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#1705 - Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - Editor: michael
believe it or not
What's in your belief system?
when i was a kid i used to think i was a horse called joey, i even had an imaginary horse girlfriend called lily. this abruptly stopped when i galloped into a wall and broke my wrist.
I used to believe that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. That's why I wanted to be an airport. My best friend wanted to be a firetruck.
Note: excerpts from the above link are used throughout this edition.
I have no earthly idea why I believed this but when I was a very small child and my parents first started taking me with them to mass, I didn't know the priest was a real person. I thought he was a robot.
When I was around 6 years old I had first heard about a limbo (a hell). Well, I thought it was a place where you would play "LIMBO" all day and all night! I thought "oh...the back pain!". So I thought that when a parent's back hurt they were getting ready for limbo. I was horrified when my dad's back started hurting!
Catherine Ingram is an internationally known dharma teacher with communities serving several thousand students in a dozen cities in the US and Europe. Since 1992 she has led Dharma Dialogues, which are public events of inquiry into the nature of awareness and the possibility of living in awakened intelligence.
Q: In order to survive as human beings, must we opt for some kind of belief system? Or can we live without one?
KI: I feel that it is the belief systems that are threatening our survival. Most of the blood spilled in history and even today is due to belief systems, primarily religious in nature. We can live very well without belief systems and rely instead on our own direct experience.
Q: You have been a spiritual seeker for many years, your journey taking you worldwide. What prompted you to originally begin your intensive spiritual study?
KI: Suffering, mainly. By the time I was about 20 years old, I had had it with being alive and was desperate to find some way of perceiving cruelty, injustice, and loss that made sense. I tried all kinds of experiences in a worldly sense and then turned to spiritual pursuits. I was the classic example of the Sufi saying, "There are three stages to the journey: the journey from god, the journey to god, and the journey in god." It took about twenty years before I realized the journey was in god.
Q: Does your seeking continue, or do you feel that you have "found the answer" that keeps you content, as described in your book, Passionate Presence?
KI: No, there is no more seeking. That is not because I feel I have landed on some lofty perch called enlightenment but because I have seen the futility of seeking. Seeking must be fueled by the belief that something is missing. In seeing clearly, one realizes that nothing is needed for one's sense of aliveness but being alive. Seeking is counterproductive to that kind of awareness and gives the mind a feeling of agitation with the thought that there is something more that should be done.
When I was little I used to go to Sunday
School. We sang hymns and when we sang 'I am the Lord of the
Dance, said he' I thought for years we were singing about Michael
Even I thought it was strange singing about Michael Flatly at church but everything at church was strange so i believed that for ages!
Not a Lord of the Dance fan.
In parochial school we were always told that the soul was physically part of you, was inside of you, and when you died the soul left your body and flew off to heaven. Well then: part of you, inside of you. . . . A soul must be one of your inner organs! I used to picture heaven to be lots of clouds with little kidneys in sneakers and wings, playing harps. When I think about souls today, that's still the first picture I get.
Religion has a powerful influence on our lives. Like infomercials. Here we've gathered real news involving religion from around the globe.
IRS USES 666
During 1980 and 1981 the Internal Revenue Service asked taxpayers to enter the number 666 as a code on a form reporting individual retirement accounts. The IRS said that the Social Security Administration chose the number because scanner could read it easily. After complaints from fundamentalist Christians, the IRS changed the number on 1992 forms to 555.
MAN CHANGES NAME TO GOD
Californian Enrique Silberg changed his name in 1985 to Ubiquitous Perpetuity God after a judge refused to allow him to change it to simply "God."
KITTY DIES, END OF WORLD
Late in July of 1989 a kitten with eight legs and two tails was born in the village of Machala in Ecuador. Rejected by its mother, it died within hours. The devout Catholic population there saw it as a bad sign. "We are nearing the end of the world because people are so decadent," said one.
I grew up in a catholic family. We attended mass every Sunday. I grew up believing the prayer "Hail Mary full of grace" was " Hail Mary full of grapes". Everyone in church mumbled when they said it. I also believed God's name was Peter as I thought they all responded "Thanks Peter God" when in fact it was "Thanks be to God"
When I was very young, a Catholic playmate told me about Purgatory, only he pronounced it "perkatory." I immediately had an image of a land that looked like the inside of a giant coffee pot, with percolator baskets growing out of the ground, hot coffee raining all around, and steam shooting up out of the ground.
Maybe I wasn't that far off after all.
The religions of the world teach a wide diversity of concepts about deity. Books have been published which list over 1,000 Gods or over 1,000 Goddesses who have been worshiped in various eras and locations.
|At first glance, a person who is investigating the entire "God" concept for the first time might conclude that all of these diverse deities are purely human creations. That is: God did not create humanity -- humanity created Gods.|
|However, in practice, most people believe that the God or Goddess or Gods or Goddesses of their faith tradition is or are real, whereas all of the other thousands of deities are human creations, who are nonexistent, except in the minds of humans.|
Beliefs about deity cover a wide range, including:
|Agnosticism: having reached no conclusion whether God exists. (See Agnosticism)|
|Animism. The belief that all entities have life force, a soul or mind. For example, rocks, trees and mountains have an awareness of their surroundings: (e.g. Native aboriginal religions).|
|Atheism: According to most dictionary definitions, Atheists totally reject the possibility that God exists. This would include many Atheists, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, etc. However, American Atheists, the largest group of Atheists in the U.S. define Atheism as having no belief in God. A newborn would not be considered an Atheist within the dictionary definition, but would be an Atheist according to the American Atheists.|
|Deism: The belief that God exists, but is remote, unknowable and uninvolved. They believe that God created the universe, set it going, but has not taken an active interest in it since. This was a popular belief among intellectuals during and after the American revolution. It shows up in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and its references to to "Nature's God," and "Creator."|
|Duotheism (a.k.a. Bitheism): belief in a dual divinity: (e.g. Wicca and Zoroastrianism). In the case of Wicca, one deity is female, the other male; in Zoroastrianism one is all good while the other is all evil.|
belief in many deities of which only one is the supreme
deity. This may involve:
|Monism: The belief that what people perceive as deity, humanity and the rest of the universe is in fact all of one substance - that divisions among the body, mind, flesh, spirit, material, physical are not real. All are simply aspects of one being.|
|Monotheism: The belief in a single God. Examples include Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism). Within Christianity, most denominations consider themselves to be monotheistic, even though they teach the existence of three separate persons in the Trinity.|
|Panentheism: The belief that the entire universe -- substances, forces and laws -- is God; the universe is God's body. God transcends the universe as well. (e.g. some components of New Age belief).|
|Pantheism: The belief that every existing entity (humans, animals, etc.) together, is a part of God. They do not see God as having a personality, the ability to make decisions, etc. Rather, God is the very spiritual essence of the entire universe.|
|Polytheism: belief in many Gods and Goddesses: (e.g. various Neopagan religions. Hinduism is often looked upon in the west as a polytheistic religion).|
|Trinity: belief in a single deity who has three aspects (e.g. historical Christianity, whose members generally believe in Trinity formed by a Father, Son and Holy Spirit).|
Many specific denominations and faith groups are difficult to categorize. For example, a religion might believe in a single God, and a large number of minor deities, heroes, or saints who have many powers normally restricted to deities. It might be considered a monotheistic religion in theory or a polytheistic religion in practice.
when i was little, i went to a jewish day camp. we would sing a song everyday that went like this: "let the heavens be glad / let the heavens be glad / let the earth rejoice / let the sea roar / let people unite!" I thought the last line was "let's go to sea world tonight" my mom still teases me about that, 10 years after i would sing that...
When I was little I thought that heaven was a glassed-in bus stop in front of the nearby re-patriation hospital, which was frequented by elderly patients
© 2002 Krishnamurti Foundation of America
Ojai 3rd Public Talk 23rd
(download PDF of Talk)
Now, if you consider, you will see that one of the reasons for the desire to accept a belief, is fear. Because, if we had no belief, what would happen to us? Wouldn't we be very frightened of what might happen? If we had no pattern of action, based on a belief - either in God, or in Communism, or in Socialism, or in Imperialism, or in some kind of religious formula, some dogma in which we are conditioned - we would feel utterly lost, wouldn't we? And is not this acceptance of a belief, the covering up of that fear - the fear of being really nothing, of being empty? After all, a cup is useful only when it is empty; and a mind that is filled with beliefs, with dogmas, with assertions, with quotations, is really an uncreative mind, it is merely a repetitive mind. And, to escape from that fear - that fear of emptiness, that fear of loneliness, that fear of stagnation, of not arriving, not succeeding, not achieving, not being something, not becoming something - is surely one of the reasons, is it not?, why we accept beliefs so eagerly and greedily. And, through acceptance of belief, do we understand ourselves? On the contrary. A belief, religious or political, obviously hinders the understanding of ourselves. It acts as a screen through which we are looking at ourselves. And, can we look at ourselves without beliefs? If we remove those beliefs, the many beliefs that one has, is there anything left to look at? If we have no beliefs with which the mind has identified itself, then the mind, without identification, is capable of looking at itself as it is - and then, surely, there is the beginning of the understanding of oneself. If one is afraid, if there is fear which is covered over by a belief; and if, in understanding beliefs, one comes face to face with fear, without the screen of beliefs - is it not possible then to be free from that reaction of fear? That is, to know one is afraid, and to stay there, without any escape? To be with what is, is surely much more significant, much more worthwhile, than to escape from what is, through a belief.
So, one begins to see that there are various forms of escape from oneself, from one's own emptiness, from one's own poverty of being - escapes such as knowledge, such as amusement, various forms of addictions and distractions, both learned and stupid, clever or not worthwhile. We are surrounded by these, we are them; and if the mind can see the significance of the things to which it is held, then, perhaps, we shall be face to face with what we are, whatever it be; and I think the moment we are capable of doing that, then there is a real transformation. Because then, there is no question of fear; for fear exists only in relationship to something. When there is you and something else to which you are related, and when you dislike that thing to which you are related and try to avoid it - then there is fear. But when you are that very thing, then there is no question of avoidance. A fact gives fear only when you bring an emotional reaction to it; but when a fact is faced as it is, there is no fear. And when what we call fear is no longer named, but only looked at, without it being given a term, then, surely, there takes place a revolution, there is no longer that sense either of avoidance or acceptance.
So, to understand belief, not superficially but profoundly, one must find out why the mind attaches itself to various forms of beliefs, why beliefs have become so significant in our lives: belief about death, about life, about what happens after death; beliefs asserting that there is God or there is no God; that there is reality or there is no reality; and various political beliefs. Are these beliefs not all indicative of our own sense of inward poverty, and, do they not reveal a process of escape, or act as a defence? And in studying our beliefs, do we not begin to know ourselves as we are, not only at the upper levels of our mind, of our consciousness, but deeper down? So, the more one studies oneself in relationship to something else, such as beliefs, the more the mind becomes quiet, without false regimentation, without compulsion. The more the mind knows itself, the more quiet it is, obviously. The more you know something, the more you are familiar with it, the more the mind becomes quiet. And the mind must be really quiet, not made quiet. Surely, there is a vast difference between a mind that is made quiet, and a mind that is quiet. You can compel a mind by circumstances, by various disciplines, tricks, and so on, to be quiet. But that is not quietude, that is not peace; that is death. But a mind that is quiet because it understands the various forms of fear, and because it understands itself - such a mind is creative, such a mind is renewing itself constantly. It is only the mind that is self-enclosed by its own fears and beliefs, that stagnates. But a mind that understands its relationship to the values about it - not imposing a standard of values, but understanding what is - surely, such a mind becomes quiet, is quiet.
It is not a question of becoming. It is only then, surely, that the mind is capable of perceiving what is real from moment to moment Reality is, surely, not something at the end, an end result of accumulative action. Reality is to be perceived only from moment to moment; and it can be perceived only when there is not the accumulative effect of the past on the moment, the now.
I used to think I was a vampire, and that my parents were trying to kill me by making me go to school.
I used to believe that when you died Jesus would come by in a helicopter, drop his rope ladder for you to climb up on and take you back to heaven with him.
This is actually my dad's belief. When he was little there was a dry cleaners near his house that emitted alot of steam out of the back. He was convinced that this cleaners was pergatory and that they were cleaning souls in there.
© Copyright Tim Lewis, 2000-2001.
Our emotional need to interpret our spiritual experience and systematize it into religious rationalizations has tied us in terrible knots. We are spiritually confused as a species and at each other's throats as a result. Each religion believes its interpretations are the ultimate truth and has fought the most horrific and barbaric wars to prove the point.
Our inherent sense of spiritual unity with each other and with all of nature has been replaced with nonsensical arguments about immaculate conceptions, days of judgment, yugas, bardos, and how many hells there are. This has imprisoned us in self-imposed chains of delusion, from which we must break free.
We are nothing special. Our consciousness is nothing special. Yet we like to make it so. We can never believe that we are just like everything else, that we simply pass away into new forms. We have to believe that we continue in some way after we die and that we are, not only special, but unique - that the universe has been created for us and that there is a place waiting for us that is much more special than this mere earthly existence.
As humans, living in dour and often dire material circumstances, we have a strong emotional need to create an image of something better for ourselves. However, this emotional need, rather than freeing us, binds us to our hopelessness. Instead of dreaming of escape, we need to break our spiritual chains and return our hopes and dreams to this reality, so that we can experience true spirituality and do something about our real, material problems.
We have been unable to cope with this world, so have built a illusory world of gods, angels, souls, heavens, and saviors, in order to escape the awfulness of our real existence. Or we have created a nebulous state of non-being where we can finally escape karma and the endless cycle of death and rebirth. Or created ancestor spirits and ghosts and mediums to communicate with them.
We tend to project our sense of connectedness with all onto all. We rationalize it, try to make sense of it, and try to make it more comprehensible and accessible. We do this in very subtle ways; for example, by visualizations, drugs, or ceremonial processing through which we manufacture states of being and conceptions that fit our sense of connectedness. In one spiritual tradition, this might result in angels and heavens and devils; in another, in beneficent deities and malignant deities; in another, in tree spirits, earth spirits, and ancestor spirits; in another as auras and past lives. Through repeated ceremonies, visualizations, and other mental processes we come to expect certain spiritual forces to arise, take certain forms, and behave in certain ways. We become ceremonially and emotively habituated to expect certain things, and our mind, in its incredible power and richness, then takes over: We believe in these projections as real. Once again, we create manifestations that come between us and a pure experience of all.
Each religion has built a psychological superstructure of amazing complexity in which we can dwell - a lighthouse built upon the rocks of a storm-wrenched shore. The lighthouse is warm, secure, and throws our light upon all we can see. The whole of darkness is seemingly lit by us, in our tiny abode on some wind-swept promontory, in one far-flung corner of the universe.
We are scared, lonely, alienated, powerless, oppressed, overworked, and underfed. This is one of the worlds we have made for ourselves. The other is a dreamworld inhabited by gods and souls and final release. But this dreamworld is a lie that blinds us to our true spiritual nature and prevents us from really changing the world we live in. We need to free ourselves from this lie. We need to free ourselves from both worlds: we need both to understand the reality of our spiritual existence and change the reality of our physical existence.1
Spiritually, we are extremely egocentric and arrogant. We construct beliefs systems at which we are the center. We create gods in our image so that, when they stand as creators of the universe, we stand as creators of the universe. The universe becomes us: it becomes our spirit, our consciousness, our self - as we define it.
Our huge egos prevent us accepting that we are subject to all the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology that everything else is subject to. We cannot accept our own death, nor the complete cessation of our mental being. We cannot accept that we are totally unspecial as a species (except for our special conscious ability) - that we are not chosen, nor entitled to act in any way we please.
We like to think that everything we do carries enormous import for all else in the universe: where we site a building, how we eat or pray or sit, how we draw a circle on the ground, or where we place our dead. Many of these rituals have a central place in spiritual practice, but they should serve to remind us that we are merely part of all around us, not to project ourselves as something unique. They should not bind us to our egocentricity. We need to reverse our understanding - our rituals need to pull the whole of existence into our being, rather than project our being onto the whole of existence. The universe affects us, not vice versa, and we should open up to, and fully accept, the ways of the universe in all we do.
We constantly anthropomorphize things and project our characteristics onto almost anything - give them minds, feelings, and thoughts - whether it's animals, the elements, mountains, rivers, planets, even buildings. This tendency makes us feel more important, more the center of the universe, and less alone. We turn all the universe into consciousness - not any consciousness, but our consciousness. Or we make it the creation of a being that is just like us, sees us as its prime creation, and who has created the universe just for us.
In fact, nothing reflects us. We reflect everything. Rather than animals having human characteristics, we have animal characteristics. Rather than energy being consciousness, consciousness is energy. Rather than a universe made for us, we are made as part of the universe.
We are not immortal. We live once and die once. And all of us dies, both body and consciousness. We re-enter the stream of constantly changing forms.
There is no eternal bliss awaiting us, other than the wondrous experience of opening ourselves up to the whole of creation and of building a truly better world for ourselves on earth. Yet we are blinded to these tasks as long as we continue to believe in an eternal, non-earthly place of bliss.
We are our bodies, not just our consciousnesses, and our consciousnesses develop from and are highly dependent upon our physical being. The world is not illusion or bad for us; it is not the realm of Satan or some purgatory where we need to prove ourselves. It is us and we are part of it. Only when we become free of the nonsense that the material world is illusory or transient to our spiritual being can we open ourselves up to being all things.2
As individuals, we need to free ourselves from our I-centered and purely ego-sensory perceptions of life. We need to break through these to experience ourselves from the perspective of all, to realize we are just a part, to view ourselves from all angles of the whole, and thus to break free to become that whole.
This requires great humility and giving up everything to do with self. This will lead us to love, surrender, and receive ourselves back again on a far deeper level - as all-loving, all-receiving, and all-existing. By giving up all, we become all, not because the universe is us, but because we are the universe.
Our desperate emotional needs and the complex idealism we have constructed because of them are the result of the awfulness most of us experience in our brief lives. It seems that everything we love is taken from us: relatives, children, possessions, land. We are taxed heavily, subject to thieves on the highways and in government offices, and can barely grow enough food or earn enough daily bread to exist. Life is full of uncertainty that threatens to kill, cripple, sicken, or starve us. And we seem so powerless to do anything about it.
So the way we escape is through an illusion. It's an illusion that our priests tell us is reality, an illusion that governments and intelligent people assure us is true, an illusion in which we want to believe.
It is only by freeing ourselves from this lie that we can really begin to free ourselves from the desperation of our material lives. And it is only by climbing from our hopelessness that we can finally free ourselves from our emotional need for the lie. They go hand-in-hand, helping each other over the rocky path, until we can walk a smoother, more hope-filled reality and have the freedom and security to open ourselves up to true spiritual experience.
Spiritual illusion has stood in the way of true spiritual experience. Once we throw this ogre off, once we accept how unspecial and temporary we are and how intimately linked we are to all things around us, we can reduce our dependence on our egocentric and anthropocentric worldviews. We can reassess our values, desires, and attachments away from our "selves" and towards the unity of all we experience and ultimately are. We can let our emotional needs melt into all around us, let our desires, memories, feelings about ourselves, emotions, and expectations dissolve into the unity and interdependence of all things.
Awareness of our transience can open us up to the bliss of communion with all, free us to be all, to love all, and to let all into our being. We can experience existence as all, tune into it, harmonize with it, and be it.
I always pictured the good Samaritan as a Samurai. Still do, in fact.
"You go on pouring belief, more belief; but you are simply suppressing doubt deeper and deeper into your unconscious. And the deeper it goes, the more dangerous it is because you will become unaware of it. One day you will think that you believe, that you are a believer, that you have attained to faith ? because your doubt has gone so deep in your dark unconscious that you cannot see it anymore. I would like you to see your doubt clearly."
When I was a very small child, for some reason, I pictured God as an enormous, kind looking zebra. Each night, I would say my prayers to a huge zebra! I still have no idea where that came from.
In church, I used to believe that after the donations were made, the priest would go outside and hold the plate up, then a light would shine from the sky and beam it up from heaven. Then God would use the money to pay the angels for their services. I was afraid that if we didn't donate enough money, all the angels would go on strike and the Earth would spiral into chaos. I was an odd kid.
When I was a kid, my mom always threw the left over quarters from the past week in to the collection basket. I always thought the preist used them to go play video games at the arcade.
When I was 5, I attended a Catholic Shcool in NYC. Back then, the nuns wore long black habits. They seemed to glide around the classroom and you could never see their feet. So, I believed God had given the nuns wheels instead of feet.
I used to believe that God lived in the men's room of my childhood church. This was mainly due to my Sunday School teacher telling our class that he lived at our church, and my not being able to find him in any other room. The only room I couldn't enter was the men's room, so I assumed that because I didn't see him anywhere else, that's where he must live. I think I was 6.
When I was in 5th grade our teacher went around the room asking us our religious beliefs. Well, I was the only one in my class who wasn't catholic and when it came my turn I told her "I'm Prostitute" and when she looked at me in disbelief I continued by saying "It's true, ask my mom, she's one too!"
Circle of Desire
essence of liberation is in
breaking the Circle of Desire
As an infant all you desired was food and comfort
Then your desire for nice clothings and `stuff '
was so much necessary in your youth
But as you `matured ', your desires `progressed '
to having spouse, house, wealth, and child too
Then with `age', when you have possessions, positions,
and credentials, you reach deep understanding of life
Now your mind desires, `god 'or enlightenment too
So from clothing, to spouse, to desire for `god'
You imagine you've made great progress in life
In reality nothing has changed
But the objects of your desires
Know that the essence of liberation is
In breaking the Circle of Desire
The rich and the poor
The servant and the master
The `grahastha' and the ` sadhaka'
The disciple and the `so-called spiritual man'
And also all those still rooted
in `Longing' of `some kind '
They're all equal in their illusions
Still Circumscribed by the Circle of Desire
Do I `know' ?
Do I `understand '?
How can I be attached, and still attain Liberation ?
Your so called progress is simply a change
From one illusion to another
May be from a material to a spiritual illusion
But your life is still full of delusions
All your `Actions' are
to `gain' something and `avoid' other things
Your efforts for the future are affected by your past
You Forget in the process the `present' is a Fact
Can you Act without any motive ?
Just observe your every action
It gives a `Desired fruit'
or may be an `Undesired fruit'
But is there a way you can act
so `no fruit' accrues to you ?
Know that without Renunciation
You cannot experience ` no fruit'
Isn't that really the Truth ?
But, Renunciation is not in the act
It cannot be learned nor taught
The secret is revealed to you
When you experience
a state of `Changeless Desire '
You will know exactly how to live and act
So `no fruit' accrues to you
You think you have progressed by having virtue of
'Wanting nothing, Doing nothing, Being nothing'
But, aren't you still caught up in Circle of Desire ?
Be Aware and realize
From the Circle of Desire
Arises all ideas of acceptance and rejection
How can pleasure and pain be absent
while you are Perturbed ?
Leave aside all `ideas' of acceptance or rejection
And remain Steadfast and Equanimous
Then, through self-experience you'll know
Pleasure and Pain don't dissolve
Nor is there Freedom from their experiences
But it's Wisdom that acts as an armor
Protecting you from either pain or pleasure
Any experience leave no imprint on the mind
This is Freedom from the mind
And it is ` this state of mind '
That brings Freedom from all Actions
You are always conscious of `what Changes '
Can you be Conscious
of ` That which does not Change ' ?
Know that `this state of mind' is the Essence
that brings liberation from the Circle of Desire
It's when nothing else is wanted
amazingly the Reality is right there !!
when i was a little girl i believed that the veils on a nun's habit were nailed to their heads and that they were all bald underneath it and that they slept in it and never took it off! that is what my brother told me. at religious instructions class i asked a nun if it hurt when they pounded the nails in. she took me aside into a cloak room and took off the veil to reveal her beautiful long hair
family is Jewish, although we werent a religous family, the idea
that we where different somehow from our neighbors in our New
York neighborhood fascinated me as a child. I remember asking my
neighbor Mary what her family's religion was. With her 5 year old
New York accent, she responded "Catlick".
From then until I was about 9 or 10, I truly believed that Catholicism, had sometyhing to do with licking cats. As I was deathly allergic to cats, this both confused, and slightly frightened me.
When I weas young I thought thet when people went to heaven they were put on conveyor belts, and one by one they got to chat a little with God, and then they walked around and drank coffee in the clouds forever.
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