Throughout history, inner-directed people on the so-called “spiritual path” have had a tendency to perceive the world as maya — the fancy Sanskrit name for “illusion.”
I used to feel this way a lot.
Back in the early days of my adolescent quest for meaning, I had a curious habit of drawing lines in the sand. On one side of the line was the “inner life” — the place where God lived (or if not lived, at least vacationed). On the other side of the line was “the world.” You know — the laughable detritus of life on planet Earth: relationships, shopping malls, money, politics, ego, organized religion, high school geometry, taxes, Frosted Flakes, and anything I didn't understand, agree with, or like.
Somehow, it made me feel good to draw these lines — not unlike the way Democrat and Republican spin doctors strut their stuff on CNN after each political debate.
Memory may be about the past, but it’s also about the present. In Wired magazine, Jonah Lehrer writes, “Every time we recall an event, the structure of that memory in the brain is altered in light of the present moment, warped by our current feelings and knowledge.” It turns out that remembering is less like watching a video and more like experiencing a play, each performance of which is subtly different.
Memory problems aren’t always about not being able to remember; sometimes the problem is a debilitating memory that won’t go away. The thrust of Lehrer’s article is that one day there might be a pill to target a specific memory and erase it.
In spite of its imperfections, memory is an incredible attribute of the brain and a necessary and integral part of human experience. But how wise is our all too common and casual perspective of life as an expansive vista that seamlessly encompasses past, present and future?
I spent my early childhood in a beautiful place, a land full of light filled with wonderful things to discover each day: the Côte d’Azur, the loveliest part of Provence for those who know it! Victor Hugo paid homage to the town of Antibes not far from where I lived. It roughly translates to: “All here radiates, all flourishes, all sings, the sun, women, love, all are at home here. I still have the resplendence of it in my eyes and in my soul.”
We lived in a white villa set in a lovely scented garden filled with geraniums, arum lilies, daisies, bougainvilleas and hydrangeas that my grandmother lovingly watered morning and evening. The almond trees were the first to break into blossom in spring, followed by cherry trees, peach trees, apricot trees and fig trees, each in turn offering their delicious fruit. There was a little pond with a fountain that had small black Japanese fish, goldfish and frogs whose soothing evening song helped me sleep.
It was a happy house, where I lived with my grandparents when my parents were away. In January or February my grandmother would bring in large bunches of mimosa, its bright yellow flowers lighting up the room. We would say, “The sunshine is back!”
I was recently thinking about a common thing people say when it comes to pursuing personal peace: “But I don’t have time…” In response, Prem Rawat will often say something like, “We do not have time. Time has us.” Time is not a chunk of something we can possess or control. We can only control what we do in the time that we have.
Scientists are currently looking at a species of planarian worm with a remarkable ability to regenerate. These worms seemingly bypass the aging process seen in almost all known organisms reliant on sexual reproduction. They do it by constantly regenerating the telomeres at the ends of their chromosomes. Telomeres (from the Greek telos, meaning "end", and meres, meaning "days") have been compared to the protective tips of shoelaces: during the complex process of DNA replication and cell division, they keep genetic material from "fraying" or becoming entangled. Every time DNA replicates, the telomeres erode. Eventually the process of genetic protection ends because the telomeres are not long enough.
I think of Prem Rawat sometimes as an entertainer.
He can sit on a stage and do a monologue for an hour without stopping or slowing down and wrap it all up at the end so you can take it home. Actually, he does stop, he does slow down, the pace changes, there’s a joke, there’s a question — the dynamic range is almost operatic.
As a poet, I consider him among the best, even though he’s not known as a poet. What he says doesn’t fit into any genre of poetry, but it’s interesting to note that the original form of poetry was simply this: the telling, the reciting of words of wisdom, stories, the rhythm of the voice falling on the ears of the people and the people feeling the rhythm of the voice. Our tradition of literature comes from poetry. Homer’s Odyssey and the saga of Gilgamesh are good examples. In the truest sense poetry is our truest language because it touches the heart. As poet T.S. Eliot said, genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. This Prem Rawat does with a very high level of skill.