Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pointers to the Journey Within

Based on my talk at the Center for Spiritual Living, Sarasota (Minister- Rev. Karen Wolfson) Feb. 13, 2011.

Good morning and thank you for having me here today.

Before we get started, I would like to use the power of collective thought of all those whose are gathered here this morning to send a prayer for world peace and harmony. The power of collective thought is like connecting a series of batteries to power a transmitter. The more the batteries, more the power. Each of your minds is like a battery and you can enhance your thought power by deeper concentration.

Our country has witnessed a terrible tragedy in Tucson last month. Let’s pray for the victims and for Congresswoman Giffords’s speedy recovery and send a message of peace and harmony to the one world we all share.

(Silence for 2 minutes).

When I first met Irwin and Rev Karen Wolfson, recognizing my Eastern heritage, they greeted me with a traditional Eastern greeting called Namaste. You may have seen pictures of the Dalai Lama using this form of greeting. The Namaste greeting involves bringing the palms of your hands together with your fingers pointing upwards along with a slight bow of the head. The deeper meaning of this greeting is the recognition of the higher power that resides within all of us. In fact, a handshake which is a common form of greeting someone in the West, is similar in several respects. In a handshake we bring two palms together, you provide one and the other person provides the other. Whether you live in the East or the West, when you greet someone, the intent can be the same. It depends on your mind.

Instead of identifying the unity among all human beings, we tend to dwell on our differences. There are several billion humans in the world and we all share the one sun. The sun shines on everyone in the world regardless of race, religion or color. Let’s suppose we walk outside and stand in the sun. If we face away from the sun, we see our shadow, if we face the sun, the shadow disappears. Similarly, if we look at ourselves as different from others, the “sun” of humanity will cast a shadow that we see as our economic, religious, cultural and ideological differences. If we turn around and look at humanity as a whole, these differences fall away and it will give us the mind to help and uplift our fellow beings.

We don’t have to look very far to start seeing this commonality that pervades all human beings. Just look at our physical selves. We all have a set of eyes and ears, a mouth, two hands and two feet. We all are born with five fingers on each hand and five toes on each leg. It turns out that this number five shows up repeatedly when we try to see a pattern of unity in a seemingly random universe around us.

On the one earth we all share, five things are common to all of us. The earth itself, which supports us, we need water, we need the fire element in the form of heat, we all need to breathe air and all countries are under one roof, the sky.

These five elements, namely the earth, water, fire, air and sky or space is evident in our bodies as well. The solid structure of our body, the bony skeleton for instance can be considered to be the earth element as it supports everything else. Two thirds of the human body is composed of water. We have the ability to maintain our body temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This “fire” that regulates our body temperature is the fire element within us. For the body to generate heat, air is required. The oxygen extracted from air is the key step in all metabolic pathways. The body heat is generated by cellular reactions going on in millions of tiny structures in the body called mitochondria. So, we depend on the fire element. Finally, we all suspended in space, albeit held to the surface of earth by the power of gravity. Space is something that we can readily see all around us.

These are the gross manifestations of the five elements that we see all around. We also have five senses, namely, the sense of sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. These five senses need five other things to function. We all have eyes, nose, tongue, skin and ears. Finally, in order to complete a human being, we all need five additional things. Legs to walk, hands to do work, speech in order to communicate with one other, ability to procreate the species and ability to eliminate the waste that is generated by food intake.

Add all these four groups of five and we come up with the number twenty. So, looking at our body, we have ten fingers and ten toes. When we look at our hands and feet everyday, these twenty digits serve as a constant reminder of the twenty things that are common to all human beings.  

Now, let’s look at our hands. Each hand has a thumb and four fingers. The most important structure is the thumb. Without the thumb, the other fingers cannot do much. Even a simple thing like writing needs unity of the five fingers. The thumb and the index finger to grasp the pen and the three other fingers to provide support to the hand while we write. Since the thumb is the most important digit in the hand, it can be thought of as representing the universal consciousness. The index finger is the next digit. This can be thought to represent the individual consciousness. The other three fingers are representative of three other things common to all humans, namely mind, ego and intelligence. Just by looking at the five fingers on one’s hand, we can see the relationship that exists between our individual selves and the universal consciousness. Let’s go back to the the example I gave you about the pen and paper. In order for us to write the script for our spiritual journey, we need to unite universal consciousness or thumb with the individual consciousness or index finger while using the mind, intellect and ego represented by the other three fingers as a support for our journey. Just as every one's handwriting is different, each of our spiritual journeys is different. If we pay much importance to the whims of the mind, pull of the ego to assert ourselves and our sense of intellectual superiority as represented by the middle, ring and index fingers, we will not be able to grasp the “pen” of life by uniting our individual spirit with the universal spirit.

We can all agree that human beings are the most complex and evolved creatures on earth. Since we are after all temporary inhabitants of earth, we need to put into perspective where humans stand on an evolutionary scale, so we can share the planet responsibly. Every century, there is a new set of people on earth. Here again the number five pops up. To get a snapshot of the evolutionary hierarchy, just look at the world around you. You have rocks representing the mineral kingdom, trees representing the plant kingdom, dogs and cats representing the animal kingdom and finally us human beings. Everything in evolution is not possible without the sun which is the ultimate source of energy for everything.

You can symbolically see representations of these five things, namely the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, our human nature and the sun within us. Our two feet can be thought of as a rock on which our upright structure rests. Our two legs are like the trunks of a tree that supports our body. We all have the instinctual need to procreate and look for food. We share this quality with animals. Our human nature is evident when we use our hands constructively to improve the lives of others. Going above our hands, we come our head and neck area where our brain resides. The human brain is like the sun. It powers the entire body.

We don’t pay too much attention to to our feet (representing the mineral kingdom) and legs (representing the plant kingdom) although they provide a vital supporting function. We pay a lot of attention to food. Just as we exhibit greed in the form of physical overeating, we also exhibit greed in the form of mental overeating, which is greed for wealth. If we focus our attention on this instinctual need for food all the time, we relegate our minds to the animal kingdom. We can exhibit our human nature by giving. However, we use the same hands to take as well. A lot of the problems we see in the world around us is because we want to take more that we want to give. The sun represents one divine quality, that is giving without expectation of a reward. How one uses the energy supplied by the sun is up to us. So in order to develop divine qualities, we have to give, give and give without expectation. How others receive this is left to them, just like the sun does not care if its energy is used by plants to grow, by cold blooded animals to warm up or by humans to generate solar energy.

We don’t need to look beyond ourselves to find pointers to the journey within. The journey can begin with a simple handshake that provides us an opportunity to see the unity that is in humanity. Once we see this unity, we can then easily go within ourselves to discover who we really are.

Once we start to go within ourselves, we again see five things. A living breathing human being is composed of five interconnected layers. The physical layer, the mental layer, the physiological layer, the intellectual layer and the soul. Of these, the mind is the most important layer. It can be thought of as a mirror. If you turn your minds outwards towards the world, you will see a reflection of the world colored by your thoughts and perceptions. This is why the world appear different to each one of us. If you turn your mind inwards, you can focus your thought energy to light up the journey to your true self.

Controlling the mind and focusing oneself inwards is not easy. Your subconscious mind is a store house of infinite amount of thoughts. Once you close your eyes these thoughts pop up.

Let’s have everyone close their eyes and see the movie of thoughts within you.

(2 minutes).

Many people having difficulty doing this for even a few minutes. They fight to open their eyes to escape their own minds! They don’t realize that you have to transcend and scale the summit of your mind to find your true self. It is easier to open your eyes than to close your eyes as your thoughts don’t trouble you as much when you open your eyes. You can use your eyes to focus on something other than your thoughts.

The mind, the breath and our desires are all interlinked. Control one and the others are automatically controlled. Breath control is the easiest one to do. If you control your breathing, you can automatically control your mind and its desires. This gives you peace of mind.  Without peace of mind, it is hard to achieve anything in this world.

Now I invite you to join your hands together in any fashion and close your eyes. Take your attention to your nostrils and simply observe your breathing pattern. Watch the breath go in and out.

If you find your mind being distracted by thoughts, gently coax it to watch the breath go in and out. (5-10 minutes).

Now with each breath going inside, send a message inside that humanity is one and pray for peace in the world.

As you do this you will find that the clouds of thought are disappearing and a mountain of peace is now visible inside you. Take your attention away from your breath and enjoy this mountain of peace. The more you look at it, the bigger it gets. The bigger it gets, the more visible it is to the rest of humanity. When all of humanity looks at this mountain we soon realize that this mountain looks the same to all. As we summit this mountain, there will be space only for one thing at the top and that is unity in humanity.

Please open your eyes at your own pace.

Namaste and thank you.