Making Our Way Back
We live in a “content” oriented society obsessed with the pursuit of more, better, and different. Our reality, is one of cause and effect, context and content. If we are ever going to understand our personal and global discontentment, which is at the root of the worlds increasing fear of challenges and uncertainty, we must become aware of the “causes” in life, the “context” of our lives which creates the content of our lives.
Early on in my life I became aware that “context was everything”. I learned to focus my attention not on the content of my life, the things I had or wanted to have but, on the context or, “who I wanted to be in the world”. This “Principle of Identity” as I came to refer to it, changed everything. It began for me after reading the words of both Thomas Merton who wrote, “A tree gives glory to God by being a Tree.” His words almost immediately defined for me the meaning and purpose of my life. Next was when I read Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s words, who wrote, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” This laid the groundwork for me, for navigating through this temporary existence we call life.
“Context is everything.” It determines not only what you will experience, but literally what you are permitted to experience. It is what the Buddha referred to in the Fourth Noble Truth as “point-of-view”. Having “right-view” establishes the length of possibilities. How I see myself, and how I see my place in the world, establishes the limits of my experience and creates the content of my life. Whatever we identify with, we become. There are no such events as random occurrences, everything has a cause. Discover the causes in your life and you will be able to navigate more skillfully through life’s challenges and uncertainty.
The “meaning” of any one persons life as well as the life of all sentient beings, is to live “authentically,” what Buddhism refers to as living from ones “true-nature”. Buddhism teaches us that our “True-Nature,” our “Buddha-Nature,” is “Enlightenment”. To live as Buddha’s in the world is the “Tree that gives glory to God, by being a Tree.” I believe that your birth was not a random occurrence. Millions of “causes” throughout millions of centuries lead up to your “birthday”. You were born exactly the hour, the day, the month, and the year you were meant to be born. And though we share much of what makes up the human species, there never has been, or never will be any one exactly like you. Whenever I am asked, “What the world needs?” I always reply, “You!” You are the “missing link”. To “realize your Buddha-Nature,” is to “liberate all sentient beings from suffering and its causes.”
The “purpose” of any one persons life as well as the life of all sentient beings, is to live your life as a “benefit” to all of life. As a “spiritual being” I exist “immersed in the human experience,” to benefit all of life, not just to promote my own. We exist in an “interconnected and interdependent” reality. This is also what George Bernard Shaw meant by “The true joy in life.” We are at our best and our happiest when we are benefiting another life or the whole of life. We are at our best and our happiest when we are “loving” others, rather than in search of being loved. Fulfilling our purpose in life is the key to real and lasting happiness or joy, both for the individual and for the world. Whenever I talk about “relationships,” I tell couples that the work in your relationship is to “be about the business of loving each other,” rather than constantly in search of a new or better lover.
After a lifetime of accumulating unwholesome lessons and unwholesome behaviors, learning to live in the world “authentically” proves to be the most difficult lesson in life. When we begin to “study the self” I call “myself,” and apply the insights of Zen spirituality, we discover how much of our lives, including our choices, are driven by “fear”. Over the years whenever I have asked, “What is the most important thing in a persons life?” The immediate responses are usually, “Love,” “Family,” and/or “Happiness”. Then I point out that, being “right” is the most important thing in a persons life; being “accepted,” being “approved of,” “successful,” and so on. All forms of “being right”. We fear telling the truth about ourselves, our needs, our wants. Especially when we don’t meet social or cultural expectations. We fear the unknown, uncertainty, change. We spend unknown amounts of energy for security. We want more than anything else to “be right”. We will even make unwholesome choices if those choices are the “right ones”. The ones everyone else chooses or follows. Authentic spiritual practice or training doesn’t begin until we are ready, until we are committed too dealing with the root cause of our discontentment – “Fear”.
I can only give what I have. If I do not have unconditional love for myself, how I do I expect to unconditionally love another? If I have never fully realized how precious just my very existence is, how can I fully appreciate the preciousness of life? Loving others, loving the stranger, loving the whole of Nature, begins in the hearts of individuals who have learned to “live as Buddha’s” in the world, to live “authentically,” and as a “benefit” to others.
We begin to turn the direction of our lives around by creating the willingness to “be true to ourselves”. Shakespeare wrote, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” The spiritual journey begins by, “being true to thine own self.” The more we are willing to be honest with ourselves, we become more and more “unwilling” to live dishonestly in the world. Something naturally awakens in us, which wants “to be”. Our very “longevity,” like a tree or any other plant life for that matter, depends on our authenticity. If a physician gives the wrong prescription for the wrong diagnosis, the patient may surely die. Life depends on authenticity.
As we grow more and more unwilling to be dishonest with others, we begin to “awaken” the world to its true meaning and purpose. Inherent in all life forms is the immeasurable desire and potential for transforming the world through authenticity and benevolence. All of life exists to serve all of life, in its myriad forms. “All for One, One for All,” is the true battle cry of the “Spiritual Warrior,” the “Bodhisattva”.
My wish for you is that you will be truly reborn “who you truly are,” that you live long and prosper, and that your long life will one day come to an end, as it most surely will, without any regrets that at any moment of your life you failed to live “your life”. This is my prayer for you!
I love you,