This is a sutra I heard a couple of days ago. A sutra is a spiritual teaching that has been put into a concise format that can be easily be transmitted and memorized. This was done back in the days before people had books to carry around with them. This sutra summed up my experience in four very short quick sentences. I’ll get back to it in a moment.
My entire life has been a spiritual quest. Sometimes it has been more urgent than others, but I have always been seeking. I have always felt like there was more to know- a lot more. There are four basic things that prompt us to grow spiritually. I think almost all of us will experience some of each in our lives.
- Pain and/or suffering- painful events can cause us to seek spiritual growth as a way of alleviating the pain. Pain is a great motivator for human beings. All things being equal we tend to resist change and will sit in a place until something makes us move. We will even sit in a painful place until the pain becomes unbearable, then we move. I’ve had a lot of pain in my life. Some inflicted from the outside, a lot self-imposed.
- Seeking wisdom- there is something within us that just wants to know, that seeks Truth. If seeking motivated by pain is applied research, this is basic research. We just want to know because we want to know.
- The desire for success- we want to live the best lives we can, to be the best version of ourselves we can be. We want to actualize our potential. Sometimes the realization we can do more is what drives to want to do more.
- Love for God/Source/Spirit/Self- whatever name you want to put on it, there is a spirit within each of us that seeks the Creator, the Source, the return to what we truly are. It’s the divine spark within each of us that separated itself from Source (apparently) to have an experience, but that recognizes, at some level, that it is not truly separate and seeks that union.
Back to the sutra, this is great and so simple that I think even I can remember it.
- It Is.
- We Are It.
- We Forget.
- We Remember.
I have taken the liberty of personalizing it.
- It Is.
- I Am It.
- I Forget.
- I Remember.
This might be familiar to those familiar with the Bible and the phrase I AM. This is God basically saying He is all that is. This is the ultimate knowledge that God is all-in-all. God is both transcendent (the potential for creation) and immanent (the Creation godself). I am a panentheist which means I believe that the creation is not separate from God, but part of God. Everything in creation is God manifesting godself. This is extremely important because it is the foundation for the next point.
I Am It
If nothing is separate from God, if all is God, if God is all, then nothing can be apart from God. This follows. We cannot turn away from God anymore than a drop of water can turn away from the ocean. Our very nature, our very essence our spirit is the divine that we seek. In the tradition I grew up in, at least the way I understood it, seeking God meant looking for a being up there in the sky way off somewhere hoping He could hear you. It meant reaching outside (and above) yourself. It wasn’t until many years later, when I learned about meditation that I actually began hearing from God, in that still small voice talked about in 1 Kings Chapter 19. When I went inside I began to experience God.
I know that, for some, to claim we are divine to claim that God is in us and we are a part of God sounds blasphemous, but so be it. We are powerful, immortal beings, each of us more precious and magnificent than our wildest imaginations. Some of us manifest that better than others, but it is true for all of us. The spirit that was in Buddha and in Christ is also in you and in me. When we hear a great moral teacher or a great spiritual truth, it’s as if we are remembering it, not learning it for the first time. You know why? Because you already knew it. The truth is within you. We have to be reminded. We live in a world where we get distracted which leads to point three.
As I was contemplating this sutra I had the urge to change my profile picture to the picture my sister posted of me a few days ago. It’s a four or five year old me- all cute and full of innocence. One friend commented that he hoped I still had that innocence that shines out of the picture. That reminded me of the Earth Wind And Fire song “The Way Of The World” that I loved from the moment I heard it. The pertinent lines “Child is born with a heart of gold. Way of the world makes his heart grow cold.” Yes. That is it.
I was taught, like so many, that we born in sin, that we are born with a rebellious nature, that we are born bad. None of that is true. We are born innocent (as Sarah McLachlan reminds us in Adia). We do stumble, we do fall, but our basic nature is good. We are immortal creatures/souls/spirits having a temporary Earth bound experience. We have limited ourselves for the sake of this experience. We are not alone, we are never alone, but we sometimes feel alone. We are not small and powerless, but we have that illusion. And then there is the pain and the lack of control of being on this physical plain. All of this makes us tend to forget who we really are and this forgetting is an illusion. Not that the world isn’t real, our identity that we pick up is false. The Hindus call this forgetting who we are, the illusion, Maya. Maya is really, really convincing. And, if we’re not forgetting who we are because of the pain and suffering, we forget who we are because we get distracted by shiny things. We spend our entire lives in pursuit of things that are part of this world things that are passing, things that don’t matter in the big scheme of things and as we pursue those things, we forget. EW&F nailed it with The Way of the World. We all forget. The Way of the World makes our hearts grow cold. We need to remember. Even those who have awakened, who have started down the path, who have understood these truths tend to forget them. I wake forget several times a day, every day of the week.
The good news is eventually we remember. We will wake up. The veil will be removed. We will see face-to-face, not through a glass darkly. All of us will. Why not wake up now rather than later? Forgetting who we are just means we endure unnecessary suffering. Remembering doesn’t mean your life will be without pain or hardship, but remembering will make that pain and hardship tolerable as you put it into the bigger picture. As I contemplated EW&F’s “Way of the World” the next thing that popped into my head was Enigma’s “Return to Innocence”. The video is just beautiful. You have to watch it if you haven’t seen it. A few lines from the song.
That’s not the beginning of the end
That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence
Love – Devotion
Feeling – Emotion
Love – Devotion
Feeling – Emotion
Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence