
For a long, long time, human beings have engaged in a search. People have felt their limits, their mortality and sense of finiteness – a feeling of being small, vulnerable creatures on this Earth.
Some human beings have come to believe in a transcendent beyond the changing conditions on the Earth. They have given different names to this transcendent. They might refer to the transcendent as Reality, Nirvana, God, The Creator, The Beyond, Cosmic Intelligence, Enlightenment and so on.
Collections of human beings have formed religions as means to reach the transcendent through beliefs, practices, methods, sacred books and religious authorities.
Other human beings have tried to bring the transcendent down to Earth. Such people refer to the transcendent as The Now, Being, Non-Duality. Oneness, Energy, Consciousness, True Self and Wholeness.
Some of these spiritual teachers may claim there is nothing to do. They say there is no path. They say we are already enlightened. They say any practice or effort takes you away from the Now or takes you away from Being.
Other spiritual teachers will say a person has to follow their method, their technique, their course, their set of teachings, and nothing else.
Some human beings claim to have reached a transcendent state. Such people say or imply they have become one with God, have realised Nirvana, found their True Self, achieved enlightenment, realised the Now or rest in Being. They say they found the goal of life or imply they have found the goal of life.
The self then experiences a certain State and the self believes it has achieved the goal. The self believes there is a particular State that it can reach and dwell in.
The Buddha has not offered such a State (transcendent or immediate) to rest in permanently or to keep going back to.
The view of the self
Some say they are on the path to the goal. The self can arise here too. How far along the path am I? Just beginning? In the middle? Or near the end of the path? Am I always on the path or do I fall off it? Feelings and experiences affect the view of the path.
The path and the goal are simply metaphors. We can invest these two metaphors with much significance.
Others totally reject any kind of transcendence whether beyond the self, or here and now, or within. Rejection will not stop the seeking of human beings. Instead, such people will pursue the transitory – personal attention, relationships, money, sex, power, profit, privilege, status, knowledge and what they think is good for them and good for others. Others will seek both transcendent and secular priorities.
Is life only about seeking what is transcendent, imminent and/or achieving secular goals?
Is a transcendent goal, such as God, Nirvana or The Now, the desire of the human mind to reach a permanent state and dwell in it?
Has anybody ever met anyone who dwells in such a permanent state? I have been involved in religious and spiritual life since birth, met countless numbers of religious/spiritual teachers worldwide and have engaged in dialogue with many tens of thousands of spiritual seekers and practitioners. I have not met a single person who constantly abides permanently in a particular State, either Beyond or close at hand.
Do we need to seek for a permanent state or resign ourselves to an impermanent state?
In this retreat, we will explore the much loved discourse of the Buddha, called The Discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing. This discourse explores calming of the body and the depths of happiness, joy and gladness. The discourse points to non-clinging and the ending of identification with transcendence, either beyond or near.
There is a great deal of stress in our society. There is stress in the body, heart and mind. The one who looks at stress often brings stress to the perception and view of their stress. The perceiver and the perceived feed the stress on each other. The discourse shows the way to look at any stress or suffering without putting wood on the fire.
Can we explore the significance of freeing up the mind without clinging to any kind of transcendent notion, above or near? Can we explore without becoming stuck in a certain State and without becoming stuck with mundane secular matters?
Can we realise our full potential as human beings?
Can we know a genuine clarity and wisdom with endless deep discoveries in harmony with the flow of life? We shall engage in this exploration during this retreat.