Sunday, December 20, 2009

Biological Spirituality

I wanted to share in this essay something about "biological spirituality". Much of human spirituality has been centered around religions which have inherited a mind/body split and which have taught that the real life is somewhere else, like in heaven, after you die or shed your physical body. There are many variations of this split which influenced how we form our spiritual view and how we form our attitudes to the body. For instance, some gnostic sects and early platonists saw that our spirit, our real essence, was somehow even trapped in the body and thereby doomed to experience suffering and imperfection. Phrases like, "imprisoned splendor" were used to describe how our essence was trapped in our bodies and wanting to break free of "this mortal coil". During one phase of Egyptian spirituality, it seemed that the whole civilization was mainly trying merely to prepare for death. The Moses who started Judaism did not want the followers of his religion to live for death, but to live their life in the body for the sake of their G_d. This is why the Old Testament of the Bible hardly talks about the afterlife. It talks about "Sheol" which is a shadowy kind of half life that both saints and sinners go to when they die. Moses did not want the after-death state to be the focus of his religion, because he saw the obsession with death in Egyptian spirituality as unhealthy. There was something intrinsically valuable about life in the physical body, living ethically, fairly, and compassionately with others, and celebrating the simply joys of human life, like finding a lover partner to share your life journey with, and like finding creative work that serves and uplifts humankind and satisfies genuine needs. Moses wanted people to find it and feel that spirituality was about living here and now in the body and not about finding a "better place" when you die. Buddha, too, taught that those who follow his dharma would be "happy in this life and happy in the next". The Buddha himself attained to physical immortality through whatever he had realized, even though he chose to sacrifice his immortal body. He did this so that they would suffer less on their spiritual path and realize enlightenment more quickly and easily.

The last to obstacles that the Buddha felt a person needed to face in order to realize enlightenment he called "craving for existence" and "craving for nonexistence". The former leads us back into habitual and compulsive rebirth in a physical body and the latter leads us to age, die, and leave our bodies. The latter was later on called "the death urge" in Freudian psychology and in the Rebirthing movement. It is a psychic mass that can be felt within us and that is the sum total of all the thoughts we hold inside us that make life feel not worth living. In Rebirthing, there are "five biggies" that need to be overcome in order to fully heal and to fully go beyond aging and death. They are (1) parental disapproval syndrome, (2) birth trauma, (3) helpless infant syndrome, (4) past lifetime carry overs, and (5) your personal law. These thoughts patterns create psychosomatic disease states, including aging and death. In the Medicine Buddha Sutras, the same basic teaching is elaborated in great detail. The three poisons of the mind, craving, negativity, and delusion are seen to be the root causes of all the illnesses that the body undergoes, including the ones that seem to come from the outside. It is not that the outer causes of illness are illusory, but that they are not fundamental. The three poisons of the mind weaken our immune system and our regeneration system so that we eventually fall subject to the external illnesses. The insight of the Medicine Buddha Sutra actually explains why the enlightenment of the Buddha allows his body to move beyond aging and death. The point of the discourse is to show, step by step, how aging and death are psychosomatic illnesses which will end when their underlying mental cause is felt and released.

When seen in this light, the body is seen to have been blamed for what it never did. It has never been the root cause for its own illnesses. The body has been an effect of our karmaic process and not the cause of our sorrows. Viewed from the standpoint of our individual karmaic journey, our thoughts and deeds have set in motion the karmas that our body must endure. Then we have blamed the body for being weak, frail, crude, limited, and painful. We then feel trapped in the body and want to escape to a better life, rather than to own that we caused the body condition or life condition that we have, owning this process, and making our life better. In this view, every illness we undergo is an opportunity to process and release some karma so that we can live a healthy, loving, and happy life. The illness did not appear out of nowhere, but was the lawful result of causes and conditions we set into motion in the past. Everything that has happened to us is the return of old karmaic seeds that were planted in the past or in some past life. If we accept this, then when adversity happens we can see it as a "good thing", because some old karma has ripened and can completely come to an end. We can also enter a path of "accelerated transformation" and burn away more karma more quickly through meditation practice.

The viewpoint of physical immortality revises the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path very slightly. The Buddha had taught that death was inevitable, partly so that people could face their craving for existence and let it go. The more advanced teaching of physical immortality is taught partly so that people could face their craving for nonexistence and let it go. Death is relatively inevitable, given the karmas that people have set into motion to create their lives. If people do not live differently than they have in the past, then they are destined to age and die. There is a similar tweak in physics. Newton taught that F=MA (force equals mass times acceleration). After Einstein discovered E=MCsquared, Newton's equation was tweaked to F=MvA (force equals mass with respect to velocity time acceleration). In other words, aging, death, bardo, and rebirth are inevitable to ego consciousness, but when the ego is transcended then aging and death are also transcended. In page 384 of A COURSE IN MIRACLES, there is an interesting verse that goes, "If the mind is fully healed, the body will not die" (It seems that the verse was later editted out of some editions, a careful comparison of certain texts will show a few verses omitted in some editions). The word "mind" is used in the Course to refer to both the conscious and subconscious minds and attributes all illness to some part of the mind that is holding an unloving thought which when released will allow the illness to be healed. Because it is not inevitable that we have an ego conscousness, aging and death are not inevitable.

Inspite of the desire for people to go to a "better place" when they die, it seems that people do keep on reincarnating in life conditions similar to the ones that they have left behind in their previous life. Perhaps we keep on reincarnating into bodies because that is where we are meant to live and perhaps we keep on reincarnating into bodies until we learn how not to age them and not to kill them, and then later on learn how to gently mutate our physical body into a light body.

The main difference in view of the older spirituality and the biological spirituality that I am proposing is that the body is not being blamed for what has happened to it. The deeper cause has been in our minds. We have repressed emotions into the muscle tissues of our bodies so that we do not feel them and then have gotten sick from this. The body is blamed, microbes are blamed, evil people are blamed, the space time fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden is blamed, but we do not see our input into the condition of our bodies. When this higher view of the body is embraced, then we can take responsibility for our health, prosperity, happiness, and lifespan, rather than see ourselves as a victim of adverse external conditions. All this is interesting because the Course mentioned has another verse, "Forgiveness offers everything I want." If we take forgiveness as the release of blame, then it allows us to re-own the power to heal our lives.

On a larger scale, life on Earth is meant to become a Pure Land. Rather than expect to go to a Pure Land when we die, we commit to healing the Earth to the point where it once again becomes a Pure Land. When we learn how to do this, then we will have learned in our bodies everything we need to know to be truly happy. We include our body in our spiritual path and learn to "take the body with us". Many Tibetan Yogis did take their bodies with them. The teaching of kosen rufu is that eventually there will be a mass awakening to enlightenment by humanity and then world peace will be the result. Within the interdependence of humans with each other, harmony will appear and gradually evolve into world peace. The life condition of humans will be raised to the point where all aging, all death, all poverty, all disease, all emotional pain, and all wars will end. According to the Nicherin Buddhist sects, this will happen when a certain "critical mass" of humanity gets fully awakened and lives enlightened compassion towards each other and towards everyone. I do feel that they are correct about this eventually happening and this will complete the purpose of the Buddha when he taught his dharma on Earth. The insight that I feel me and others have is that it will include physical immortality and light translation. When this happens, too, we will see that the Buddha did not ever really leave the Earth, but is still present in a light body teaching advanced students the higher aspects of his dharma and preparing them to be world servers to help further evolve humankind. Many others, too, who did not get as well known as the Buddha, who lived a more anonymous spiritual life, will be found to have transcended aging and death, attained a light body, and who are still here serving humanity in a physical body or light body.

Babaji, who attained physical immortality (soruba samadhi) in the year 800 CE and who lives near Badrinath, India, one time said, "Few understand that the kingdom of G_d extends to the Earth plane." What he meant by this was that the usual world of ordinary material events and our life on Earth is a perfect place to fully live our spiritual life. It is not meant to be merely a place to pay our karmaic dues and then leave to some truly spiritual place where nothing bad ever happens. It is not meant to be merely a testing ground to see if we can be tempted to sin and when we learn not to get into temptation then we graduate to where the real living in heaven is. In many versions of the spiritual life, there is always some other place without our bodies where the real life is being lived. But what Babaji is trying to say is that the omnipresent energy which has unconditional love, intuitive wisdom and infinite creativity permeates all worlds, blesses them, and includes them in its dominion as a valid place to fully live life. Earth is part of this and therefore can fully express the infinite potential of this energy field. This is no place anywhere that is not like this. And if our karmas make this less so than what it could be, then when we go to another place our karmas will manifest there also and recreate what we are expressing and processing on Earth. When our afflicted karmas are finished, then our Earth life will also express a healed, healthy, happy, and pure life.

In my own spiritual life and meditation life, I did reach a point where past lifetime memories began to flood me. It was like an amnesia fading away and a deeper and more natural memory system slowly started to rebuild itself. This seemed to happen after my enlightenment experience and after a certain portion of present lifetime issue processing had happened. It seems that part of the reincarnation process does involve forgetting our past lifetimes so that we can concentrate in living in the physical here and now of our present lifetime. When remembering more of our past lifetimes is useful again, then a gate opens up inside us and we start to remember our past lifetimes and this keeps on expanding to include more and more lifetimes and memories. What usually arises first is memories of very traumatic experiences which need to be relived and reprocessed so that their imprint on our consciousness does not limit us or cause us sorrow anymore. What also arises first are very exalted states where we have touched deep truths about the nature of reality and life. My most cherished memories have to do with meeting the Buddha when taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path and then later on when he channelled the Heart Sutra to Earth through a very slow and long chant. I still remember his eyes in a "third eye lock" (physical eyes turned towards his third eye) and intoning syllable after syllable, very slowly and with great reverberation, in Sanskrit. There are some Theravadin scholars who do not believe that he sourced the Heart Sutra, but I do remember it. I later found some Mahayana scholars who shared oral transmissions of the same event and eventually wrote down these handed down testimonies. Being the son of a king, Buddha would have learned more than one language and did not know merely Pali. This would not have allowed him to reach as many people as he was reputed to have reached in his dharma teaching lifetime. The historical accounts that I later found, after having the memories, do agree fairly well, though the memories I hold have more detail. Both of them remember many of the senior monks going into shock about what he was sharing, since he seemed to negate the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path (even though he taught from the beginning that the "raft is not the shore" and that when you reach the other shore of enlightenment you are meant to abandon the raft, in another sermon he likened his dharma teachings to medicine that you take and when fully healed you throw the medicine away to truly live again).

There is a different feeling of life when a person remembers his or her past lifetimes, remembers more than a few random and isolated past lifetime memories. One metaphor that I found useful to decribe it is imagining that you have always lived on an island, and a fairly small island at that. Then one day someone takes you up in a helicopter and goes really high up. From this vantage point you see that the island which seemed so big when you merely lived walking about its surface is actually very small and then you see that your island is one of many many islands. Even if you go back to living on your small island, it will never quite be the same again. You live your life on your small island with a living memory of a larger picture of what reality is about. You know that there are other islands with other people living on them. In a similar way, there are things that you notice and feel when past lifetime memories flood into consciousness enough to feel a larger temporal landscape. This larger temporal landscape can even include possible future lifetimes. These future memories come from aspects of consciousness that act like scouts probing possible futures and reporting back what could happen. We sometimes feel these scouts reporting back when we get an uneasy feeling about going somewhere and sometimes when we go anyway we are not surprised when something painful or unusual happens.

One thing that happens when you interact with others from this larger temporal landscape is that you understand that human beings are on a journey together. Even though there are exchanges, where animals and aliens become humans, and visa versa, there is a mass of humans which reincarnate, lifetime after lifetime, back into the human community. We meet again and again with each other, build our lives together and grow together. What I have also noticed is that many people operate more on past lifetime memory than they realize. We often have strong reactions to meeting people for the first time. Much of this is not from prejudices, but from having met people before. There are people who feel familiar to us. Very often we remember having met them earlier in this lifetime to confirm that we met them before. Other times, there is an earlier meeting from a previous lifetime. Very often our past lifetime memories, and even our present lifetime memories, do not operate with tremendous detail and precision. Our memories are often jumbled up with our reflections about them, with our wishes, with a certain amount of blurring of detail and even some actual forgetting, and sometimes we can remember something very vividly and bring the whole event back to life for us.

What I can see from this vantage point is that many of the people who believed in other lifetimes that they would die and go to heaven forever are back here on Earth. They have believed that they could escape and leave the Earth in other lifetime, done death rituals in other lifetimes to go to heaven, to all kinds of paradise worlds, and many other places according to all kinds of belief systems that the many planetary religions have had. Some of these religions have been more scientific than others about this, and perhaps there is enough of an element of truth in all of them to give some real preparation for the bardo journey, the movement of our energy body between death and rebirth, and give us some options about where and when to reincarnate and how. What determines our rebirth is partly past lifetime karmas, partly external support, and partly conscious intention, much the way we create our present lifetime on Earth. But it seems that life does not function in extremes, but moves forward, hopefully with each lifetime generally better than the one before, with some occasional situations where some adverse karma ripens and causes us much trauma and causes us to start over again. We usually do not leap to super blissful heaven worlds, except in "flash forward" visits of where we may eventually abide in when our inner work has matured enough. We also do not fall into super horrible hell worlds and stay there forever. Our heavens and hells tend to be temporary. Life constantly changes and evolves. I think this is because life is bigger than its heavens and hells.

What is felt is that there is a reason we keep choosing to reincarnate on Earth and in a physical body. We feel that this is where our real growth is and keep choosing to continue here in a physical body. I think also that if more people recovered this kind of sense of their life on Earth that it would shift things. We would focus more on building our lives on Earth, focus more on creating peace on Earth, focus more on creating peace, forgiveness, and harmony with each other, focus more on making survival easier to do for all of us, and focus more on wishing that each of us live healthy, happy, and pure lives. I think that there would be less energy around trying to get rich by taking too much from others, less energy about feeling some us versus them orientation, since the alliances of different lifetimes changes (some do remain the same), and less energy about getting angry with certain people and staying angry with them. We begin to understand that we are already living our eternal life right here and right now, and that it is already a mix of eternal heaven and eternal hell, and that our present choices, future intentions, and past life karmas are already shaping our lives, and that this is how it will always be.

I think there is also a time when the cycle of birth, life, aging, death, bardo, and rebirth is shed, when it no longer is needed. Part of when that cycle is transcended is when we learn how to value our life in the body in the right way and learn how to not kill off one physical body after another. If you assume that our physical body is like a vehicle, like a car that gets us around, then we can run our car into the ground and get another one, or we can take care of our car and have it serve us for a very long time. Like cars, a human body can last a very long time or get treated roughly and burn out quickly. A lot has to do with the kind of care and attention that we give it. Unlike a car, though, which can only change by us removing old parts and getting new ones, our bodies are self regenerating and self evolving. One interesting story that appears in the Hadith is where Allah shows Mohamed the mysteries and wonders of the universe in a vast vision. Mohamed is awed by what he sees, and then Allah says, "And I have created the physical body even more marvelous than all this." Inside the body there are mysteries waiting to be discovered, inside the genetic code are patterns and processes than can bring forth all kinds of latent abilities. Deeper than the genetic code there are quantum levels of information and creative potentials that are even deeper and vaster than this, and which are constantly getting upgraded as we all learn. We have not fully reflected on the physical body and its mysteries, so we are not fully in touch with them and feel them. Yet, for instance, inside the genetic code is enough information to make our best libraries seem very small in terms of what is held there. Inside our brains is enough processing power to make the most advanced computers look very crude. We take one cell, a zygote, place it in a female womb, and it grows into a full human adult in 25 years. Something so small that we need microscope to see it becomes one of us. We get a cut and within a few moments it is sealed and then in a few months even the fingerprint lines around the cut are lined up again with the rest of the skin. Inside these mysteries is enough regenerative power, that if harnessed wisely, supported with a good diet, supported with breathing well, supported with living a compassionate, wise, and creative life, can regenerate us. My feeling is that this is the direction that we are meant to grow into and as we do, we will find a "light body" inside all these processes and actively creating our physical body and its life. There is a Buddhist scholar that I studied who did understand how physical immortality was implied in the Buddhist teachings and who shared a key in a sentence, "The root of the physical body is eternal." I hope to share something more about this later on. But perhaps one can get some feeling about this from what has been shared so far.

This leads again to something I wish to share in this context. It seems that Americans are very success and status oriented. They also seem more shame driven and goal driven than I sometimes think they understand. I have noticed a kind of fear of failure that often looms behind a lot of their activity, a fear of not achieving enough, of not being a good enough mother, of not being a good enough father, of not making enough, of ending up poor and homeless, etc. There is some basic goodness to this process, but often there is a lot of pain and sorrow behind all this which is not necessary. When I sometimes share about physical immortality, there is a belief that it is very hard to do and therefore why try. Being a personal scientist, I cannot say that it is hard to do and therefore not worth trying. This is because something can only be considered hard if a whole lot of people commit to doing something, put a lot of energy and intention into making it happen, and then mostly fail in this process. I have found that very few people I have met have made a commitment to regenerate their physical bodies to this point. It is definitely less than 1 percent of the people that I know and meet each day. The people that I know and meet have done a lot of things that are somewhat hard to do, like build a house, birth and raise a child into adulthood, create a business, grow veggies in a garden, etc. These people have a right to say that some of these things are hard to achieve, because they have tried and found the level of effort needed is a lot (though I think that life can also be lived in ease and grace, and everything we wish to do does not have to be felt as being hard to do, and we are meant to learn how to do this). But when no one is trying, then it is really not objective to call doing whatever it is easy or hard. Physical immortality gets this judgment about it being hard or impossible, with a lot of people believing, without doing any real research about the subject, thinking that there is not enough evidence for it. I would like to invite people to really look at what is going on there and to see how much comes from projection from beliefs, emotions, and opinions, and how much is really there. I also find it interesting how many people "do not want to be here forever" because they feel it is not a great place to live. This is very revealing that people will say this when in another context they will talk about being "happy, successful, and fulfilled" because that is the hip and cool thing to believe you have done with your Earthly life. I do think the world would be a lot better if people knew that they were always coming back. I think people would be less inclined to trash this world if they knew they were going to come back here and live in whatever they have made before they left. I think the reason why the planet is still worth living in is that because the Earth itself has tremendous regenerative power and heals a lot of what we do to it, and our bodies emerge from the Earth and have this same power.

The reason why I have committed to physical immortality has to do with feeling a truth about life in the body and life on Earth. It is based on an insight into the nature of life itself and how it is meant to be lived. It is based on how our mind, heart, and body function as a unity and how thoughts and emotions affect our bodies, and what happens when we learn to loving and kind with our bodies and our life on Earth. Whether I succeed or not in achieving physical immortality or proving it to others is less important than living a truth about life in the body right here and right now. I have already been rewarded for living this truth. It has already come back to me a thousandfold in terms of greater aliveness, greater compassion for the sorrows of others, greater ability to heal more disease conditions, and more understanding about the worthwhileness of life to be lived. I find that in some sense that I only really know something when the very cells of my body get it, that merely intellectual knowledge is not real knowing (though it can be a part of real knowing). But when we get something in our bodies, then we really get it. Getting it in our bodies means learning it in the thick of our lived lives on Earth.

1 comment:

  1. I tried to find the passage in A COURSE IN MIRACLES mentioned above. Because I want to document everything well, if possible. When I was studying the Course, I had an earlier edition where certain verses had not yet been edited out. It was the second edition and beyond that seems to have become the official version. There have been some people who showed an even earlier edition that the one I had, which never went into publication, and which Ken Wapnick had edited extensively, even changing the voice from 1st person to 3rd person. But the section where the verse, "If the mind is fully healed, the body will not die" was in the section called, "Obstacles to Peace", subsection, "The attraction of death" (aka the death urge), subsection, "The Incorruptible Body" (aka a body that does not age and die). You can see from this section that the omitted verse would fit in. Here is a small section from the chapter in question:

    "T-19.IV.C.5. You have another dedication that would keep the body incorruptible and perfect as long as it is useful for your holy purpose. 2 The body no more dies than it can feel. 3 It does nothing. 4 Of itself it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. 5 It is nothing. 6 It is the result of a tiny, mad idea of corruption that can be corrected. 7 For God has answered this insane idea with His Own; an Answer which left Him not, and therefore brings the Creator to the awareness of every mind which heard His Answer and accepted It.

    T-19.IV.C.6. You who are dedicated to the incorruptible have been given through your acceptance, the power to release from corruption. 2 What better way to teach the first and fundamental principle in a course on miracles than by showing you the one that seems to be the hardest can be accomplished first? 3 The body can but serve your purpose. 4 As you look on it, so will it seem to be. 5 Death, were it true, would be the final and complete disruption of communication, which is the ego's goal."

    The language of the Course is very theistic, but I think it can be decoded into the more nontheistic language of Buddhism and have some relevant things to share. One of the interesting points in the section is how what we are afraid of is something that we are attracted to and this is what holds the fear in place in our lives. This process, in the mind, is what needs to be released in order for our bodies to not be subject to corruption (aka decay and death).