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Does Happiness Have a Plan?

The following is from Rupert Spira, a wonderful Advaita Vedanta teacher.

May all beings be happy, may all  beings be at peace.


Julli: Is Presence just a big data bank, or does it have a purpose/plan for all this manifestation of its?

Rupert: ‘A big data bank’ is one of an infinite number of ideas or images that Presence, out of its freedom, is able totake.

We all know that the ultimate purpose in life is love, peace and happiness. That is why everyone seeks them.

Love, peace and happiness are inherent in the Knowing of Being. In fact they are the Knowing of Being.

In other words love, peace and happiness are present as the origin and substance of all appearances, so it cannot be said that the purpose of appearances is to acquire them. They are already present!

It is only a thought that rises up and imagines that Presence is not present, and therefore that love, peace and happiness are not present. With this thought the seamless Oneness of Presence seems to become two things, an entity and a world.

From that moment onwards the apparent entity is condemned to searching in the apparent world for the lost love, peace and happiness, and makes of this search a great mission, purpose or plan. It then imagines that this purpose or plan must be inherent in Consciousness. It is not. It is in the mind alone. The drama in the film is for the image not for the TV screen.

So if we think we are a separate entity, the purpose or plan is to find love, peace and happiness. However, as soon as it become clear that we are not a separate entity, it is simultaneously realized that the ultimate achievement of the apparent person’s purpose or plan is already present prior to and during all appearances, as their origin and substance. It is not achieved as a result of any of the mind’s projects. It is revealed when the mind’s projects are dissolved. In fact it is the mind’s projects that veil the love, peace and happiness. At the same time these projects are inevitable as long as we consider ourselves to be a person.

In other words, Presence knows itself as the love, peace and happiness that is the source and substance of all appearances whilst for the apparent person, love, peace and happiness are their destiny.

That is, for Consciousness there is no purpose or plan. For the apparent person there is a purpose or a plan. In fact the apparent person doesn’t have a plan; it IS a plan. The apparent person IS the search for happiness. Presence is the happiness it is searching for.

How could happiness have a plan? It is already that for which all plans are made.


Time and Space

Because space and I are not different,

wherever I go,

that will be the place

where I am already present.

                                                                             Nisargadatta Maharaj

Because what we are and time

are not different,

everything that ever happens

is expressing our very Being.


For God So Loved the World

John 3 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that who so ever believes in him will not perish, but will have ever lasting life.” Who ever believes in Christ’s spirit, in the unconditional love that he prayed would flow through him to all of God’s sons and daughters, will realize spirit that isn’t born and will never die.

How many times have we heard about the deep unconditional love, and support of the spirit of inter being? It was never born, there was never a time it wasn’t right here, and there will never be a time that it isn’t right here, it knows no death. We are the sons and daughters born of that which was never born and will never die. For the source, or God, so loves us that she gave us to the world, is always giving us to existence, that we might freely awaken all hearts to the one deathless and timeless heart of the spirit of creation.

The power that creates all the galaxies, all time and space, gave us birth out of her love and infinite joy. Can it not be the truth? Where can the separation between what we think we are, and the reality of this spirit be found? Reality is always right here. Being reality, how can it not be here? Being as we are, we know that we are, how can we not be here? How can we not be reality? How can we not be the full expression of reality, right here, right now, just as we are?

Are we not here to bring the realization of the unborn into the world, so the world can be redeemed? Are we not here to offer everything to the timeless boundless nature, and so redeem all suffering so it can be seen as it really is? To see it as it really is, is to see it free of all labels, free of all confinement, free of all separation from the loving source of awareness itself. We are here to offer all of it to the Great Mystery, which transforms into the great affirmation of reality itself..

Our souls are not ours, they are God’s. We don’t know what they are, we only know that they are. Conscious breathing is the anchor in the center of experience, the energy allows everything to float free in the love of spirit. Feelings are like clouds in the sky; constantly dissolving, constantly moving, sights, sounds, and thoughts are also like this. They don’t belong to anyone but the unknowable. The unknowable is the true nature of reality. The unknowable is what we actually are.  We are unknowable, but we are.

The mysterious nature of experience is never more or less mysterious, no matter what type of experience we’re experiencing. This freedom from conceptual knowing expresses the full aliveness of spirit, which is always with us. We’re always experiencing THIS, freedom itself.  Gradually we learn we don’t gain or lose anything from experience, we are actually experiencing the innate freedom of spirit again and again in ever new forms. And realizing there is nothing to gain or lose, we learn to let go of our agendas with regard to experience.

As we are, we are the truth, what other truth could there ever be besides things as they are. When we understand this, things are as they are. When we don’t understand this, things are as they are. Reality, things as they are, includes all ideas that things could be different than they are. But things are still as they are, the love of it all is eternally being given to us, the sons and daughters of the spirit. As the sons and daughters of spirit we are always being invited to spread this love everywhere, awakening all beings to things as they are.


The Dharma of Dogs

I was visiting my sister in Boulder a couple of months ago, and in a bookstore I saw a book titled the Dharma of Dogs. The subtitle is ‘our best friends as spiritual teachers’. The dog on the cover has an uncanny resemblance to my black lab Bruno, especially in the deep peace and unconditional acceptance that shines through their eyes.  I heartily recommend the book to all dog lovers on the path.

I love Bruno and Bruno loves me, sometimes I say it verbally to him though there is no need to do so. We both feel it in our hearts. When I’m alone with Bruno, I feel a deeper connection with the inner spiritual teacher, some like to call this our guru, or our original face. We sit outside together for an hour every day that we can, and this is a very special time for us. It’s a beautiful setting with the surrounding forest, it’s always a time for us to commune in a deeper way with nature.

It feels like outside with Bruno there is a higher vibrational energy that permeates my being, and when Bruno softly licks my hands and gazes lovingly into my eyes, I know that energy is what we actually are, and that we actually are love. All of my dogs lived for love, all dogs do. People do also, but we get distracted and confused about the main point. In these special moments with Bruno, it’s like he’s saying see? It really is all about love.

The most beautiful thing about Bruno isn’t his beautiful black shiny fur, or his bright eyes both of which make him a most handsome animal. The most beautiful thing about him is his loving heart. He’s totally in the here and now, he has no plans, and doesn’t care how successful I am, how well I get along with others, or if I’m enlightened or not. I feel that non judgmental acceptance, and we just bask in the freedom from all confines of thinking.

Nisargadatta says ‘Being free of attachment to thought in the waking state is the deepest devotion.’ That’s an extremely exhalted state for almost all human beings. For a dog like Bruno, it his natural condition 24/7. Meister Eckhart saw every creature as the Word of God. Who teaches and exemplifies that for us better than our own loyal dogs, living in simplicity and delight, reveling enthusiastically in the senses as in eternity, while loving the one who feeds them? A spiritual master gives himself to whatever the moment brings. He doesn’t think about his actions, they just flow naturally from the core of his being. Who better exemplifies this than a dog bounding after a ball or rolled up sock?

Bruno is the best kid dog I’ve ever known. My boys have been with him for about 4 and a half years, and he’s done such a wonderful job of being their play mate with unfailing devotion and the deepest love. In the spiritual context, devoted means one with. When I see how completely relaxed and devoted Bruno is in being intimate with my children, I know he’s teaching them things about the oneness of all life, about loyalty,  and unconditional devotional acceptance in ways I know I’m still lacking.

I remember a very wise friend said once in a discussion about dogs and spirituality: It’s people who tell us that dogs aren’t enlightened.



Gratitude and Great Fullness

The world of suffering and discrimination is filled with the light of the rising sun

–The Refuge Chant

In Zen, gratitude is an important devotional practice. We can find a context for gratitude–which can make our practice come alive–by contemplating one of our Zen ancestors, Dogen Zenji’s sayings from The Shobogenzo: “When one attains the Way, the Way is always left to the Way.”  When the Way is left to the Way, there is no need to add anything, seek anything or move away from anything that is happening. We are totally immersed in the Way, with the vitality of awareness. The Way is also called the great emptiness or the great fullness. The great fullness is so full that we cannot find anything separate from it. We cannot find any thing at all.

Brother David Steindl-Rast describes gratefulness as great fullness. We are grateful that the Great Spirit shares its great fullness of life with us.  When we learn to receive the depth of this fullness, we simultaneously realize we can’t find our separate ego.  The ego can be thought of as a cipher, huge as an ocean within us that sucks up almost all of  our energy.  What a relief to release some of that pent-up energy and offer it to the universal heart we all share.  As profound as our offering, so inexhaustible is the gratitude of our true self for our willingness offer our lives to it. With enormous fullness,  spirit receives our offerings.

When we realize this, in the depth of our being we feel that all of our experience is welcomed as expressions of the wholeness of life. Realizing we are always unconditionally welcomed, we learn to welcome life unconditionally.

Of course there are some events we cannot summon up gratitude for; but these are truly opportunities to open up as much as we can to the great fullness. Regardless of our limitations, the spirit is just as thankful for our best efforts. From the viewpoint of the Buddhas or spirit itself, their fullness includes our limitations. We only need to cultivate the ability to see our catastrophes as opportunities.

So we leave the Way to the Way. And we can be grateful that the Way leaves us to us.  The sun is an equal opportunity provider, rising each morning, shining on everything with its peaceful warmth, revealing everything just as it is. Likewise the light of the Way shines equally on all its creations, leaving us to us. As we learn to expose ourselves more and more to the gifts of this life, we gradually realize our oneness. We realize that in leaving us to us, the Way offers us everything. Everything is filled with the light of the rising sun.

As we offer our own deluded fears and desires to the Buddhas, to the Great Spirit, we express our willingness to let them go.  By letting go, we are saying we no longer reside in them. How easy it is to assume we have accomplished this as a result of many long hours and years of contemplative meditation and prayer.  While our devotions do aid us greatly in deepening the ability to let go– absorbing ourselves in the mystery–we often delude ourselves into thinking we have arrived. Or that we have come further than we have.

When I look at the way I grab onto my ideas of how things should be, how I indulge my complaining mind, I frequently remind myself of an old Confucian saying: “When you see admirable behavior, emulate it. When you see despicable behavior, look at yourself.”  When a person repels us, that person only symbolizes a part of ourselves we do not like. Then we can be grateful for the opportunity to discover this, even though we are learning something we do not necessarily want to learn.

To the Buddhas, our indulgence in selfish behavior is an expression of the universal activity, nothing more, nothing less. They love it no more nor less than our feverish early morning devotional observances.

To the extent we are able to leave the Way to the Way, our patterns of denial are pushed out into the open air, awaiting our discovery.  Then we can more deeply look at our patterns of stinginess– how we do not want to see that we withhold ourselves from what is. Yet here is an opportunity to look at how we still build protective walls around ourselves, engaging and maintaining them, separating ourselves from others.

Let our gratitude extend to the opportunities presented by others. Let us see how upset and frustrated we still become when someone offends us in a way that pushes our buttons of pain and fear. Let us see how taking offense is the same as giving offense. So we can cultivate a spirit of thank-you-very-much for providing this opportunity, painful as it may be.  And thank you very much, Spirit, for providing others with a chance to give us these opportunities.  Thank you very much, Spirit, for giving us a way to overcome our fears of exposure to the great unknown. Thank you, Spirit, for giving others the opportunity to receive the gift of our response.  May they learn also to heed Confucius’ advice, and in their anger or denial, look to themselves.