Sunday, 26 April 2015

Is Unconditional Love Really Possible?

Update: 28/4/15

It seems appropriate to say a few words here. I had actually put this post together before i left Arunachala, but had not had time to edit it as i was preparing for the journey up to Darjeeling in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. Therefore i finally got to finish this post just a few days ago, in fact just one day after the massive quake in Nepal, which incidentally, we felt very strongly here as well.

What has struck me very deeply and movingly in the interim, is the outpouring of spontaneous love and support that has been flowing towards Nepal and all those caught up in this unfolding tragedy...

We may at times question our ability to feel and be moved by the pain of others, particularly of those whom we have never met or known, yet in this instance, as in many others around the world, we have direct proof of our inner sense of interconnection with others.

This inner sense is not 'sentimental' it is utterly 'fundamental...'

We are inclined to think that unconditional love is something rather idealistic and unattainable and yet it is more a part of our lives than we might previously have noticed. Not only is it part of our lives, the fact is that, without it we could not exist!

True and unconditional love arises from such a pure place within us that it cannot be contrived and is in no way intellectual. We cannot control it, it just flows from the inexhaustible source of 'being' itself. 

Yet, isn't it true that we can often feel quite disconnected from this?

The love of a parent for its child is one expression of 'unconditional love' and this is something we can witness easily all around us and on a daily basis, whether human or otherwise. Unconditional love is not an unrealistic form of love that one might only read about occasionally in a fiction novel, it is the very fabric and weave upon which life plays itself out.

We have been led to believe that a 'pure love' such as the unconditional kind is something that only a few lofty or heroic souls may ever come to know, and yet it is not at all unattainable or even uncommon. Our lives are filled with expressions of unconditional love, in all shades and in all varieties. 

The squalor of hatred, indifference and all the accouterments of our so called 'modern' societies are pre eminently brought to our notice day in and day out with an almost obsessive repetition and yet life is also filled with spontaneous expressions of love and generosity and we don't have to look far to find them!

I remember coming across a chapter in a book, years ago. The book 'White Sail' was written by Tinley Norbu Rinpoche, an extra ordinary Tibetan Lama/Teacher/Writer, who has since passed on.

In this book he has written a chapter called 'Love and Faith.' I had not come across anything quite like it anywhere else, at least not at the time that i first read those wise words.

He did not admonish us to 'love one another unconditionally' from a moralistic stand point, he simply took a long and hard look at the nuts and bolts of what we know or 'think' we know about 'love.' At the time and still now i find his clarity very relevant and inspiring.

Within various religious institutions; the phrase 'unconditional love' rolls easily off the tongue, but much more challenging is our capacity to actually find this kind of love within our own hearts and to spread some of it about in our world.

To simply admonish us to 'love unconditionally' is a call to action that for most of us is unrealistic. We all struggle to some degree or another with our various likes and dislikes. Nevertheless we are also all 'plugged in' as it were to this inexhaustible source, simply by virtue of the fact that we even exist at all. 

When we look around us and within us, we can begin to notice the spontaneous moments of joy and out reaching that can come our way, almost imperceptibly throughout the day. This broadening of our understanding of 'love,' is extremely important. Even something seemingly unrelated or trivial can be a doorway into greater understanding and our re-connection with this inner source. This can be triggered by something as simple as the glint of sunlight through leaves. If we allow such a moment to touch our souls, it awakens within us the stirring of our inner heart, and this is the smoke that can precede a fire, if we are prepared to fan it.

Indeed true love is not something rare, we are surrounded by expressions of it and we ourselves can easily create moments in which this spontaneous flowering can arise.

True and unconditional love' is the very essence of 'who and what we really are.' It lies at the very heart of existence, radiating outwardly as the profound interconnection that binds all expressions of life.

Breaking everything down into the simplest and most uncomplicated universal energy, love brings us directly into the presence of what lies right at the very heart of being.  

 It is not something that can ever be contrived or in any way fabricated, as Pooh so rightly pointed out to Piglet.

Our modern world so highly regards its material values, the individualism and competition which those values often generate. Yet such values divide and isolate instead of unifying and nourishing, and they tend to encourage a growing sense of imbalance and disharmony.

As the Dalai Lama so rightly and succinctly pointed out, 'love and compassion are necessities not luxuries.'

Unconditional love flows most naturally, so let it, it will transform you and the world...

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Ultimate Panacea for Cutting Through Our Addictions

And we all have them...

One kind or another. Addictions. Whether we are addicted to TV, to being in love, to running in the park, to smoking, to our mobile phones, to music, to anything whatsoever. Yes, and we can even be addicted to 'meditation!'

All addictions, whatever they may be, point to one thing;

We are bound by them. We are not free...

"Issues are like tissues. You pull one out and another appears!"

Gary Goldstein

So how do we pull ourselves out of this conundrum?

The answer is simplicity itself. The actual 'living' of that answer however, is quite another matter, but only because we continue to doggedly to cling to greatest addiction of all, our unquestioning trust and belief in a separate, individual 'self.'

'Undeceive yourself and be free. You are not a person.'
Nisargadatta Maharaj

Those few words point us squarely towards to an incredible mystery which surrounds each and everyone of us and yet amazingly, we somehow fail even to notice it!

The only true and lasting way to give up 'addictions' forever, is to stop identifying with 'ourselves' as the 'doer.' To recognize, once and for all, our true nature, which is utterly beyond 'doer-ship.'

And just what is that 'true nature'?

That, my friend, is the 'inexhaustible presence' out of which all existence, in whatever form it may take, arises...

So take those addictions, whatever they may be, and offer them unconditionally, to the 'vast and absolute expanse' because you were born to soar high and free...!

We are so much more than we can even imagine...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Eight Tips to Help us Overcome Negativity

In these days and times it can sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by negativity. Our own negativity; that which
other people convey and also the negativity that we see going on around us in the environment.

Yet, it is said that 'all of our moods and emotions arise from the mind', which basically means that, to find any peace and happiness in this world, it is essential to understand what the true nature of the mind really is.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Chatral Rinpoche, No Mind

It is not easy to know where to start  when trying to describe someone like Chatral Rinpoche.   Imagine a Master, 104 years of age.  One hundred and four years of life experience! He is like a living, walking, breathing encyclopedia of knowledge. His areas of expertise cover fields from astrology and medicine right through to such mundane things as construction and masonry. In His younger years He walked the length and breadth of Tibet in the days well before Chinese occupation and He did so in the simplest possible way, with little more than a flimsy tent, a pot for boiling water, a few bricks of tea, dried cheese and tsampa (barely flour). All i can really do is bow down in wonder and recall some of the multitude of memories that come to mind and that so beautifully reflect the many facets of this amazing being. How fortunate i have been to have been able to live near such a Master. This alone is the most sublime of teachings!

In the presence of a realized Master one must be prepared for everything. In the space of a single hour the display of 'samsara' can fluctuate so wildly that one can do little but watch, listen and learn and of course try to keep up with the flow of events....

One morning Rinpoche, me and Rinpoche's daughter Semo Tara Deva, were strolling about inside His temple compound at Salbari near Siliguri in West Bengal.  Rinpoche was stretching His legs and looking over some small construction jobs that were going on, when He suddenly turned to the gate and strode out towards the main road mentioning, almost as an after thought, in His deep, booming voice that we would go and purchase such and such building materials from the market.

We had no time to grab a bag, or any money, nothing.  When Rinpoche got an idea, He would just act on it spontaneously in that very moment. Everything would happen around Him in this way and could be very stressful for those of us who were attending Him at any given time. One had to be constantly prepared for any possible eventuality!

This particular morning we could do nothing but follow because Rinpoche was already out the compound gate and well on His way to the main road. Unprepared as we were, at least, on this morning Rinpoche was fully attired, not always the case on these early strolls around the compound.  

Before we knew it, He was out on the highway and had flagged down a three wheeler auto rickshaw and deposited Himself on the front wooden plank of the rickety vehicle next to the wizened, rather decrepit Indian driver who still had the remnants of a partially smoked bidi stuck in the corner of his mouth. We quickly jumped into the back seat and off we went with a spurt of fumes and the splutter of the two stroke auto engine as it whined and puttered and puffed its way down the potholed road towards Siliguri.

I cannot forget the image of this 'Lion of the mountains', His long white beard splashing outward as wind buffeted us in the un-closed vehicle, His right hand clasping a small metal bar on the roof, and His left in a position of command on His knee, His back straight and His attention focused on the way ahead.  
Looking at Him, anyone would think, that He was at the helm of a mighty ship setting forth on a journey to undiscovered continents.

He was always completely ease, joyfully attuned to even the least trifle, be it a passing smile on the face of a child, the flash of green in field of tea, ripe for the  harvest, or  the white wing of an egret as it sprang from the river.

We bumped along like this for about ten minutes when suddenly along side us another vehicle closed in, a golden colored Mercedes Benz, silent, large and sleek. At that time such a vehicle was as rarely seen as a flying saucer, at least in that dusty little neck of the woods.  

The window in the second seat unwound and out popped a Bhutanese head.  It was the Queen Mother and her royal entourage. Evidently they had arrived from Bhutan some minutes after we had left the compound and were giving chase.  The driver was motioned to pull over. Even before the car had stopped in front of our shoddy conveyance, the body guards, in full Bhutanese royal regalia leapt out and began to make full length prostrations right then and there on the side of the road.  

Never a man for formalities, Rinpoche quietly got out of the auto, gave the driver his dues and strode over to the open back door of the car, quickly disappearing into the lush interior of this new conveyance.  

He never missed a beat and was never phased or surprised or put out by anything.  He could seamlessly transfer from the rickety, decrepit auto of a peasant to the richly gilded vehicle of a Queen without even blinking an eyelid.

This excerpt is taken from the book; 
Tibetan Masters and other True Stories

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Remembering that Life is Brief

Remembering that our bodies are but transitory temples in this world,

gives us the power to remember what and who we really are...

Death is near, much nearer than we ever usually think. But what is it in us that actually dies? It is not our true nature that dies, only the fragile body, our impermanent temple. 

We tend to live our lives as if they will continue forever, even though we know that every single person on the planet will face death sooner or later, including us.  Somehow our own death just does not register in our minds, as a reality.  It is something we hear about, happening somewhere else, to someone else.

Some might think that it is morbid to remember the fact of death. However it can also be empowering. The remembering brings us nearer to recognizing what we really are.  
It gives our lives a perspective that is lacking when the mind is completely distracted by moment to moment happenings.  We have countless chances to understand this inevitable transition before it actually arrives, yet we seldom choose to take them.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Why Meditation is So Important

Isn't it true, that we experience almost all of our lives as a series of ups and downs?

We are like surf board riders on a vast ocean of experience. Sometimes we can ride the waves, while at others we are buffeted and bullied about by the endless ebb and flow. We get so caught up in the 'drama' that we seldom, if ever, take note of the screen upon which it is all being played out.

No screen, no drama. Yet who notices the 'screen'?

If only we knew how near and how unspeakably simple the greatest truths of life really are. How much more peaceful and joyful our lives would be. How quickly we would un complicate things to give ourselves and others ease.

Meditation, in its truest form, helps us to re connect with who and what we really are. It helps us to become aware of the 'screen.' 

In its purest form, meditation is effortless, formless and completely un-contrived.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Are You Bored or Distracted?

The Life You Lead,  Leunig
“As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being.  

If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. 

Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? 

But suppose you could answer, “It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.” 

How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?”
~ Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

It is quite likely that few who read these words really understand what they mean... Its not that this is hard to understand; its incredibly easy, but the mind has a way of circumventing simplicity. It has a way of by passing the present moment to seek out and constantly engage in either a projected future or a remembered past.

It is amazing just how much of our lives is held to the random of passing emotional 'infatuations.'

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Don't Forget to Look Up

Being distracted and preoccupied seems to be the norm in modern, high-tech societies and what a high price we have to pay for it!

Gone, our peace of mind, gone, our sense of ease, our health our happiness and in return for what? All the things that make life worth living fly out the window the more we fill ourselves with the values and business of a life that bases itself around the value of dollars and cents.

Yet, right above our heads is this incredible window into infinity. Many times i have looked up into the sky and felt an immediate shift. The sky is like a window which can convey the mind into a space where unimaginable mysteries exist. If anything can bring us into a state of instant perspective it is the 'sky view.'

However, despite this amazing 'view' which is free and readily available, it is easily and often overlooked and forgotten.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Natural Mind

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, with a friend. Photo by Matthieu Ricard
Late one afternoon, as the evening sun was sending its final shafts of golden light into the silent, incense filled air of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's room, i found myself alone with the great Master.

Even though I was some distance away, nearer to the farthest end of his long carpet filled shrine, Khyentse Rinpoche had such an enormous presence that it felt as though he filled the entire room.

I was quietly fingering some beads and basking in the tremendous silence and sanctity that permeated this blessed space. The atmosphere felt utterly charged and in it i felt complete and whole.

This particular evening there were very few visitors around, something which was rather unusual. However before long there was a rustle of activity in the outer guest waiting hall and i looked over just in time to see a well known Lama enter with a handful of his western students.

Soon they appeared before Khyentse Rinpoche, bowing and offering scarves of welcome as He greeted each one. They seated themselves before Him and all fell into an expectant silence.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What can we Expect from an Authentic Guru?

I took this photo in 2010 when a cyclonic storm was closing in on
the Hill Arunachala
Some years ago my Master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, wrote down a verse in which he describes the qualities of a true Guru. I have not come across another writing that does this as well or with such poetic eloquence.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Re Claiming Our Inner Space

We are as wide as the sky...

Without limits, borders or endings...

All that we need to 're claim' the inner space that we
often feel we have lost, is to remember who and what we
really are.

We might think; 'how do we do this'?

But there is no how, no process, no distance between
who and what we really are and the actual 'being' of that...

People can hear and read these words and then think,
'how is it possible,' what do they mean, how is it done?

This is the great paradox of our existence.

We are every moment only 'that,' but the simplicity and
proximity of this confound us. Mind jumps in and stirs up
the still waters of our silent inner space and deludes us into
believing that we have to achieve, through some long and
drawn out process, what is already ours and inseparable from us.

May we swiftly re claim the inheritance of our un-contrived and natural awareness...

Polished Stainless Steel
David Harber

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Ahead of the Game

Does this remind you of someone...?

The mind creates all sorts of thoughts and often the
body has a tough time keeping up.
If we hang tenaciously onto every thought, allowing it to
proliferate into a multitude of new thoughts we soon find ourselves in the never ending chambers of the mind.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Original Mind

I want to share with my readers a wonderful verse by the Poet
Gary Rosenthal. It is so lucidly written and so evocative of the simple awareness which is the true, but too often overlooked source of glory, peace and happiness within each and every one of us...


How many evenings 
have you turned away?
As if the life you really want
could only begin
once something else had happened, 
something else that was not yet here…

Thursday, 4 September 2014

What Dreams May Come

There is an old and well aired fable that is often told by Tibetan Lamas on various occasions. I always enjoy hearing it as it brings up rather clear visual associations and instantly helps to shift the perspective on things. Here i offer my own embellished version.

One evening, a farmer looked out over his fields as they shimmered in the golden sunshine. The gentle ripple of a breeze ruffled the laden bushels and cast a hazy sheen into the westering light.

The lone voice of a peasant rose and fell in the silent air. In that moment all felt well in the world and he was pleased; even joyful.

Looking out over his fields he knew that this season would be unusually good. He would have an ample harvest and there would be money and food to spare. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The More we Learn the Less we Know

I lived for a time with someone who did not function from the center of rational thinking.  This does not mean that He was incapable of rational thinking, quite the opposite. In fact i never met with anyone who was so practical, ingenious and down to earth, all in one. He tended to use rational thinking as a tool, He was not ruled by the rational mind. Someone who can live and function from an inner intuitive sense of spontaneous clarity will leave no footprints in the world and will move through life with spontaneous expressions of light and joy. Such a being lives with an intensity which is always fresh, completely un-contrived and uncompromisingly relevant.

To have had the chance to come within the orbit of someone who moves in complete harmony with the present moment is an extra ordinary privilege and something rare and beautiful to behold.