An enormous universe awaits within
The Buddha taught that, when you are sufficiently self aware, you no longer have any emotional attachment to your intellectual opinions. You still have opinions and can possess a searing intellect and have good debates, but you don’t take challenges personally or need to cling on to your views in order to save face.
Not long after I was ordained, a controversial book was published by one of our senior Order Members. I was unconvinced by the book’s arguments and thought the topic important enough to merit a direct challenge. So, I wrote a long letter to my teacher and requested a meeting with him.
I was quite charged up when we met, but we talked about my letter and I expanded my views in more detail. My teacher received what I had to say with genuine interest and calm intelligence. After we’d talked for a while, he accepted my point of view and agreed that we’d had very different life experience to draw our conclusions from. Furthermore, he indicated that he was always open to being persuaded to other conclusions should he be presented with convincing enough arguments.
Then I realised that I was seeing something I had rarely seen before – as well as being highly intelligent and forthright in his opinions, this man was absolutely not attached to his views whatsoever! It is quite hard to describe being in the presence of this kind of non-attachment. There was just no personality, no ego, sticking onto the conversation at all. He had no personal investment in anything being this way or that, no axe to grind, no point to prove. None! So, the upshot was, whatever the rights and wrongs of his views, I left that meeting thoroughly impressed. This was why he was my teacher!
Who’s in charge?
I studied psychology at university and loved what I was learning about the human psyche. But even so, I got frustrated with all the clever word games and the academic obsession for establishing scientific proof for everything. It seemed that for every theory, there was another proving the exact opposite, and the most interesting things you just couldn’t prove either way. There were some ideas I found intellectually thrilling, but even with those I felt like I had gone as far as my thinking brain could take me.
However, there was one mystery that I just couldn’t stop wondering about. Are us humans in charge of our selves and our destiny, or are we just robots mindlessly acting out whatever we are brainwashed with? The philosophers call it the ‘free will versus determinism’ debate and theories about it are at the core of much of our belief systems. Fortunately, while I was still a student, I made a new discovery that was going to give me whole new way of understanding what we are all about and what we are capable of – meditation.
I was just knocked out. So THIS is how you can go beyond intellectual thinking! A whole new dimension of experience was opening up before me. I loved it. I loved how good meditation made me feel and how clear and calm my mind was and how open my heart became. That year’s university exams flowed effortlessly. It was incredible! And as for Buddhism, well, I didn’t know the first thing about it, but the more I found out the more fascinated I became.
Best of all, Buddhism provided me with an answer to my question about whether us humans have free will or whether we just act out blindly from our conditioning. The typical Zen-like answer was – both are true! Hah! My new Buddhist teacher called it ‘Mind Reactive and Mind Creative’. The premise is quite simple – the less aware we are, the more subject we are to conditioning influences (mind reactive). On the other hand, the more self-awareness we possess, the more free will we possess (mind creative).
In other words, if our minds and hearts are very dull and asleep, we don’t know what we are doing or why and go about our lives in automatic pilot. If, however, we wake up our hearts and minds with something like meditation, we breathe awareness and therefore choice into our life. We have enough inner space and where-with-all to recognise our options and make a considered decision. Meditation creates awareness, which creates choice, which creates free will.
Some people are ‘faith types’ and are more heart and devotion orientated. Faith types may respond more to the idea that spiritual wisdom comes from outside and allow themselves to be receptive to those ‘external’ forces. On the other hand, ‘wisdom types’ are more head and thought orientated. Wisdom types may be more resonant with the idea that they are mastering their own inner powers rather than opening up to external forces.
I’ve come to understand and experience the act of downloading spiritual wisdom as a co-creation between both inner and outer dimensions. Spiritual intelligence does come from both inside us and outside us at the same time. If we stay rigidly within our everyday limited awareness, we cannot access deeper wisdom. However if we fail to recognise our own spiritual depths and only honour external powers, we do not claim our full potential.
To ignite the spark of spiritual download, we need to do something both active and receptive. We first ‘put the request out there’ by posing the question to the universe and in doing so open ourselves to a greater, limitless consciousness. Secondly, being prepared to receive an answer means we are being receptive and this allows us to drop deeper inside our selves. In this way, we participate in a co-operation between both inner and outer dimensions. In truth, inner and outer universes are all one.