The Banyan Deer

The deer had a chief in the green banyan grove
His ego was bloated with self-loving throes

He thought to himself…
my antlers are fine
my haunches are hard
and I have a keen mind

His long days were spent eloping with does
and taunting young bucks, in the green banyan grove…

But it once came to pass that he fell fast in love
A doe struck his heart like a dart from above

Not a fortnight had passed, and she carried his fawn
He’d sired three-dozen, but he thought them cheap spawn

This time, however
his soul felt a pang

The mother, he loved
and the fawn would bear his name

Yet on a day long ordained
before the hour of birth-pains
five hunters drew near to the grove

Bows at the ready
their hands naught but steady
the hunters came stalking the does

They found her alone
She stood like a stone
the mother who bore the chief’s fawn

By design, he was near
His heart filled with fear
at the sight of five bows that were drawn

She dared not to run
Her limbs had gone numb
She knew not how to process the danger

But the chief was abhorred
He’d seen this before
To the threat, he was ought but a stranger

Heedless of pain
or the danger to himself
afore his love, he sped, and there reeled

In this circumstance
he’d give her a chance
by using his body as a shield

The darts were then loosed
deadly as any noose
They punctured his body with ease

His scream split the air
It raised hackle and hair
The lament unbuckled her knees

It was then that she ran
there outpacing every man
She’d be damned lest her fawn see his life

He watched as she left
there gasping for breath
the Chief who ran not from the scythe

Yet amidst his sharp pain
he felt peace all the same
For once, his intent had been pure

Though spilling his blood
the earth turned to mud
his demise was now all but sure

He then gave up the ghost
His psychic-nature did boast
a vast myriad of thoughts and impressions

From this life, and that
he swirled in a vat
of images, sounds, and reflections

Then, in a blink
his mind on the brink
the Lord stood before him, as one clothed

His voice came as water
the tidings of a Father
To this One, the Chief was betrothed

He stammered in speech that he knew not before
To him this new Lord was a thing of adore!

“My Master” he said
there nursing his dread
“For your servant, what doom do you plan?”

The Lord broadly smiled
His voice, soft, as a child’s
“My son, you’re now fit to be Man.”

The Proxy

Call me the proxy
I’m a fiddle with strings

Contemplation is the luthier that makes me to sing

Of all the thoughts, impressions, and trifling things
spinning round my head
in constant concentric rings…

There’s not a one may boast on any account
Mighty God alone is the prodigal fount

God’s Basin is like an imperceptible abyss
When I receive naught from that ocean, I know something’s amiss

And the moment I attribute His Grace to myself
it is then I abuse my spiritual health

Walk Into the Day

It’s go-ing on two decades now
the darkness that has beat your brow

For most of it, I wasn’t there
And by God’s own face, it isn’t fair

The oppressive night, you’ve known too long
Your heart is stripped of joy and song

But happiness will find her way
She’ll bring her warmth astride the Day

The Day is like a Sun-kissed field
It’s rimmed by trees that never yield

I speak it true
doubt not the Scroll
The Day can be within your soul

It’s here, and there, and everywhere
The Day pervades like wholesome air

The darkness, though, is like a blight
It lives alone, like sores on-site

It has no truth or permanence
It’s doomed to die in Holy rinse

The hour is nigh
You will be sane

Walk Into the Day
and there remain

Strength of the Soul

As all the great mystical traditions of the world have affirmed, ascetic discipline is the means by which internal equanimity is established: a contented state of being that abides without regard for external conditions or circumstances. However, it must be said that equanimity, in itself, is not the supreme object of the mystical ascetic as he subjects himself to renunciate discipline. Rather, as he approaches his goal with ever-increasing profundity, unconditional contentment becomes indicative of his progress. As we proceed it will be prudent to discuss the method by which the ascetic approaches his goal, and the nature of the goal itself.

According to its inherent nature, the human “will”, lacking ascetic discipline, becomes shackled to various pleasures, sensations, and (above all) the fantasy of personal possession. Henceforth, we shall refer to this phenomenon of self-will as the “ego”. So long as it is able to gratify its conditioned desire for pleasure and extract validity from those aspects of the external world it perceives itself to be in possession of (property, status, esteem, etc.), the ego can remain contented after a fashion. If once these external conditions are removed, however, the egoistic mind will become frantic. And no wonder, for it had made its peace and happiness contingent upon circumstances, sensations, and illusions. Apart from its ability to gratify conditioned need, the ego is without rest or sanity. Desiring liberation, the ascetic seeks to detach himself from this bondage of conditioning; but in doing so he must renounce his attachment to all pleasures of sense and every pride that life has to offer. What then shall we conclude? Does the ascetic, by virtue of his asceticism, take refuge in a void, an oblivion of all passion? By no means.

To quote Thomas Merton, the entire work of asceticism is undertaken in an effort to “direct all the strength of the soul to God”. This is no less true of the Hindu ascetic as he meditates on the all-pervasive reality, Brahman. This Brahman may be described as the supreme Soul, the divine support residing within each and every creature. Having severed all desire to squander vital energy (the strength of the soul) in pursuit of egoistic gratification, the ascetic is enabled to take delight in those things that refer to the Soul, pursuing instead the bliss of final liberation. In other words, he is consumed by the only passion that can be said to harbor permanent significance. Through his discipline, the ascetic disposes himself to receive the divine knowledge upon which equanimity is established; and the unseen nature of equanimity is described by no one better than Sri Krishna: “The Lord dwells in the hearts of all creatures and whirls them round upon the wheel of maya. Run to him for refuge with all your strength, and peace profound will be yours through his grace…” (The Bhagavad Gita 18:61-62, Easwaran translation).

As the ascetic, full of faith, matures into the realization of the changeless, eternal Lord within himself, he rests his spirit in that intimate knowledge alone. The Gita states persistently, such a one is alike in pleasure and pain, honor and dishonor, being completely fulfilled. Ascetic renunciation, far from obliterating one’s capacity for joy and passion, places completely at man’s disposal the profound strength of his unencumbered faculties. With the clear, spiritual vision born of his renunciate freedom, the ascetic devotee launches this strength at the glorious, cosmic quasar of divine bliss: the primordial singularity (God) that reaches out to penetrate the entirety of creation with unfathomable Love; but the spiritual maturity entertained herein is largely inconceivable. All the exalted spiritual masters who have graced the Earth with their footsteps have insisted that the path to freedom is a harrowing journey trodden only by a few. To attain the fullness of God, of Nirvana, of the everlasting Self, the most radical form of surrender is required. As Jesus proclaimed to his disciples, the one who desires liberation must seek the Kingdom first. It seems as if we are called to a task of nearly impossible magnitude. How will even the most ardent faith persevere with the cosmic invitation? We must look to the noble ones who have gone before us: to those who consummated the purpose of life and heralded the joy of their attainment to all with ears to hear and eyes to see. To them was given the inheritance, the immortal bliss, the resurrection and the life.

Kingdom

The Avatars are one with God
Each Scepter stings our grim facade

Ensnared by things
the separate- self
revels long in passing wealth

But some whose minds are free and clear
pierce right through this thin veneer

With glory strained into the eyes
they see God in his disguise

First, among the masters great
the Avatars with causal weight

Next, among the Earth so green
each fern is like an astral beam

And finally, within the Self
where unity is God’s true wealth

This wisdom has been passed through time
and all who seek will come to find

inside the heart, its reaches deep
there lies God, the Self to seek

The Time for Truth

“Truth alone prevails, not unreality”
-The Mundaka Upanishad

It must be acknowledged that belief in truth is a kind of faith, but we needn’t acknowledge this sullenly. It’s a noble faith which assumes the existence of univocal goodness and compels oneself to recognize that he is but a part in the greater whole. It’s a faith marked by the assumption that human ideas (whether they be empirically demonstrable or not) are characterized by an alignment with either reality or unreality. The pursuit of truth must be an intentional process, free from the desire to egoistically reinforce one’s biases; that is, we must intend to be illumined by what we encounter on the path. Neither should we relegate the truth to knowledge attained in any one fashion. A baleful disservice is done to the maturity of one’s mind when the pride of intellect refuses to acknowledge its colossal limitations. Having embraced this universal wisdom, the spirit of enquiry becomes equipped to receive all kinds of knowledge; however, if once we resolve to approach truth with this sort of tenacity, we resolve in kind to undertake the discipline of looking inward. We must know ourselves.

To possess knowledge of oneself requires mindfulness. In addressing this topic, Rose Snyder, of The California Institute of Integral Studies, says “Many researchers have described mindfulness as promoting a ‘‘metacognitive’’ ability, in which the practitioner develops the capacity to observe her own mental processes…” (qtd. in Attachment Theory and Mindfulness 4). In gaining this capacity, it becomes possible to glean from ourselves knowledge regarding the motivations that rule over words and behavior. In short, through mindful disciplines and the self-awareness they afford, a measure of objectivity can be attained.

The ability to employ objective analysis can alleviate burdens that are immediate in nature. Here, Snyder (2011) is able to provide us with an example: “when an individual is having a difficult emotional experience, she can step back from the experience to see it clearly as simply an emotional state that is arising and will in time pass away. The knowledge of the impermanence of all phenomena can allow for a greater tolerance of unpleasant states of being…” (qtd. in Attachment Theory and Mindfulness 4). The benefit of this cognitive, self- removal can hardly be overstated. Reflection on one’s own being eventually annihilates the pains and truncation of a passive existence.

I believe it’s reasonably safe to assume, most people begin their adult lives harboring substantial amounts of conditioned bias. Living without regard for this recognition, many (myself included) will gain knowledge only for the sake of adapting it to their preconceived notions. Thankfully, mindful disciplines are quite capable of threshing out biases. In this way, knowledge gained may truly benefit one’s comprehension. In the sense I am here using, knowledge is synonymous with information; and in ordinary human experience, we gain information in order to reduce uncertainty. Ahmad M. Kamal, faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario addresses uncertainty in the following way: “Within the domain of information behavior, uncertainty is viewed as a psychological condition resolved by access to appropriate information. Under this paradigm, uncertainty is a condition to be reduced if not eliminated, and better information services, increased accessibility of information, better-designed information systems, and improved search skills are—implicitly or explicitly—identified as the means to that end…” (qtd. in Addressing Uncertainty: When Information is Not Enough 1).

In this context, knowledge functions as the “cure” for uncertainty. Kamal consolidates this idea further by stating “The experience of uncertainty—internal or external—is in every case driven by a lack of knowledge. The important difference lies both in what is unknown and in whether it is knowable. In the case of internal uncertainty, the information seeker lacks information, and once they have accessed the appropriate information, their uncertainty can be resolved…” (qtd. in Addressing Uncertainty: When Information is Not Enough 4). Uncertainty gives rise to all sorts of personal anxiety, indecision, and shortcomings. By actively gaining testable knowledge, we pursue a basic solution to a common plague.

You will recall, perhaps, my initial allusion made to knowledge that isn’t empirically testable, yet still valid and illuminating. Largely, this sort of knowledge will be found in spirituality; and (I believe) sorely misguided are those who do not seek, in spirituality, some of the answers to life’s integral uncertainties. Human spirituality is varied in its beliefs (though I see curious unity in the variance); but I’ve found that, on the whole, it usually concerns itself with several recurring questions: Those of our Origin, Identity, and Destiny. The answer to these questions, if it be of the truth, would certainly transcend our personal contrivances. Therefore, we should orient ourselves only in reference to something greater than we know ourselves to be. Dirk van Dierendonck, of the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, seems to be of the same opinion: “Spirituality signifies the inner attitude of living life directly related to the sacred…” (qtd. in Spirituality as an Essential Determinant for the Good Life, its Importance Relative to Self-Determinant Psychological Needs 4). This position should be advocated fiercely lest our worldview become destructively egocentric.

What then, is this sacred reality? What answer has been given to the questions of Origin, Identity, and Destiny? Look closely; there’s a curious nature about these questions. If we answer one, then we answer all. In the Ecclesiastical tradition (that of Jesus Christ) it is through God that all things were made (see John 1:1-3). In the Upanishadic (Hindu) traditions, the supreme reality is Brahman (known also as the “Lord of Love”) who is “the cause of the cosmos” (see the Shvetashvatara Upanishad). To Jesus, “God is Spirit” (see John 4:24), and Brahman is likened to “pure consciousness” (see the Aitareya Upanishad). Furthermore, in both Ecclesiastical and Upanishadic traditions we see proclaimed the same fundamental axiom: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (see 1 Corinthians 10:25-26), and “All belongs to the Lord” (see the Isha Upanishad). In orienting our importance in reference to the Lord, self-obsessive desires are discarded and we begin to exhibit concern for the needs of those around us, begetting the foundation of a reciprocal community. You may ask yourself, should such radical beliefs be taken seriously? Dierendonck (2011) certainly reasons as much: “Spirituality was already recognized as an important element of well-being in the 70s. Particularly, Moberg’s (1971) theorizing was instrumental in this respect. Spiritual well-being was interpreted as a lifelong pursuit and an affirmation of living life in direct connection to God, Self, the community and the environment. There is a growing body of empirical evidence that confirms the link between spirituality and wellbeing…” (qtd. in Spirituality as an Essential Determinant for the Good Life, its Importance Relative to Self-Determinant Psychological Needs 4). Like unto the very pursuit of truth, spiritual knowledge begins with faith. The validity of such knowledge cannot be tested under empirical conditions, but rather, must be recognized in the sincere goodness of a life lived selflessly.

It seems ironic that, through rational discourse, we’ve come right back around to our primary article of faith: That truth is transcendent to us, free from the subjectivity of human contrivance. In the end, many of our beliefs may prove to be mere contrivance; but the character of truth will have remained invariable. Mind, it is the invariability of truth that bespeaks of its infallibility. And when we, by egoistic or malicious agendas, attempt to misrepresent reality with arbitrary falsehoods, we suppress infallibility and introduce fallibility. It’s actually very curious that day to day falsehoods are perpetuated so much as we observe, given that it’s easier to accurately represent what we know to be true than it is to misrepresent; and according to Michael B. Lewis of Cardiff University, The United Kingdom, we aren’t meant to misrepresent it: “Our default communicative stance is to tell the truth. Without the assumption that speakers utter the truth most of the time, it is difficult to see how efficient communication could ever occur. This suggests that when people wish to lie to a question they will need to intentionally suppress the default, truthful response, which should increase the difficulty of lying relative to telling the truth…” (qtd. in Telling Lies: The Irrepressible Truth? 1).

Truth isn’t arbitrary, human lies are. Were there no such thing as unequivocal falsehoods, men could represent reality by relating whatever bile happened to slide off their tongues. As it is, the true nature of things must be suppressed when a conscious lie is told, and Lewis (2012) supports this claim: “There is indeed plenty of empirical evidence consistent with the claim that telling lies involves suppressing the truth. For example many researchers have found longer response times for lying relative to telling the truth, and there is neuroscientific evidence that brain regions active in lying overlap with brain regions associated with general response inhibition…” (qtd. in Telling Lies: The Irrepressible Truth? 1). In maintaining the truth out of an honest will, we rely on infallibility. Truth is the backbone of honesty, and is therefore existentially involved with good intentions. There is a great task left to us who are of good and noble ambition: to mitigate the influence of egoism in our world by eliminating falsehood. In this, we must always champion the truth.

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The Invitation

A thicket sprouts
with bramble sharp
encroaching fast around the heart

It strangles there
my every joy
and weak I am to halt its ploy

There is no front
but calm within
to hack its thorns and rout the din

So

when striving ebbs
by Eloi’s grace
the mind grows dim and slows its pace

All murmurs gone
like unto smoke
his comfort stirs and dons the yoke

A burden light
is shouldered then
Some gentle load brings rest within

Come unto me
spake once the Lord
The deeps of pain, I’ll see you ford

Some Concerns Regarding Theological Doctrine

I cannot simply regurgitate doctrine and call it genuine belief. Mind, a doctrine is not made false by virtue of being a doctrine, but I don’t hold that its made any more true by that “virtue” either. If there is real meaning within a text, we must study its meaning carefully and weigh it against the truths of our own experience. The truthfulness of a teaching must be tested in practice, but not as one would gauge the results of an experiment. If a teaching seems good, faith must be given unto it in the beginning. With time, adherence to a teaching will reveal either its fruits or its falsehood. But such a process is not so black and white as I can here present, for great teachings might easily be misunderstood and practiced with incompetence. This is why careful study is needed as one becomes acquainted with a lofty text. Neither is study sufficient in itself to the end of comprehension. Meditation, and concordance with others of faith is vital.

Doctrines, however, are not subject to sapient practice in this way. Were I to question (in the Church) the legitimacy of God’s nature being unequivocally triune, I doubt my concern would be seriously pondered or (in many instances) even understood. Doctrines, therefore, are institutionalized interpretations that must be rehearsed until all skepticism is abolished. Such is not genuine belief (which stems from thoughtfulness and comprehension), but belief of the sort that is branded into consciousness through forceful application. It’s a malady that reproduces itself with relative ease. I don’t believe any of the illumined masters (Jesus, the Apostles, etc) intended for doctrine to abolish dialogue within the Church as it has done; but in our human ignorance, we’ve allowed it to do so quite effectively. Affirming this, I must at the same time recognize my own reasonings to be largely feeble. May God grant me wisdom in his grace.

Bearing in Humility, Speaking in Love

Its perfectly ironic that I can be lulled into thinking myself more cognizant than those who appear doggedly fixed on their own, individual perspectives. Does not this idea of superiority indicate my perspective to be of the same dogged nature? In the frankest of moments, its clear to me that I am still immensely immature in regards to all states of sapient consciousness. Pride is evil. It paints the friend as an admirer, and the acquaintance as an unscrupulous pupil. A friend should be regarded as a friend; and an acquaintance should be likened to an unread book, full of mysteries and potential wonders. If the acquaintance is revealed to be insipid, listen to them anyway. Doing so will bolster patience and comprehension. Speak only when prudent. If the Spirit of God compels up in our speech, that which is said will be spoken with purpose, not idly as is the circumstance with vanity.

In this, we must trust our speech and bearing to be guided; for no amount of persistent reasoning will convince a man of subtle truths he knows nothing about and is not given to considering. In all things, I’ve often fancied my own will to be the helmsman, directing all courses and outcomes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the common presence of others, two practices alone have yielded good fruits: bearing in humility, and speaking in love. To God must be left the planting of all seeds, for his understanding is complete, his sovereignty infallible. Trust will serve us well. Most everything is beyond our control, but God’s purpose is immanent in the world. It can be known, in part, by we who still the voice of derisive judgment,- orator of ignorance for all who might otherwise understand each other.