"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Reward of Desire: Grist for the mill

The Reward of Desire
Grist for the mill

By Ram Dass

   If you watch the patterns of your desire systems and mind, the end of your day goes something like:  "I think I'll take a nap.  Gee, I'd like a cup of tea.  How about a cigarette with that?  I'm gonna listen to that music.  What are we going to have for dinner?  What do you want for dessert, ice cream?  I'm gonna have some coffee.  What's on television?  No, let’s go bowling.  Bicycle?  Great.  Ice cream soda?  Let's go home.  Okay.  Want to go to bed?  Okay.  Ah great.  Got a cigarette?  On and on and in the middle of your main course, you're already thinking about what you'll have for dessert. 

The way you deal with this game is by constantly keeping the things going by fast,  like a sleight-of-hand trick.  Knowing that none of them will last, you figure that enough of them with small enough spaces in between will keep the rush going.  Rush after rush after rush.  But it's like building a house on sand--you can't stop because it gets a little frustrating if you stop.  If those spaces in between get too big, there is depression, confusion, disorientation, anger, loneliness, self-pity, unworthiness.  Such stuff! Yech!  So keep it coming Ma. More and more and more. 

 But it turns out that Christ was right when he said, "Lay not up your treasures where moth and rust doth corrupt and thieves break in."  Buddha was right when he said, "The cause of suffering is craving,  craving after things that are not permanent, and nothing is permanent.”  So if you cling to anything which is in form you're going to suffer.  That was Buddha's point. 

What is blue chip, that you can invest in, that you can stop feeling frightened about? Your body?  Your body is decaying at this very minute.  Even the youngest person here is decaying.  Fifty or sixty years from now, you know where your body will be, what it will look like?  And your intellect?  All that knowledge you collected?  Did you ever see a skull and consider what's been eaten away and who ate it?  And do you know what that emptiness is?  That's everything you think you know.  No wonder you are frightened.  If you’re thinking you're your thinking mind or that you're your body it's panic.

From 12:00 to 6:00 is the increasing hope that you can get it all together, get it all together, get it to feel just right.  But there's a scariness because you are trying to do it in a dimension that exists in time where everything changes, you're going to lose everything.  At the very least you’re going to die.  As a philosophical materialist--not a materialist in a gold Cadillac, but one who is attached to the senses and intellect, and what you can think about--you are afraid because when you are dead, you're dead.  As you get closer to dying, you start to get very frightened and you start to push pretty hard.  You say, "Doctor, you've got new pills, use them, do anything, save me, freeze-dry me, do anything, I don't want to die," and grab and hold the bedsheets and pay more and more and get more and more hysterical and get into intensive care units and keep alive even if they have to transplant everything.  But no matter how hard you try, suddenly you're dead.  

And then a voice says to you, "Hello." If you're a philosophical materialist, this leads you to say, "I guess I didn't die."  To which the voice replies, "Oh yes, you did." Just an example, at one point buddha with his clear vision looked back and saw his last ninety-nine thousand incarnations.  And that was only a trivial amount of them.  Birth-death-rebirth-redeath-, on and on. 

Now, in the early period, say between 12:00 and 3:00 every time you die you're so caught in your own attachments to your senses and your mind, you're so deep in the illusion, that when somebody says you're dead, you deny it and stay in total confusion until you get sent into the next round.  which is all you will see, perfectly designed.  Later as you get on with this round of births and deaths, you realize your predicament.  You are under the veil of illusion of your birth--you don't want to die, then you're dead and you say, "Far out, there goes another one."  At this point you look around and you see your old mothers and fathers and friends.  "Oh, my God you were my wife this time, last time you were my brother. 

When you're more conscious you share in the understanding of where you are situated on the clock, in the round of birth and death.  You begin to see exactly what the next birth has to do from a karmic point of view, what is has to work out.  And when you design the next birth, you say, "Well, I think I should be born into a lower-class in New York City, and then around ten I think I should get raped, that would be useful for that particular samskara, that deeply imbedded mental impression, that I've been working out from four thousand births back.  Let's see.  I'll have my first child when I'm eighteen," etc., etc.  You design it all the way through -- up until how you'll die.  You've run it all through the computer, the right parents come together, the right combinations have come up, comes the moment of birth.  And there you go.  You dive back down in. 

Some being enter this trip at the moment of conception, others at the moment of birth--the baby comes into the world and has that kind of stoned out look, like what the hell am I doing here?  Like and old lama who has been born, say, in the Bronx, and he would like to bless everybody but he can't get it to work.  The ones that entered in at the moment of conception are busy being babies already.  "Waaaaaa, give me." Those that come in stoned, because the veil hasn't shut down yet, are most of the time around parents who are busy inside the veil saying, "You're a baby,  you're a baby.  Goo-goo, look at the little baby."  Pretty soon you buy it.  and there you are again.  On and on and on and on. 

Until something interesting happens at 6:00 o'clock, or one minute past six.  Up until then, in every birth you've gone back into the illusion that you are this body, you are this thinking mind, you are these senses.  Everything you think you could get is what you can sense and think about, what you're grabbing, looking out and down.  Grabbing and grabbing and then suddenly at one birth there is a moment when the veil parts albeit for just a second and you stick your nose through and you say, "Wow, it isn't how I thought it was at all."  Maybe the veil parted for a millisecond, but that was all it took if you were ready.  The veil is parting all the time for everybody, but most of the time you Karma is so heavy, and you're so used to the view, that you're not ready, so that the minute you do see through you immediately deny it or push it away as hard as you can. 

Recently I read in New York Times magazine an article on "Mysticism in America" which said that two-fifths of the population of the United States has had a genuine mystic transcendent experience, which means they saw through the veil.  In sampling that two-fifths of the population, eighty-five percent said, "It was the greatest experience of my life but never want to have it again."  Of course not, because look at how it screws up the apple cart.  If you've built a whole universe around being somebody and suddenly you see that that isn't who you are at all, what then?

But what is the condition necessary so that the moment comes when you see through the veil in a way that changes everything from then on so that from 6:01 to 12:00 your whole journey changes its meaning?  The condition necessary for that to happen is that despair, the realization that everything you think you can do to create perfection isn't going to be enough.  That who you are and who you think you are is where the problem lies.  It leads to a deep despair that is absolutely the necessary condition for you to look up at that moment.  Once you have seen and know you have seen, you can never go totally back to sleep again.  Even through many, many more birth from 6:01 to 12:00--you can never fully forget.  You are starting to be drawn back to twelve o'clock. 

I'm talking about a clock of births and deaths which is all in time, which is all an illusion or relatively real, but we're just working with this illusion for a moment.  The nature of the beings in tune with these words are by definition after six o'clock.  Otherwise there'd be no reason for you to have read this far.  Maybe you're a 4:13, but why would you put up with this long rap then when you could be out getting more which is better.  But you know something and you're trapped in what you know and look at what it's led you to.  And it gets worse; that's what's so far out about it: 

Once you start at one minute past six the return journey to 12:00, you're trying to grab at experiences that are going to get you back.  You're going to collect new experiences that are called "getting high"  You come down from something and you treat that down as the time between the last time you got high and the next time when once again you'll get on with your journey to God or back to 12:00 or whatever you want to call it.  As the experimental clock ticks on you keep developing in your understanding of how it's all working, and you begin to recognize a peculiar phenomenon that, as C. S. Lewis points out, "You don't see the center of the universe because it's all center."  That you, in fact, are the center of a universe which has been designed perfectly in order to awaken you out of the illusion and that every experience you have is equally valid grist for the mill of awakening.  Your whole incarnation is the teaching. 

Next you begin to realize that although they are all equal in teaching quality, some of your experiences seem to shake you more than others, that the model which you are stuck in, sometimes so subtly you don't even know it, is shaken by pain and suffering and the negative qualities.  At that point you recognize the bizarre phenomenon that suffering is grace.  Now that's heavy.  Because up until that time you've been trying to optimize pleasure and minimize pain.  When you realize that in its fullest dimension, you may still live to optimize pleasure and minimize pain but whatever comes down the pike is all right.  "Boy am I depressed.  Far out.  Now, there's depression."  Until finally "There's pleasure." "There's pain." "I just make a thousand dollars.  Wow." Or, "Oh, I just got robbed."  And the "Wow" and the "Oh" and the "Ah" and the "Uhh," all of these alternative are just more stuff, beautiful, delightful stuff.  This incarnation is the absolutely optimal one which you must be in now in order to do what needs to be done, or have done through you what need to done, in order to bring you home, bring you Aum, or out or in.  It's happening weather you know it or not.  But as you know it, it changes it, that's part of it, that's all karma too. 

Along around 10:00 or 11:00 you're going into other planes of reality in your meditation or however, and they are equally as real as the plane that you started this incarnation in.  You don't quite understand where you're at, sometimes you get confused, it's very uneven and complicated work.  But if you're really aiming at perfected truth, you move at a rate at which you can keep it all perfectly together.  You work for the perfect balance of the different planes. 

At one minute past six you started to look up and got so fascinated with what you started see you couldn't take your eyes off it, and forgot to look down and you fell on your face.  You started to study the "absolute truth of raw God," and you got so fascinated with the impersonal perfections of the universe beyond all polarities, you were so involved in the icy cold impersonality of it all that you kept stepping on things and you looked and said, "Well so what, it's all perfect."  But you learned the simple rule of the game is that as long as you push away one plane to grab another, you're still off balance.  Ultimately, you understand that honoring of this incarnation.  That's when you start to develop the capacity to look up and to look down at the same moment.  To look in and to look out. 

When you look at pure truth you can see the grace that suffering is.  From your point of view, when you're suffering, "Fine, I'm suffering, that's interesting." at the same moment if you are looking down and honoring your incarnation, you're working to alleviate suffering.  Let me give you an example.  Somebody says, "I want to study yoga with you.  I want to fast." And you say, "All right, fast for nine days."  At the end of the seventh day they say, "I've fasted for seven days." And you say, "Wonderful, wonderful. You've got two more days to go."  Then you walk outside the building and somebody comes up to you and says, "Hey man, you got a quarter, I haven't eaten in seven days."  You don't say, "Wonderful, wonderful, you have two more days to go." It's not an appropriate response, because for that being, suffering isn't grace, suffering is a drag. 

When that discipline is developed to allow you to look up and look down simultaneously, you have the absolute clarity of the pure white snow on the Himalayn peaks, the exquisite clarity, raw truth, the impersonal perfection which includes everything -- Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Biafra, persecution in our cities, inequality, violence, as well as all the bliss and love and compassion and kindness--the entire mosaic.  In the icy city of the Himalayas you see the perfection of it all in the evolutionary journey of beings.  And at the same moment the caring part of you is like the bleeding heart of Jesus and you look down and see the blood on the snow.  You keep both of those in mind at every moment, so you can help beings that are suffering in the way they need to be helped. 

If you are really going to help them get out of the illusion, you yourself must not get lost in the illusion, you must continue to keep your eye fixed on absolutely clear truth.  You love without clinging, you help with being identified as the helper, you protest with getting lost in the protest, you care for your child remembering that, behind it all, here we are.  The truth, the caring.  You honor your body, you honor your society, you honor your whole game, you change it in the way it needs to be changed.  You listen to hear what your particular karmic predicament is in this round and you find your dharma, the way to live this life in perfect harmony with the forces inside and outside of you in order to bring you home...


from ‘Grist for the Mill’ by Ram Dass
pp 38-44 
Copyright 1976 by Ram Dass & Stephen Levine 
Unity Press, California


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