Universe as Teacher, Universe as I

I write this, and decide to break a long silence. I had a copyright claim against me, and a divorce to cope with, so despite writing at length of pain, and of ways to cope with pain, I have felt unable to publish this yet. I have written much for people in recovery which I will post soon, and have more recently been exploring shamanism and druidry, and a living connection with nature which is inspiring me beautifully.

I don’t see this as separate or different from buddhism, the buddha having lived in connection with the natural world and its spirits and beings. I started to write about the way in which nature can sometimes seem to communicate with us, teach us, connect us with our wild nature, but this article evolved into something else.

In Vajrayana buddhism there are different levels of perceiving the principle of teacher or guru. There is the word of the buddha, and the human connection we have with enlightenment, our teachers. Then when we are introduced to the awakened mind, the infinite light, we can learn to trust our own inner guru. Ultimately, life is teacher, universe is teacher, and the principle of awakening within and without can be our guide.

Learning to be our own guru is a vital stage of the path, but I for one am forever grateful to my spiritual friends who help me stay clear on the path. The ideal, is if we can be open to seeing all arisings, all beings, as our teacher. All encounters teach us about world, teach us about self, perhaps especially people and circumstance we find difficult!

In many spiritual traditions there is the idea of sign and portent, pointers from a deity or other power. Even in buddhism, there are numerous incidents of disciples being pointed to the buddha by spirit, or of the buddha being encouraged to teach by a God. We could say that the laws of karma and conditionality can provide sign and synchronicity, but that is another discussion. What is true, is that many of us feel a need for connection and inspiration, guidance and comfort, whether we are theists or buddhists or atheists. In a way, it doesnt matter if we call this guidance and comfort by the name of a god or a yidam, subconscious forces or great spirit, when we feel its call, we want to listen.

Free Image from Pixabay
Free Image from Pixabay

Shamanic traditions recognise that the universe, that nature in all its forms, can show us the way, teach us. Whether that teaching comes from the universe or is a display of our own inner powers of knowing is irrelevant when we consider that consciousness is universal, so there is no difference between inner and outer, no duality, a vision shared by shamans and dzogchen adepts. The indivisibility of inner and outer, self and other, moot the discussion around self power and other power, in a somewhat abstruse way.

I sometimes emulate the principles of the vision quest, in my own small ways, when I decide to take a walk with my worries or questions, if I have any, or with the aim honing my eye for beauty if I don’t. I love the idea that nature can guide me, show me something about my depths, my own wildness. Seomthing is communicated through simple and receptive immersion in natural beauty; truths whispered by a dewdrop or flower or tree or cloud, the flight of a butterfly or a swallow, or the timely appearance of a rabbit or a deer.

It all seems magical if you are open to it, and sometimes when I appreciate the glory and beauty of the world it makes me proud to be a denizen, proud that I can appreciate it, and that I have the power to become a guardian and friend of the natural world rather then a consumer of it. I have that choice and that power, and the choice and power to try to influence others in their response to the web of life within which we have struggled to assume our place.

Free Image from Pixabay
Free Image from Pixabay

I have heard it called a download, the shaman in nature can simply receive a download of information and guidance and inspiration. I sense this to be true, and also particularly from sunshine, as if the rays contain energy and codes to awaken us, to open our third eye, and inspire us with beauty and brightness. When you let the suns rays in through the eyes, only safe as it is setting, you will know what I mean, the beauty of the light on the retina, of rainbows in the eyelashes, reaches deep into the mind with its radiant, awakening power.

I sometimes feel the absence of a genuine guru in my life, I am not sure I have one. I do have great respect for quite a few of my teachers, but there are none I consider to embody enlightenment. However, maybe it is as with nature, and that if I am open, they can function as such. In a way it is irrelevant, as the enlightened mind is in books, in their teachings, and in the universe, so is thus not separate from those teachers. We all have a buddha within, but usually we need assistance to find it, lots of assistance. I wonder if that too is a case of receptivity, for if I could tune into the open dimension of awareness and see it as inner buddha, would that not serve me?

I imagine it could have dangers, conceit and delusions, but I would imagine these would become known. I might experiment with these ideas, for sometimes I cry for guidance from a realised master, but mostly I seem to get by. I seem to make progress following the path and the practices, and sometimes get blazing and brilliant results.

Of course, just as I know my suffering and my craving and my pride to be not I, so too are the brilliant and inspiring flashes of light and awakening. Even buddha within, not I. Simply buddha within, simply universal awakening, the dance of the emergence of our true nature from the mists of delusion.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

If this is not enough to quell the conceits that can arise when our meditation catches fire, when we are blasted open to the formless and infinite aspect of mind, we can practice the six element practice. In this, we see that our body and being is just a temporary play of the elements of nature, the blocks of matter and life.

We see that we take in solidity and liquids, heat and air, and give them back, none of it is ours, we cannot own it or possess it, and we must return it more finally one day. Space itself, we occupy it, but it isn’t ours, it isn’t separate from the space element in its boundless open nature, again we arrive at the indivisibility of inner and outer.

Finally consciousness, unbound by its material and elemental restrictions, seems to expand like space, joining a more fundamental, a primordial and radiant and mysterious and infinite awareness.

And of course, pratitya samutpada, the teaching of conditionality shows us that all that arises, inner and outer, arises subject to conditions, and passes subject to conditions. No thing, no idea, not a single thought, no feeling, no choice, no consciousness is except from these laws, except potentially the pure awareness beyond form and individual consciousness.

No phenomena can we claim as me and mine, no gathering of atoms, no conglomeration of beliefs, no congeries of decisions, no flow of being can we say is a self, separate and fixed from the wider flows of time and conditions. Thus there is no identity or personality or flaw that is fixed or solid, we are free to exploit the law of impermanence to change into truly beautiful beings.

If you look, all you find is flow and change, even if it seems to the ordinary mind that our body and our mind is independent and unchanging. Even if we work very hard to make it so, hope against hope, we cling to solidity and permanence, afraid of suffering, afraid of change, afraid of death.

Yet reality is reality, and deluded mind is deluded mind, fighting its losing battle with the shifting sands of life. We work so very hard to make this not true, the seemingly horrific truth that nothing can last, nothing can be ours, there is no me and mine. It would be horrific, if it didn’t contain the possibility of liberation, for the law of change makes a beautiful mind, a peaceful world, possible.

This wisdom cannot but arise with a tender heart, an opening to all of the suffering which is created by this struggle. We want to shout it out, to teach the world to let go, to stop incessantly fighting to create a safe island of me and mine. We want to show people the truth of selflessness, which is not separate from interconnectedness, which is not separate from emptiness, which is ultimately not separate from wisdom.

Image believed to be in the Public Domain
Image believed to be in the Public Domain

Experience is led by mind, preceded by mind, produced by mind…

Dhammapada

We want to sing it from the rooftops that because things don’t last, because the happiness of acquisition and ownership is a delusion, it is not worth destroying the world in their pursuit. We are wasting our lives and our world in the name of an illusion woven by craving.

We construct this world of like and dislike, of friend and foe, of inner and outer, but this is just a fault of vision, a delusion. The deluded mind can be very dangerous, driven to kill in order to protect a mirage, a vision of me, mine, family, threat, enemy, country, duty. None of it is ultimately real or true, except that people are creating it, delusions creating the reality of threat and war and killing. It doesn’t serve anyone, even for the wealthiest and the corporations who profit from such misery, it wouldn’t be enough if it were raining gold. And of course there is the law of karma, how could happiness follow such destruction, even if psychopathy restricts the suffering of an uneasy conscience.

Ultimately, even at an ordinary level, people on both sides of these manufactured wars only want the same thing; safety for their family and community, happiness, survival. They each fear the enemy, they each serve to protect, sacrifice, for the happiness of self and others. How on earth are they then so different that they should kill each other in the name of this shared vision? It is an absolute disgrace that we are all allowing this to unfold, where are the true elders the world needs?

It is tragic that delusion builds these weapons, builds these structures of massacre, not just massacre of our fellow humans but for all our fellow earthlings. We conduct slaughter on a mass scale every day, believing in some way that this is alright, that we are somehow justified in this. Wisdom, even conventional wisdom, would show that if we hurt our web of life enough, we cannot escape the consequences.

Ultimate wisdom shows that we are only hurting ourselves, there is no division between killer and killed, hunter and hunted, predator and prey. So much delusion playing out, but delusion is mind made, weapons are mind made, and with our minds we can unmake the slaughter, unmake this world of delusion, and remake it in the light of wisdom and love.

Even if the people, seeing their shared humanity, their shared loves and desires, their shared sufferings, would stop listening to the authority that tells them to kill in the name of all that is good, there would be change. Even if we could see through that basic, conventional foolishness, we would make progress. All religions teach us not to kill and harm. If we learned how to live in a way that caused no harm to living beings, then life for all beings on this earth would benefit, would flourish.

Can you not see that those we slaughter share the same elements as you, the same sentient structures, bone and sinew, eyes and mind. This man who wishes to protect his family against titanic odds. This animal, this sentient being who fears us, who cares for her young and desires only food and survival and happiness, is no different to you. If you both died together, your tears would mingle and dry, your bones and dust would be inseparable.

What right can we claim to being looked after by the natural world, what god would spare us disaster when all we do is create suffering and pollution and death? Until we do no harm, until we love all beings, why should nature preserve us as a part of her whole? If we acted responsibly, as guardians, as caretakers, as elders, then we would no longer wish to create such harm in the name of our greed and our selfishness. That wish is in the mind, it is conditioned, it is insubstantial, and it is a great relief to say that this is not I, not me, not mine. It is the same with ideas of enemy, of war, of greed, of wounding, of craving, of hatred, of ignorance, they are insubstantial, they are anatta, they are not I.

A child could see some of this truth, and yet in adapting and conforming to the structures others have made for us, we live in a way that is disconnected from truth, alienated from life, divorced from love. Love is not to be restricted to self or family, or even country or species, love is universal in its scope, infinite in its potential, and we wound love by restricting it so desperately.

I find it hard to respond to the world sometimes, as I watch people destroying each other, having festivals in which we slaughter other living, sentient earthlings for our pleasure. A world which demands we anaesthetise ourselves with alcohol or other drugs to cope with its madness, lives lived in offices earning money for companies that are destroying the earth for profit.

Greed is pedalled to us like the addictive drug it is, so that we are never satisfied, never content, always wanting more and better and brighter. If only I could make adverts which pedalled true happiness, if I could afford to (craving) I would! We have made of ourselves mindless consumers ever working in the pursuit of more, so blinded to truth that we would burn our very earth to get it.

Free Image from Pixabay
Free Image from Pixabay

There are people in the world right now killing other people through delusion. They kill people who want the same thing as them, they kill people of different religions even though both religions tell them not to kill and harm. We are killing people with the same values, the same desires, the same delusions, and it can so easily be stopped.

Can you not see why we must fly the flag of wisdom and truth, sell the dream of kindness and compassion, and start to put right what we wrong? Wisdom and compassion is the desperately needed salve for a suffering world, it is time for the sun of wisdom to dawn again.

All of these delusions, all of these depressing realities, are but conditioned arisings. This means that it all depends on a certain condition of mind, so with the changing of mind, all else can change. If we act with love, with a pure heart, happiness follows like a shadow that never departs.

We can unmake the pain of this world, we can create such a very beautiful world. We can’t change the truth of change and loss, but we can change our response, and the damage we cause by clinging and grasping to things, to self, to I. It starts with us, in our mind, and our speech, and our action. We can only create a world full of hate and greed if we have it in our minds. We can only destroy our world through greed if we cling to the delusion that happiness lies in the acquisition of things. If we believe happiness is found in the future, when we earn this or achieve that, then we will never come home to the happiness of connection with presence, wisdom, love, with gratitude, with awareness, with appreciation of the beauty of the world.

We cannot but respond to phenomena with craving or aversion if we assume a separate self in relation to phenomena, we are attracted to or repulsed by things, ideas, people and places. We want the best for I.

If we saw I as universe, there remains no push and pull relationship with life, it is all I, all one. We can come home to the pure and bright heart that is ours, clearing the mists of damage and conditioning, for a world created with that heart would be infinitely beautiful, free from hatred, free from greed, full of nothing but love.

If there were a true council of elders, in the place of institutionalised blindness and greed, what else would they have us hear?

Free Image from Pixabay
Free Image from Pixabay

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