May 28, 2015

The Redeeming Power of just Being. No More than a Kind Human Being

To Dana
to Dana,                                                                                                 

with all my love and gratitude                                                                                                                            

I would begin in a “Forrest Gump”-like manner, by saying that I am not a smart man, but I know what beauty is. And I want to share with you what is beauty really about, from my viewpoint, and what is its real potential.
Of course, a distinction is necessary to be made at this point. This is not a literary essay and such splendid words like “beauty” and “beautiful” are not referred to as aesthetic concepts and categories, but as traits of the human soul, in which sense they are discussed upon extensively in Plato’s dialogues.
“Beautiful” and “beauty” are not employed in this context as references to physical traits either, nor are they meant as an absolute pointer to the gender or the age of my models. Therefore, “beautiful” means more than “pretty”, that is to say, more than a physical form, even though one doesn’t necessarily contradicts the other.
Beauty is a spiritual path, one of many ways of experiencing eternity. Beauty is the way in which our timeless dimension shines through a physical form or is reflected by it. So, beautiful, actually, can only be the soul.
Coincidentally or not, I discovered the most rich “resources” of beauty in two women who are not my girlfriends, but colleagues and friends, even though, again, in the same way in which there is no contradiction between being pretty and beautiful, the same applies, I think, to friends and lovers. However, in any given circumstance, I would call a man or a woman, a friend or a lover, “beautiful” – and only after pointing out that this is just a metaphor – in order to emphasize the degree in which they are able to act as doorways to transcendence for more than one people surrounding them and/or their family and close relatives.
Through their very presence, they fulfill a mysterious, yet obvious function, at least to those who are able to “see” it: they spontaneously and harmoniously take you to the tiny room of your heart wherein lies the colossal source of energy of everything that ever was, is and will be, which is synonymous with the mystery of life. They spring out simply and naturally, as if of the ground consciousness that is called “Cit” in the sacred Indian scriptures called the “Upanishads”.
The 20th century Indian saint Ramana Maharshi, when addressed to as the “Master”, used to say that a master is whoever is able to teach you something. It’s quite simple, isn’t it?
My above dedication is not a typo. 
There are two actual women with the same name, whose ability at acting and being normal, that is to say, being themselves and conducting themselves in an apparently effortlessly kind and compassionate manner, has seemed to me so striking, when attached to the psychologically challenging background of their jobs and to the equally challenging family responsibilities, that I could not find a better English term to describe their general demeanor, other than “mastery”.
This is where they are great performers: they are nice persons while managing to remain experts in whatever task they fulfill. And they are also long distance runners: they treat with the same consideration the CEO and the pizza guy, even when a child is sick at home, a boss is yelling and the sleepless nights start to take their toll, leaving their marks on the faces. This is not a miracle when considered of as an infrequent behavior. It is remarkable, though, when I see it constantly and spontaneously recurring in a mad world and I can see it on a daily basis, no matter how challenging a given life experience becomes. When they say to you “Good morning!” you suddenly become aware that this is really not about social customs, that they are really wishing you a good morning, a good day and so forth. While opening the mouth and saying “Take care!” the words are uttered consciously, so that, whenever I was paying attention, I was very aware that they really care. Of course, it’s not only about me, as an individual, it’s about a constant, non-intrusive and non-judgmental care for everybody.

I’ve known them a couple of years and nobody was able to hear them, not even once, raising their voice, even when this surface of reality that we call “our jobs” or “our social functions” in general, would become so deadly serious, that everyone else would lose their temper or even experience a nervous breakdown. Because of the tight deadlines, impossible targets and general negativity of a work situation and whatnot, everybody is allowed to go mad sometimes and, to some extent, anger and resentment are commonplace and therefore easily overlooked in a very dynamic workplace, unless, of course, these sort of destructive emotions go to an extreme. But I’ve had this opportunity and privilege to become colleagues and friends with such human beings who can also feel sadness, joy, disappointment, failure and success, just like everybody else, without poisoning their own mind’s and their friends’ and colleagues’, with frustration, grievance and resentment.
The idea that one can display a general non-compulsive attitude or even say “no”, when the situation requires, in a non-reactive manner is not confined to Eastern spiritual teaching/psychological-based training that have become a cultural fashion nowadays and a special item on the agenda of any large corporation. A corporation, of course, is always eager to give a certain balance and motivation to its corporate slaves for which, ultimately, the system doesn’t care. But these two women are really beautiful, not just pretty, because they really care and no training can teach you that; their genuine beauty is, actually, the radiance of their eternal dimension from within, which is allowed to express itself as a person. Their simple acts of human kindness can redeem the human soul, since in their very simplicity and ordinariness resides the truth and the beauty that will set us free.
In some individuals, with whom I crossed my paths rarely in my life, this is a natural gift and they fulfill a real spiritual function in a desacralized world and provide, knowingly or not, spiritual guidance for their colleagues, bosses, subordinates, friends and relatives who are able to receive their unspoken teachings. These blessed individuals are, in fact, their teachings, in whatever they pursue. They are real, true and beautiful. It’s just the way they are.
There are two persons with the same name who unknowingly have acted for me as spiritual masters and will fulfill this function for others as long as they live and even more, even though unrecognized as such. They are both smart and pretty, both good mothers, good professionals etc. So what? – one might ask. They even bear the same name. Both of them have two small children, and they take care of them with a lot of dedication. But, again, nobody can stand out from the crowd with this – one can add. But this is where their share their actual, greatest quality: they are really great at being extraordinary normal, at not standing out from the crowd and not expecting to be praised as spiritual guides.
This extraordinary ordinariness and the ability of finding joy in the act of giving – giving a smile of encouragement, giving a nice word, giving a tiny deed, giving a piece of advice – in the midst of one’s daily and mundane activities is the medicine that our sick civilization needs and the truth that will set us free.

March 9, 2015

The Enlightened Fish. Humility: the Trademark of Greatness

"What is the use of a well,
 If water is there all the time,
 Having cut craving at the root,

In search of what should one wander?"

(Udapānasutta, 79)

An awakened fish gets up one morning totally transfigured and shows-up with a peacefully and radiant face among his friends and lets them know that he has simply become aware of water.
“Our most intimate aspect, our essential nature is water”, he says.

But when he tries to explain what actually could had happened to him, this awareness of a pre-existent reality becomes a doctrine of some kind. It translates to other fish as a path full of various disciplines, austerities and commandments towards a goal which is the realization of the one water which all the fish are immersed in.

To a thinking fish the enlightenment will only make sense in terms of “goals” and “achievements".
An enlightened fish is a fish aware of the all-pervading water. The nature of fish is water in the same way in which the nature of humans in self-consciousness.

However, there will always be some guru-fish who will write interesting books for water-seeking fish, some books like "How to achieve water in 7 steps". Not all of them are fake. Some of them are just using metaphors as pointers - words that are transparent to transcendence, which, paradoxically, is here and now. There is ,however, a demand on the market of awakening and that demand should be addressed properly, in accordance with the level of understanding of the seeker-fish. The always-seeking minds of fish, asking questions all the time, will get some answers like this:
“you must achieve water",
"you must acquire water",
"you must possess water",
"you must become one with water".
This is how a spiritual teaching would sound like in a language of fish.

We see the waves of the ocean in contradiction with the ocean itself and in the same way, we perceive the colors of the rainbow as contradictory with the white light.

The “fish in water” is a complex, that is, a psychological condition. Although it is just a way of putting it and a figure of speech, a pointer meant to express a common state of “normality” or “comfort”, it’s not a proper attitude in case of human beings.

We are spiritually unconscious or, in Buddhist terms, asleep and this seems to be some kind of normality, but I think the actual normality of humans is to wake up and to be aware of both their environment and the awareness itself. A fish in water is not aware of the water - this is a normal attitude in fish, but not in humans.

Ignoring water can inflict no harm to a fish. Naturally and unconsciously floating underwater is in accord with its’ intimate nature, but a “fish in water” attitude is the real danger of a battlefield of life for a human “warrior”, whose mind gets entangled in the turmoil, unaware of the battle, unaware of the still canvas on which the picture of battle is painted, unaware of the fact that he is the canvas on a deeper level and only on the surface he is the participant in a battle. He is trapped, no longer capable of being aware of his environment and incapable of evaluating the suffering he inflicts on others and on himself. Losing the witness perspective is that what defines all human suffering. 

The “fish in water” perspective prevents you from evolving, spiritually speaking. The “fish in water” perspective belongs, naturally, exclusively to fish.

But, for the sake of this simile, let’s go on supposing that there are enlightened fish and that they can talk… The enlightened fish, while remaining a fish, undergoes only a shift in consciousness. The fish that has “achieved” Enlightenment will regard it so naturally and harmoniously ordinary, that it will barely try to be convincing. In the realm of the spirituality, humility is the trademark of the greatness. When in search for a real master, you should first pay attention to how much he/she struggles to be convincing.

We can recognize an "awakened" fish in the first place by his lack of eagerness and lack of interest in being very convincing, in attracting followers. From the perspective of the awakened fish, the all-pervading water is so normal, that it will not be very eager to argue and to be convincing. An awakened fish would accept to share, somehow, his insights, out of compassion for other fish, but he will never try to thrust the teachings in their throats.

You will recognize an enlightened fish from the very fact that it will be less vocal and militant  in his approach than other “spiritual” fish, because the latter are not very sure if there is still some water left to be achieved or not:) The vocal fish are very eager to convince you that you must acquire water, at any costs and not in your own way, but with their precious help.