So there’s this thing called the ‘Perennial Wisdom’ that’s composed of the accumulated teachings of mystics and masters, gurus and prophets over the ages. You know the types, Jesus of Nazareth, Guatama Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Teresa of Avila, Lao Zi, Shankara.
The core of their teachings lies at the heart of all great religions and spiritual movements and, not surprisingly, the essence of their teachings is more or less the same. Some of the good stuff:
- There is no birth or death of anything, ever
- The mind creates reality as we know it
- You and I do not exist, as such
- There is only ever now – past and future cannot exist
- The natural state of existence is joy, bliss, love (not the conditional love of the human mind)
- There is no separation – all that is is One and the same
What stops us from recognizing these truths? The mistaken belief that thought and body are real; that there is this thing called ‘me’ that is separate and apart from existence, that it was born, will live a life, and then will die (and from there dissolve into nothing or move on to another unseen realm or maybe repeat the process in another body/lifetime) and so on.
The Truth is said to be closer than our own breath, that just the slightest shift in perception will blow the whole thing open (aka enlightenment), but the habit of an I trapped in a body translating the world through mental interpretation and judgment keeps the veil down and the illusion marching on.
This is why my own quest, which began with a search for a way out of suffering, came to a screeching halt with Advaita Vedanta – literally, non-dualism, Oneness. The Advaitic teachers have no school, no church, no canon of prayer or scripture. Just pointers urging the suffering mind inward upon itself, over and over, endlessly, until Truth is revealed.
Or, those same Advaitic teachers will urge those same suffering minds toward surrender, to recognize, as did Jesus, that “of my ownself I can do nothing.” We’re in it, of it, and as such have zero control or understanding of it, so you may as well let go and allow “thy will” (not yours) to be done (because it’s gonna be done anyway). Oh, and while you’re at it, go ahead and inquire into the one who supposedly is doing the surrendering.
This is why it’s so much more difficult to write these days. It was a lot easier to talk and write about ayahuasca and shamanic rites, sweat lodges and meditation, Reiki and and vision quests. There are thousands upon thousands of folks out there doing just that, expounding on their many spiritual adventures and visions, holding workshops and retreats (for a fee, of course), writing books on eating, praying, loving, before returning to ‘real life’ where more suffering and confusion awaits.
Wei Wu Wei, one of the better chroniclers of the Perennial Wisdom, noted that we’re all searching, but that the vast majority of these searches are utterly misguided, even the spiritual ones. We’re quite literally searching in precisely the wrong direction. If our search was akin to the children’s game of ‘hotter/colder,’ we’d be FREEZING and still marching further into the Arctic.
All are offered the truths in the Perennial Wisdom, but a paltry few listen. And what we are told is this: the genuine spiritual search is intensely, intrinsically, inescapably personal, lonely, at times painful. Not only do you not get to take this journey with family, friends, mates, children, ultimately you don’t even get to take you with you – eventually you too must be left by the side of the spiritual road if the Ultimate Understanding is to be known.
Why? Because you ARE the Ultimate Understanding. You’re the Truth you’re searching for.
To the ego (the sense of ME), this is madness or, at least, terrifying (what do you mean I have no role in the story???). But hey, you’re going to die soon enough, so why not, as the Buddha counseled, learn to die to this world now before you’re thrust into the next (to repeat the process, over and over and over).
It’s amazing to me that so few are even remotely interested in the teachings that make up the Perennial Wisdom. So great and powerful is the human ego, so profound our sense of self-importance, that we ignore these teachings and ‘live lives of quiet desperation,’ mourning the death of loved ones even as our own draws closer with each breath, agonizing/celebrating life’s ups and downs and rarely if ever noticing the temporary, ephemeral nature of all such moments.
Obviously, I too struggle with it. Me and My Life routinely take hold, lusts and hungers and cravings reawaken ‘me,’ gray bleaknesses overtake ‘me,’ joys and pleasures bring happiness to ‘me.’
But, through grace, there are more and more moments of clarity, gentle reminders that the whole thing is an illusion, a dream, not to be taken serious. Grace reminds that there is really only one goal: to awaken to the Truth, and that there is as much help available to ‘me’ as ‘me’ is willing and open to accept.
Grace tells me that that “still small voice within” is always and forever calling to us if we but ignore thought long enough to ‘hear’ it.
Alas, we live in an age where we are obsessed with body and thought more than ever. In the modern era, there is so very little room for solitude or humility or recognition that ALL of what we call existence originates in, and returns to, silence.
Which no doubt explains why narcissists run our nations and fill the screens that fill our lives; why the glorious species with which we share this magnificent planet are in the midst of a human-inspired extinction event, and the planet itself under siege from our insatiable material cravings. After all, if ‘I’m’ not enough, how can I possibly have enough?
Ultimately, none of it matters. That’s another of the Perennial Wisdom’s teachings. Nothing matters because to whom or what would it matter?
But so long as there’s a you who hurts or fears (for yourself or loved ones), why not give one or two teachings from the Perennial Wisdom a spin? After all, it’s pretty clear that despite thousands of years of human effort, we’re not making things any better and, in fact, we are making things quite a bit worse. If you’ve been betting on the wrong horse (humanity), maybe it’s time for a different wager? Or better yet, to forget the race altogether? What have ‘you’ got to lose?