Unfolding the perfection of love, truth and beauty is the activity of the soul, ever revealing itself. How do we guide this effort that we may unearth its treasures? Do we look to nature for her example? Do we direct our lives toward an ideal? What is the nature of unfoldment?
What is single-pointed concentration? How can it be achieved? If your work is all-absorbing and you put your body, mind and heart into it, the result is complete self-dedication. In such dedication, time and effort are practically unknown. The practice becomes timeless and effortless. When attachment and worry are present, time can be experienced as long and the effort difficult. But when the devotee sees only the source of devotion, there is no other desire than to keep the spotlight of the mind ever focused on that source.
Upon my recent visit to India I joined an international delegation to attend the Kumbh Mela. Not only did I encounter an age-old cultural and religious practice but I also had the opportunity to meet individuals from across the globe, each one seeking a path, a practice, a dedication to a greater knowledge.
The kumbh takes place at the confluence of three rivers known as the sangam. It is the meeting point of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati river. And yet, it was the confluence of people I saw—of various cultures, ages, and interests that raises the question: Who is a seeker? Where and how do we seek?
During each Sunday service we say these words from The Eternal Truths of Absolute Monism: “Truth is One, men call it by various names”. We know that God is Truth and that we are constantly surrounded by the manifestation of God as Truth. But how do we gain the wisdom of discernment that allows us to recognize the highest and purest truths? We will explore how we recognize and express truth in our daily lives and where we can find assurance that we are indeed following paths leading us to the Absolute Truth.
In the Sermon on the Mount we find these words of wisdom given to us by the blessed Nazarene: “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The words “all these things” refer to material items such as food and clothing mentioned in previous verses. Are we then to believe that if we seek the kingdom of God in our lives, these “things” will be given to us gratuitously and without any effort on our part? This would seem to be a rather shallow and impractical interpretation. We will explore the deeper implication of these most sublime and uplifting words.
Let us try to get to the heart of the matter—why do we hold so tightly to things, to emotions, to desires? Sometimes it seems impossible to loosen our grip. Our attachments are so strong, they overpower us. We become lost in the trappings of our own mind and body. How do we free ourselves?
Think of all the ways we attempt get to the purest essence—to the indispensable quality that determines the true state, to that substance without which it would not exist. That is our path of self-dedication, self-purification and self-realization.
The third of the “Five Pillars” of Islam is charity. The first two pillars, faith and prayer, are thus brought into full manifestation by the human spirit through the third pillar—through acts of benevolence, compassion and love.
On the path of enlightenment we must remember that the light of soul shines through our every deed. With that thought in mind, what activity of spirit do we perform?
Our prayer is our self-dedication to God, to a higher ideal, to awareness of our consciousness and to that which we aspire. Thinking thus, how do we pray? Even God-realized souls need prayer. From the Gayatri mantram to the prayer of Moses in the psalms, to Jesus teaching the Lord’s prayer in his sermon on the mount, to the salah or namaz with five daily prayers facing Mecca—the language and form of our communication may vary according to culture, but our divine communion is much more than the words we utter. It is our realization as well as our aspiration.
We are all familiar with the myth of Midas whose touch instantaneously turned any object into gold. But we may ask what is the true value of gold? Can you eat it for sustenance? Burn it for warmth or illumination? The value of gold is what we assign to it. Is gold valuable to a dog, a horse or an elephant? “Value” is a subjective quality which we project and assign outwardly to various objects of this world. What truly is of the highest value to us? It is the golden light of God which touches and pervades all things and brings enrichment, fulfillment and happiness to our lives. To quote from a prayer by Swami Premananda, it is that “mystic light” which “illumines the whole universe” and transforms all things into “symbols of purity and holiness, beauty and perfection.” The ability to perceive that golden light of God in all things is the true Midas touch.
A carpenter will care for the tools that apply shape and function to the craft. An artist will clean the brushes and preserve the paints for application to canvas. The musician will tune the instrument and listen for the perfect pitch. But what steps do we take to awaken our soul to its divine purpose?
What is the foundation of our faith?
Let us begin this new year with a sublime thought. A student of religion may commit to memory and recite by heart the Qur’an, the Bible or the Gita. But to live such a divine message requires a mental, emotional and spiritual commitment.
Consider the teachings of great souls on this earth. What mystic stories and parables do we hold dear? What messages inspire us to walk a noble path?
As we gather for the last Sunday of 2018 do we look back upon the last year that bids farewell or forward to the new year that greets us? Ever aware of the changes to come we turn our thoughts to the changeless. We offer a prayer and ask ourselves, “How shall we enter the gate of the new year? What do we leave behind and what do we seek ahead?”
In this beautiful season of light we call to mind "all that is calm and all that is bright." We offer a prayer for the holy night of mystic birth. We pray that within our soul is born a divine awakening, that we may receive a new light, born of God, creator of all that is holy and perfect.
What does it take to keep hope alive when all else seems to crumble around us? Buddha taught the noble eightfold path to lead us out of suffering. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita offered understanding of the gunas with a threefold faith to achieve self-liberation. In the letters from Paul to the Corinthians it is written that we should “walk by faith and not by sight.” And the Qur’an extols that “iman” (faith) must be accompanied by righteous deeds.
May this season of light ever renew our faith in the divine qualities of soul present within us and in all beings.
In the midst of the traditional gift-giving season, we might begin to ask ourselves what is the spirit of giving? Why do we desire to give? What impels us to make something for someone or select something beautiful or practical to offer to a friend or relative? This season let us consider what and how we give.
There is an inscription on the Buland Darwaza, the grand gateway to the city Emperor Akbar built at Fatehpur Sikri in India. It says: "Isa (Jesus), Son of Mary, said: ‘The world is a bridge, pass over it but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; the world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.’”
With this expression this grand piece of Indian Muslim architecture offers us a message from the Holy Qur’an of the “straight way” — the noble path in life. The message that “the world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer,” reminds us to keep the thought of God with us always.
The ungainly oyster lies in the muck beneath the waters, yet within that oyster is cultivated the pearl of exceeding beauty and value. Often our lives may seem to be as if in the “muck” of sadness, delusion and despair. Yet always know that the “pearl of great price” (the pearl of our soul) lies within, and that the wealth of great happiness and fulfillment lies in the cultivation of that pearl.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, our thoughts naturally turn to traditional gatherings and shared meals. We hope that a message of gratefulness will not only be uttered in our prayers but also expressed by our actions.
As the earth offers its harvest, we offer our worship and praise to that source of beauty and bounty of the earth. Not everyone experiences such beauty and bounty; this we know. And yet every soul has something for which to be thankful. Why?
What do we desire? What do we long to be? Our very notion of belonging has within it this two-fold nature of being and longing. If we look closely at that which we cherish and hold dear, we will come to know better the aspiration of our soul.
Look up to the sky. We see the source of our life. It is the light that shines from the heavens and dances about us. It comes from the very beginning of cosmic creation. From dust and gas in distant space, in total silence, new stars blink into life. From the billions of stars that compose the universe—billions of twinkling lights—we imagine the countless rows and circles of lights leading us ever onward in our journey of creation.
Now think of the simple earthenware diyas that alight the entrance to homes at Diwali and you have a symbol as wondrous as it is bright. The light we bring to each other in a dazzling splendor of joy, is the same light that burns brightly in the celestial flames of the sun, the same pure light reflected in the moon and the same light that illumines the soul.