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Oneness and the Heart of the World: Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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So, it is a great pleasure to be here with Father Thomas Keating and to bring together these two contemplative traditions: the Christian contemplative work that Father Keating is doing and the Sufi tradition to which I belong. And, what I wanted to start with actually was something that moved me very much a few years ago, a few words of Father Keating in the Film One, in which he describes the spiritual journey towards becoming the Other with a capital O, "And finally coming to the realization that there is no Other. You and the Other are one, always have been, always will be. You just think that you aren't. " It is that primal oneness that I would like us to explore together, which is really one of the great mystical secrets that is given to us. The Sufis describe it as, “I am He whom I love, He whom I love is me.” And it is something so simple and yet so deeply profound, and in my understanding something that we need to claim back in this world of divisiveness, in this world of insularity. And really to go back to that very simple but quite wonderful, quite extraordinary knowing that belongs in the heart of all of us, that there is no Other, that there is this extraordinary oneness of which we are a part, to which we belong. And the mystic is often given a direct experience of that oneness. And yet, every person has that knowing within their heart. And often through prayer, through meditation, we are taken to that place of oneness, to that very primal awareness, and then we have to hold it. We have to return to this place of oneness, to this place of love, to this place of knowing… and bring it into our practice and bring it into our lives, bring it into our community, and bring it into the world in which we live, which I feel has a great need for it. And I wanted to explore that oneness a little bit from a mystical point of view. There are many different ways of course, one experiences that. In fact, probably every experience of that oneness is unique, is a new revelation of the Divine. But there is this experience in the heart or experience in oneself, in which you are the oneness, in which you are this complete whole, in which you are That, with a capital T. And it is not that you are a part of something, but you are that whole. In fact, everything not just you, but everything, even this chair, is that whole. Everything is that Divine Presence. Everything is that Divine Knowledge. Everything is that Living Presence of oneness, because God is One. And God is alive. And in that awareness, you hold it. You hold this knowing of this Divine Presence, of this, which is complete. One of the mystical experiences is that everything in each moment is complete. We live in a world in which we are somehow given this consciousness of incompleteness, that there is something for which we have to strive, something to which we have to go towards, some dream we have to follow... But in this experience it is God. It is complete. It is to honor that within oneself, to honor that completeness of which we are made. Because to say that we are not complete, is in a way to deny the completeness of God, to deny His perfection. It seems in this world of appearances, of course that we are imperfect, and in many ways we are, but there is a deeper truth within us that we hold this mystery of God in the world. And somehow once we awaken to that, or once we even have a glimpse of it, I always think that we have a responsibility to live it. To live this mystery of the Divine in this world, and of course, there are spiritual practices, whether the practice of prayer, or for example practices of breath that help us to remember, that help us to reconnect with this innate knowing, that we are That, that we are that oneness. We are that Divine Presence. It isn't somewhere else. It is this responsibility to return it to life, to give it back to life, to give it back to ourselves, to give it back to our family, to give it back to our environment, and to give it back to the world. It is very, very , very simple. My teacher, she said, "Mystics teach simple things, but those simple things change people's lives." And just the simple awareness that we have Divine Presence within us; it's not complicated. You do not have to read a book to get there. You don't have to study a course to get there. You have to go within yourself and you find the spark in your heart, which is one of the greatest secrets of what it means to be a human being, to have a spark in the heart, to have this divine spark, the spark of the soul, the spark of the Self, or the Atma. It doesn't matter what you call it. It's this living presence within you. Every child that comes into the world carries it. It's the mystery of the divine that is present in every human being. And of course, part of spiritual practice is to reclaim it, and to live it. And then also, there comes this knowing that you are not just living it for yourself. Because there is no individual self. One of the experiences of oneness is there is no such a thing as your individual self. I always say this is the greatest myth that it's propagated by our culture, that you are separate individual self. And in this knowing of oneness, you realize you are the whole and you are part of the whole. And so when you live it for yourself, when you live it in your own practice, in your own presence, this simple spark in the heart, it is the most precious thing that you have. If you knew how precious it was... Rumi says somewhere, "Why do you sell yourself for so little, you who are so precious in God's eyes." And it is that spark, that light, that divine presence that is your spiritual heritage. It is what is real inside of you. And when you live it, with whatever practice or prayer you live it with, you live it for the whole. Your heart is the heart of the world. There is no other. There is nothing else anywhere else. This is again a kind of conditioning--that is somewhere else. But there is nothing anywhere else. There is this incredibly beautiful saying by Meister Eckhart when he said, "God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." I meditated on that for a long time because I found it so, so profound, "God is a circle whose center is everywhere." That means wherever you are or wherever anything is, it is the center of God. Again something very, very simple, but infinitely profound, wherever you are within you, is that center. It's everywhere. And, and that is why the simple return within oneself— I think it was Saint Augustine that said, "Return within oneself, in one's inner presence is God." That simple act of returning within oneself, wherever you are--returning to that spark, to that divine core of your being, and then, in Sufi practice, we breathe on it. Through the awareness of breath, we breathe on that spark within the heart. And it is that breath, that breath of remembrance, because if you breathe consciously it is a remembrance, that makes that spark come alive, that wakes up that spark. And of course, eventually it becomes the divine fire that consumes you. As Rumi when he described his whole life, he said, "I burnt and I burnt and I burnt." And in a way I often feel all spiritual practice is a way of working with that spark within the heart, of working with that light within the heart, so it becomes a fire, so it consumes you. So then--it isn't just a momentary realization of oneness. You can't even imagine that you are not That. There is no part of you; I think Rumi said, his whole being just became That. And that is really the..I mean it isn't the goal because there is no goal but it is present within that spark that's within your own heart, that is the living presence of God, that you can live with, that can become your life. If you knew how precious it was. It is so valuable. It is really the most precious thing you have. And it's in a way God taking you back to God. Or as the Sufi says, it is God remembering Himself within your heart. And what a beautiful idea to realize that your heart is a place of Divine Remembrance. It is a place where God comes to know Himself yet again, within your heart. That your heart is this place where this mystery of divine incarnation takes place. It is... In my sense, it is really what we are here to live, to experience. That mystery of divine incarnation, of God coming to know Himself in your life, in your heart. In a way all you ever have to do is to say yes. This is again something very, very simple. It is not complicated. The Sufis say, "It is the consent that draws down the Grace." You just have to say, "yes, I want to live this divine spark within the heart. This is what has meaning to me. I want to be a place where the Divine comes to know Himself in His world." "I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known, so I created the world." And then you participate in this divine mystery, in this living presence of God within your heart, within the world. I personally feel that is the greatest contribution you can make to life. Because as I was sharing with Father Keating earlier, It is like, we have forgotten that the world belongs to God. We have forgotten something so essential, and we busy ourself doing ten thousand things, trying to save the world in ten thousand ways. But without His presence, what is the point of saving anything. What is the point of changing anything if He is not there. What is the point of building the most beautiful house, If He is not welcomed into it, if that Divine Knowing is not there. Because that is what gives anything meaning, that's what gives your life meaning, that's what gives the world meaning. Without that presence nothing has meaning, nothing has purpose. It's just as it was said in Macbeth, "A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." That is life without that living presence. And of course, it is played out in Shakespeare's Macbeth because, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth murdered the King who was their guest. And of course the King is one's divine Self. And if you murder it, because you want power, because the ego wants to take over, because you want to be the person in control, then, this precious substance goes away, and you are left,"Tomorrow and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day." "Life's but a walking shadow, a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing." But if you welcome that presence, if you go within your prayer, in your meditation to this spark within the heart, and learn to be with it, then it is no longer 'your life'. You begin to share it with the Divine and this is when miracles happen, and this is when the miraculous takes over. And I often feel we somehow live in a culture starved of the miraculous. We think a miracle is just something that can happen to an individual. We've forgotten that a miracle can happen to the whole of life. We've forgotten that the very foundation of life is the miraculous. You know, we go to healers, we go to teachers, in search of the miraculous, but the miraculous is something fundamental to life, because life is a miracle. And that's why I often feel when we see a new-born child, it touches us so deeply, because that miracle is tangible, is visible. And it seems as we grow up, we lose it. But it isn't something just for children. It is something that belongs to life because life is divine and the divine is a miracle. And again, just the simple act of saying yes, participating in this greatest miracle that is within our own hearts, that is within our own souls, ...if you knew how extraordinary it is to be a human being. When I was 23, I had a very powerful experience, in which I saw, the only time in my life I've ever seen visually, what human beings really are. And I remember, I was in a driveway, and at the end of the driveway there was a street, and along the street, there was a group of school children on an outing, I guess they were 6 or 7 years old. In those days, I don't know how it is now, in England they used to walk two-by-two, each child held the hand of the child next to them. It was two-by-two with a teacher at the beginning and a teacher at the end, and for a moment, the veils in front of me dropped. and I saw these children as they really are, and I saw that where the heart was in each of these school children, there was an incredibly beautiful sun. Each child was so beautiful and so full of life! And so full of light! I mean, I could hardly bear it with my eyes. So, it only lasted a few seconds. And that's the only time in this life in full consciousness, I've seen what human beings really are. How incredibly beautiful they are! Each human being is a sun. Each human being is this being of light. And then, to me the real mystery, is that we have forgotten it, is that we don't see it, is that we live in this world the Sufis call covered by veils. I mean the Sufi says yes, there has to be these veils, 70,000 veils of light and 70,000 veils of darkness, otherwise the glories of God would burn you away. But maybe we are allowed in our life, in our practice to get closer to that truth of what it means to be a human being, of what it means to be alive, and what it means to be an incarnation of spirit. And, as I said, in a way, in the beginning all you have to do is to say yes, to be a place where God can come alive in your own heart. And for the Sufis of course, it is with love, because that's the Sufi relationship to God is of love. It is a love affair. It is a burning in the heart. It is this sweet, sweet calling within the heart. As Rumi said, "I never knew that God too desires us," that He wants us to know Him in our hearts, and He sends this message of love to us. Again, love is something so simple, and so foundational to everything, and again, we look for it in all the wrong places. To me again, the human mystery is that we have forgotten, where we don't go to find what is real. It is the truth that is inside of us, this love that is inside of us, waiting to be lived. Because this spark in the heart, this divine presence, is love waiting to be lived. Yes, it is a painful love, because is the love that is truth. It's the love that doesn't want to play games. You know when Rumi says, "Different degrees of domination and servitude are what you know as love, but love is different. It arrives complete, just there, like the moon at the window. Seek only that of which you have no hope. Desire only that of which you have no clue. This is not the Oxus River or some little creek. This is the shoreless sea. Here swimming ends always in drowning." And yes, this love is a very demanding love, because it is real, because it is divine, because it wants to reveal to us what we really are, and what life really is. That is not a buying and selling, you don't need to achieve anything. Those are all the games that we have been sold. It's something much, much more simple. It is a miracle that is waiting to happen for each of us. And what is extraordinary is how many people pass by that miracle because they are too busy. My teacher, he used to say, "We stand in the market place with our hand full of jewels, but people pass by because they think it is false." And it is this extraordinary beauty, and power, and dignity, that we each have within us. Because it is this divine presence. It isn't anything else. And nobody has a second rate God. It is for each of us, in each human being, there is this extraordinary living presence, waiting to come alive. And yes, it is a demanding presence. I often felt, like it's said in the Old Testament, "My God is a jealous God." He is a jealous lover for the Sufi. He is a jealous lover, but He's a real lover. And, He wants to come to know you. He wants to reveal Himself within you. It is like any lover: He wants to share His love. And, again, all you have to do is to say, "Yes, Beloved use me, take me. Reveal Yourself to me." If you can go within yourself, within your own heart, in your own life. It's not anywhere else! Again, you don't have to achieve anything, you don't have to realize anything. You have to be true to that spark inside of yourself. And, and welcome it! Like you welcome a lover, like you welcome a guest, like you welcome a friend. For the Sufis the Beloved is often referred to as the Friend, because He is our Friend. He wants to help us. There is no judgment. There is deep friendship. He wants to help us along the way. He wants to help us in our lives. He wants to...He just wants to help us! One great Sufi, Abû Sa’îd, he said, "What could be more pleasing than when friend is with Friend? The rest is only talk. That is all joy! The rest is only grief. That is all love." It's spiritual friendship that it waiting to be lived. Again, it is very, very simple. Again, I think Meister Eckhart said, "God is a simple essence." In our culture, we tend to complicate everything. We have theories about everything. I often think,it's like the sadness that women today read books about what it means to be a mother. You have to read books about how to bring up your children. There are even books on breast-feeding. I mean, this most simple, natural process. And, and this truth is within us. You don't have to join anything. Yes, it can be helpful to find a spiritual practice to help you work with it. to find a prayer, to find a meditation that is sympathetic to your nature. As it says in the Koran, "Every being has his own mode of prayer and glorification." To find your way of being with God. To find your way of living that essence within you, and respecting it. Somehow in this culture we have very little respect. And you do have to respect this divine spark in your own heart, this living presence of God. The Sufis call it 'adab'. There is the 'outer adab', how to live it among other people, and there is the 'inner adab', how to live with that divine spark in your own heart. It's respect. It's respecting that really, well from the mystical point of view, your hear is a home for God. Your heart is a home for That presence to come and live. Your life is a place for a miracle to take place. And there is no greater miracle than in a way, realizing God in your own heart. Realizing that divine presence, that oneness, that love... And there so many ways to experience it! As peace, as love, as joy, as service, as sacrifice... Even as this deep, deep sorrow within the heart, the Sufis call longing. So, that's really what I wanted to share with you. Is this living presence of God. Because that's what we are. When I saw those children walking along the street, and I saw the sun burning in each of their hearts, that's what that sun is. It's the living presence of God here in this world. And it's in each of us. It is the spark. Otherwise, the soul would die. Otherwise, life would have no meaning. And... For me all that matters is to say 'yes' and to learn to live with it. So that you honor what it really means to be human being, what it really means to be alive, what it really means to walk in the presence of God, to live in the presence of God. And then, of course, comes this greater miracle, when you begin to see God in everything, not just within your own heart. "Where so ever you turn, there is the face of God." When you begin to live in the world as it really is, not as it appears. And this is a beautiful step on the Path, when you look into the eyes of someone and you see the Divine. It doesn't even have to be something beautiful, because everything in this world is the living presence of God. As Thomas Keating said, "There is no Other.There never was an Other. Everything is He." And once the veils are lifted, you begin to live in this world that is His world. It is an extraordinary experience. And that's the miracle of being a human being, we are given the opportunity to participate in His miracle, in God's miracle, the Divine miracle. Her miracle. It doesn't matter how you call it! The Sufis say, "In the name of He who has no name but who appears by whatever name you call Him." And is the simple miracle of being a human being, of being given the privilege to see the Divine and experience the Divine in one's life. And I think that if you live that, don't forget, you don't live just for yourself because there is not such thing as yourself. There is only God. There is not such thing as yourself. The Sufis say, "You are the veil that separates you from God." And I think that is the greatest contribution you can make to life, because life is starving. Life is dying. And it needs that spark to be lived. Then the miracle can happen, not just for ourselves but for the whole of life.

Video Details

Duration: 30 minutes and 19 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: Seana Quinn
Views: 1,208
Posted by: oneness on Aug 22, 2008

A talk from the event with Fr. Thomas Keating and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in May 2008. A unique meeting of two mystical traditions which explores the oneness that is at the heart of all spiritual traditions.

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