Over the past few days my meditation time has been personally fruitful in that I have received clarification and insight in regards to several issues that have been roiling around within in me for some time now. I am always blessed when these things begin to take shape. It is as if I can see a bit more clearly than before and for this I am eternally grateful.
I have been reflecting on the nature of spirituality in the new millennium and have written several articles on the subject on this and other web sites. I strongly feel that we are in a unique and special time in terms of the future of our planet and also convinced that a living, vital, and global spirituality is an integral part of the solution to issues we will face as individuals, communities, nations, and globally in the coming years.
In the context of this brief article, I cannot go into great detail about all this. To do so would make the entry too lengthy and overly soporific. With that thought in mind, let just mention a few points that I believe are worthy of attention and reflection. It seems to me that whatever form or forms the spirituality of the 21st Century takes, there should be at least three basic foci:
A theoretical and experiential recognition of the interconnectivity of all life
An increased capacity for individuals to live from the “Sacred Mind”
A heart of compassion manifesting in proactive service to others
Granted, we could list quite a number of other characteristics of the new spirituality. In fact, I have done so elsewhere on this blog. However, let’s look at just these three key elements of a vital spirituality as many other characteristics flow from this sublime trinity.
Just as the ancient scriptures, especially the early Buddhist and Daoist writings, explained, we live in a universe that is interconnected in all its parts. Not one thing exists in isolation but instead, is an indispensable part of a web of life that shares a commonality of essence and purpose. If you need further clarification of this fact, I encourage you to take the time and make the effort to study some of the scriptures from the Hua Yen school of Buddhism.
Hua Yen flourished in China in the early centuries of the Common Era and produced some of the most profound spiritual teachings ever recorded. The Flower Adornment Sutra was the primary scripture for the Hua Yen followers and its pages contain a very deep and descriptive picture of the interconnectivity of all that is. Admittedly, this may be somewhat deep reading, but it will be well worth your while. The text I began with is Entry into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua Yen Buddhism, edited by Thomas Cleary. I am not sure the book is still in print but it should not be overly difficult to locate. Also, a Google search will turn up many useful web sources.
Our understanding of interconnectivity has to go beyond the theoretical if it is to have any transformative effect on daily living. It is difficult to discuss these types of experiential matters as they, by their very nature, are personal and subjective. For our purposes here, suffice to say that establishing and maintaining a regular meditation practice will go a long way toward opening you up to an experience of your connection with others. Along the way, the meditative practice of “Metta” can also be highly useful in this regard. An extended visualization practice from the tradition of Therevada, Metta (trans. Loving Kindness), helps foster a sense of the interdependence of all life.
Meditation practice is also central to the realization of the second element of a vital spirituality: increased capacity to live from the Sacred Mind. Put briefly, each of us comes equipped with what we here at LifeBrook call a little mind and a Sacred Mind. The little mind is our ego, our lower self, which is an illusory entity we create in order to survive in the world. In and of itself, it is not a bad thing, but it does create numerous problems. Where we run into trouble is when we identify so completely with the little mind that we think that’s who we are. When that happens, we increasingly lose contact with our Sacred Mind, which is our true identity. It is through the Sacred Mind that we realize our oneness with everything else. The little mind, by contrast, thrives on separateness, competition, and conflict. It is highly difficult to feel “at one” with your enemy or someone you are competing with.
As we progress on the spiritual journey, we increasingly become aware of an expansive aspect of ourselves that we rarely experienced. As our spiritual practice deepens, we begin to connect with this Inner Light, our “Buddha Nature,” our Sacred Self. This is our true spirit and true identity. It is a fountain of wisdom, love, and light which allows us to see things as they are, not as we have mistaken them to be. It is the source of our spiritual intelligence. As we increasingly live from our Sacred Self, our spiritual intelligence, life begins to have more direction, meaning, and mission. Whereas before we viewed much of life as poorly organized chaos, we now see patterns, story lines, and wisdom that was invisible when we operated out of the little mind. This is especially true of our ability to see the unity that permeates and underlies all that exists.
This sense of the “bigger picture,” of the oneness of life, when connected with our Sacred Self, leads to a true sense of compassion. And from this sense of compassion we develop a desire to be of service. This desire to step beyond our limited self and help those in need now comes from our Spiritual Heart, which is a component of our Sacred Mind. Instead of trying to be of service to others from the vantage point of our little mind, we now have a more expansive and realistic view. Instead of having our service tainted by our own selfish concerns, our recognition of the unity of life gives rise to the Bodhisattva Heart, a desire to serve out of the living awareness that when one suffers, we all suffer.
Again, space does not allow for a full treatment of this subject. However, one other point needs to be made. In the new millennium, our service needs to become proactive rather than reactive. We need to look for ways in which we can help. Ideally, by studying patterns and trends, sometimes we might be able to see problems before they arise and take preventative measures. Even when we can’t do this, by being proactive we might be able to intervene in areas of need while they are still small, rather than waiting and reacting when they have grown to epic proportions. It is far easier to put out a fire when it is on a match head than when it has invaded a forest. This is what I mean when I speak of proactive service.
I would like to encourage you to take some time out from your busy schedules over the next few weeks and at least reflect and pray a bit about this exciting and challenging new century. See what insights and ideas come to you about your place in the evolution of the spirituality that will be a part of this era. It will be well worth the time and effort.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved