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Oneness and The Heart of the World: Fr. Thomas Keating

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Oneness and the Heart of the World: Fr.Thomas Keating In oneness, I think we can say: there are many onenesses. That is to say, this oneness manifests itself or we come across it, in an almost infinite number of ways. While it always remains, in a sense, the same, it is always a different oneness. Perhaps this is because God is always happening. Some theologies think of God as a kind of static or abstract essence of one kind or another, and this is useful information as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough! For instance, God is so dynamic and goes so fast that you can never see Him. In other words, He is always on the move, faster than light, which is pretty fast. And so that's perhaps why Elijah on the mountain only saw Him from behind. He'd already gone by! And so, this is one problem, to address something Llewellyn said, we certainly need to remember God in every moment. But it also has certain difficulties in doing so, and one is the speed at which God goes by. You can't catch Him. And yet, there is nothing to catch, because He is already here. Otherwise, He goes by so fast that by the time you take a peek, He is already back here! So, they say that God is change-less. That's the old theology, but it would be better to say, I think that, yes, God is changeless, but what doesn't change is, He is always changing! So at every moment this oneness is offered to us in a different way, a new way: a charming way, sometimes a difficult way, sometimes a challenging way... But everything then, from this contemplative perspective, or at least from the perspective of a kind of cosmic consciousness, we are sensitive or alert to this dynamism, in which God seems to be constantly playing Hide and Seek, and seeing if we can catch up with Him, or see Him or spot Him in a new set of circumstances. So human experience needs to be very diverse in order to adjust to the diversity in which God's oneness appears. And this is especially significant, it seems to me, in the process of contemplative prayer for which Centering proposes to be a rather direct access to the dark contemplation, or....some other word... I'm thinking of the various ways in which silence overtakes us in prayer. And silence refers of course, to both our desires as well as to our words and thinking. It's not that we have no desires or no words and no thinking, but that we see them as simply symbols of this oneness that is approaching us without a name, without any limitation. So, there is no way to grasp what is always happening, because as soon as you do, you are unable to open your hand fast enough to receive the next gift of God. So that, how to grasp something with your hands always open, this is the paradox of prayer. Now, one of the things that is so interesting about Zen, at least in my view, is that it approaches oneness through each of the 5 senses, and through a number of other ways too. Now, any Buddhists here are welcome to contradict me when we get to the questions, or correct me, I should say. But it is a significant experience I had with Zen, with Roshi Joshu Sasaki of Mt. Baldy--who's now over a 100, and doing well-- gives me some hope for the future. But the koans he gave at least me, consisted of going through each of the senses, and losing, you know, or trying to lose or expressing your loss of, is perhaps the best expression, of the 'I am seeing', 'I am hearing', 'I am tasting', I am...what the other senses are? Touching, touching and smelling. Now, it might be interesting to remember that one of the most important of the spiritual senses, of which external sense experiences are kind of metaphors or pointers, is the sense of smell. So, when you say to somebody, "You are a stinker," it's really a complement. In the spiritual sense of smell, smelling is the first mystical experience, according to some of the Fathers of the Church who elaborated on this, you know, in the early centuries of Christianity. But if you could think of a room, that is celebrating an anniversary, your birthday, your marriage, or something else, and your dearest friends have provided this enormous bouquet of roses, but they're hiding it behind the sofa, in your living-room. And so when you come in, it's kind of a surprise party. Before they show you the roses, all you can do is smell this fragrance, without being able to identify where it comes from. But there's an inevitable, spontaneous reaction towards this delicious odor that is emitting from somewhere. It may fill the room or it may be somewhat localized, but it's the attraction to something that you can't see or hear, that it's delightful in its own way. So, the attraction for silence or solitude, I'm not referring to all the time, but the attraction that provides most faithful meditators, with the motivation to keep going back, rain or shine, is this faith driven and love smitten desire to embrace the roses or to at least investigate where this delicious smell is coming from. And so, this smell doesn't involve the external sense of smell. And so, in periods of prayer when you don't want to go there, when you have other things to do or when it's a dry period, or when it's a very challenging period, or when you are unloading the unconscious like a sewer... The roses, the mystical roses, are still smelling! And what they are giving you, is the healing of the unconscious, the oneness under the aspect of attraction, without seeing and without full satisfaction. Another sense that's very important is the awakening of the third eye, which is faith. Faith becoming not just an acceptance of belief systems of one kind or another, however enlightened. But rather the movement of trust in the mystery, in the ultimate reality, in the oneness, dimly perceived, and perceived not even as oneness, but nevertheless, enabling one little by little, to be sensitive to the Divine Presence in all creation, and in every detail. And in all the quarks in particle physics, if you could see them. Buy a microscope! We have to remember that this God who is always happening, is relating to everything that happens too. So that, take our own body at every level of our being, God is in relationship with that level! In other words, with our atoms, He is an atom, with our molecules, He is a molecule, and all the way up to human consciousness, and then the highest states of consciousness... God is simply relating in a new kind of oneness that is more integral and accurate, and just includes all the others! So that the other, that Llewellyn has referred to before, it's not just us, but it's everything in us and everything in creation that God has made, and that is evolving, and to other happenings... We don't know quite how, but there is all kinds of evidences that it's happening, and that human beings especially, are the focus of the realization of this oneness, for the first time in creation, or since the Big Bang, at least. In other words, we are moving into oneness, a oneness that we already have, but at various levels of our being, and hence we're aware of the oneness in different ways, and in different intensities, and in different levels, and able to respond as our awareness of this Presence keeps evolving. The Presence keeps expanding, becoming more penetrating, more enveloping, more involved with each of our bodily, mental, physical, and spiritual activities or capacities. So, we are always experiencing this oneness. But, when does it become that something that's described as there being no-Other? This is something that we could talk about tomorrow after a good night's sleep. Is it realistic to talk about experience of no Other that is really very advanced, and has few, as far as we know about it from reports, people who have actually experienced it, as a permanent state of awareness or consciousness, who have become not only the Other, but 'are' the Other? In a way... Now, this doesn't in any way deny the distinction between God and us, which is infinite. It does deny the separation. And so, this is why all spiritual wisdom is so paradoxical. We say that the Ultimate Reality is not this, then, not that! So, what the heck is it then? That God is not one, not two or something... It's because we can't... in our human empowerment, at least as of now in human spiritual evolution, encompass two infinitely opposing realities and resolve them within our own consciousness at the same time, so that they become one. All of these levels of human potentiality have to be gradually transcended, without omitting any one of these steps in between. So that our transformation is integral, because it's not just our spirit that is being transformed, but it's the whole of our human nature, including our social side. So our happiness, or our oneness is somewhat dependent on everybody else being one too. Because the human family is one, is one species, what happens to you, happens to me; my virtues are yours, I should say, my vices are yours and your virtues are mine. Everything is held in common, and everybody is equal, and there's a good deal of evidence--certainly the Buddhists think, that all creatures are one. Every living thing is our brother, our sister, or us. So, this commonality is totally against the present ideas, as Llewellyn pointed out, of the individualism that penetrates all of the western culture, and probably all the other cultures as they become westernized too. So, what does that mean? It means that since the enlightenment, which itself was a reaction to over-dependence on communities, and droves, and groups, that was necessary to overcome that! But now we've gone so far that is hard for people to feel their solidarity or oneness with others. And without that, we don't perceive the oneness of God in everybody else. It's not just a private project. And transformation, however wonderful, and however powerfully it contributes to the transformation of others, still remains incomplete. In Christianity, this is called the mystical body of Christ. Some of the members are fairly, some of the cells fairly new, fairly immature, or down right damaging--have a virus or something else. This is a living happening, a living thing that's going on. But it's an insight not only into the oneness of all humans but into their interrelatedness. A revelation that is proclaimed in all the religions but no one has ever believed it yet. In other words, as humans, as we approach, let's not claim to be fully rational yet, we are moving in that direction, technology manifests it. But we are very far from having integrated the lower forms, or the previous levels of life that we've passed through as a human race, and that each of us, more or less, recapitulates, in the developmental stage of infancy. So, we've been in the magical stage that our ancestors have been in, and are still represented in the population, I guess. And we've been over- identified with our group, which is mythic membership, and we began to access rational consciousness. But in any crisis it's easy to slip back in what we know, even though it was harmful. So as soon as you have a crisis, people regress to levels of instinctual response to conflict or problems, rather than responding in a fully human way. And so, this is where any means we can use to remember God's presence in us and in everybody else, and how many ways God presents Himself to us, and how direct and immediate are all of the possibilities of this communion. In other words, God really wants to live our human life if we'd allow Him, in us, with us, and for us! And so, just to complete a look at the senses in regard to contemplative prayer that I started to describe, there is also listening or hearing. How do you manifest God when you hear something? Koans would say, "Well, just hear it! Answer with your experience. But as long as there is a reflective 'I am' saying, I am having this experience of listening. It's not It. It's not oneness. It's twoness. It's duality. And, this is the battle ground between the movement from duality into non-duality, which is the area in which otherness not only becomes the Other but is the Other. More intimate even than listening, in which we're kind of vibrating to the initial word of God that started all creation and being, so that as we enter into silence, it's not words that you are using to respond to this Presence or the 'eternal word', but rather the vibrations of your own brain and heart, to the mysterious 'hum' of the universe. As you know the Hubble Telescope picked up this 'hum', and even took a picture of the first moment after the Big Bang. So, it's a reminder that science today is telling us what the mystics have said in scientific language that is often as profound and mystical without realizing it. It is time to realize that science is that other book of Revelation, that Christians have always believed was an accompaniment of the Bible, and equally a revelation of the Ultimate mystery: the Other. Touch is that spiritual experience in which in prayer one feels enveloped in the Divine Presence, or It descends upon us. So, we are embraced by It, or it rises up from the ground, the being within us, as a mysterious but real atmosphere or attentiveness, sweetness, and surrender. Finally, the most intimate of the mystical experiences seems to be Taste, in which we receive, so to speak, the 'kiss of God' in our inmost being. Spirit who is the most sweet kiss of the Father and the Son in trinitarian terms, pours into our inmost being, the fire, the light, the life and the love of the trinitarian exchange of total self-surrender in their relationship of unconditional and infinite love, which is the ultimate source of creation in the universe. What God is doing in the metaphor of 'spiritual taste', is asking us to receive the Spirit as He breathed on the disciples, poured into their hearts. Interestingly enough, or appropriately, this Sunday for Christians is the feast of Pentecost, which is the pinnacle of all of the mysteries of Christ's life and teaching, in which the love of God that is communicated between the Father and the Son enternally in the Holy Spirit is really and truly transmitted through the gift of the Spirit in the form of the Divine Breath or Wind, both of which are words for the Holy Spirit in some of those biblical languages. There's one final, since the onenesses are many, maybe it is adventurous to say one final because there's probably many more final ones after that. But perhaps this can be communicated by this story, which it seems to me the Buddhist writer has captured exactly what I am referring to here. In one of the Zen stories the Buddha is reported to have brought together the 80,000 disciples, I don't know Buddhist numerology well enough to know what that means, and they met on Vulture Peak. And there the Buddha, chose a lotus as you know, the very important symbol of human transformation in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. And so, somewhat like a Eucharistic celebration, he raised this lotus flower, and all the monks and nuns, I presume, gazed upon this symbol of unity and spiritual oneness, and forgot themselves or lost themselves in the deepest silence of communion with the Absolute and with each other. And because of their number, the intensity of the divine communication was unsurpassed... And as this deep silence trickled deeper and deeper into the inmost being of all those monks, one of the senior monks standing beside the Buddha, perhaps fanning flies or something, to keep them away, started to laugh! And it wasn't just he he he... It was ho ho ho! so he went into this bellowing of laughter that resounded off the mountain peaks, and shocked all the monks into a kind of spiritual stupor. So, that their silence of a spiritual kind was utterly shattered! So, as he lowered the lotus, the laughter subsided. He turned to this senior student, and he gave him the fullness of the Dharma. That is to say, Ultimate Enlightenment. Of course, the Zen people never tell you what it means... So, I speak certainly as someone less wise but I have my idea, so I'll share it with you. That's exactly what it means when you say, "There is no-Other." In other words, the Divine Oneness is so unique, no word, no concept can come anywhere close to it, nor can any experience, even the highest kinds in this life and probably in the next. In other words, it's so transcendent and imminent at the same time, that it blows you away! And the only possible response when that experience of oneness has reached its peak, is to laugh. Nothing is sacred compared to this experience, however sacred we try to make it. It just means: God is. There's nothing else to say or do in that! And yet, at the same time, this very experience, because of God's infinite diversity, it's the source of every true ministry, or service, or love, or heroism. But the acts are nothing compared to the Source, to the love that just is, and is always happening. And nothing can take anything away from it. Nothing can add to it. It's into this reality that we, poor little creatures, barely evolved from the vegetables and the animals, are invited. What does that say, if you believe that?! What does that say about the Ultimate? It must be that God is so humble, He doesn't want to be God. He's ready to throw it all away! Of course in Christian terms, this is what the incarnation means. Paul says explicitly, "The Word of God, the Son of God, didn't consider being equal to God something to hang onto! To hell with it!" That means that God is so close, that nobody is uninvited to this banquet of Divine Love, no matter who the hell you are, or what you have done. Hope! The theological hope, is not about the past, whether you did well, it doesn't matter, whether you did sins, they are all forgiven. It's not a future because we don't know whether that will exist. It's right now, that God, the Ultimate Host, is offering His hospitality, which goes to the extent of giving Himself away...totally to each of us on condition that we consent. So, in this perspective, being is more important than doing; being is more apostolical or evangelizing, if you use those terms, than silence. Sacrifice is the meaning of this universe. In heaven, the total giving away of all that one has is delightful; in this world, it's hell. But you can't change God; and the dynamic of manifesting this infinite humility of God, involves, for us, the total loss of self. Not just the false self, but of any attachment to an identity that is not God. And so, if reincarnation really exists, it is not us who are being reincarnated, but Christ, or whatever term you have for God.

Video Details

Duration: 34 minutes and 27 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: Seana Quinn
Views: 2,374
Posted by: oneness on Aug 22, 2008

From the event with Fr. Thomas Keating and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. A unique meeting of two mystical traditions which explores the oneness that is at the heart of all spiritual traditions.

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