Towards the Silent Heart

kitchen table philosophy


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What is enlightenment?

by Joseph Raffa

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Image by samarttiw FreeDigitalPhotos

What is this enlightenment so many people are seeking? Does it indeed exist and what is its nature?  So much effort is poured into its realisation by the seeking mind.  Meditation along a chosen theme.  Self-discipline – of desire, of the emotions, of thoughts – much of it extremely difficult.

The seeking mind projecting itself into various postures, assuming roles that are expected to help on the way to enlightenment. Always backed up by belief in the outcome.  This supplies the energy to keep the mind focused on the eventual discovery.

Projecting an image while the reality is absent. And what of the image?  Where does this come from?  From the dreams of a mind that must have a target to aim at.  So, it creates effort and travel.  Avenues created by the mind to fashion and sustain the illusion of self-development towards achievement.

Mind goes from here to a problematical there for that is the way of travel that it knows.  Can it travel in this way to enlightenment, to something it doesn’t know?   Mind is so confident that with the means it puts into motion it can build a bridge from darkness to the light.  It fashions the bridges from the words passed down from the masters of long ago, from the prophets, from those considered gurus.

But surely the bridges are built from the ignorance reflected by the mind.  The cement that links the actions is that of illusion. What can come of the mind’s actions but postures cast in a timeful mould, nurtured and placed in the mind’s vision as something of greater value.  They keep the mind embedded in its own playground. They are playthings created to amuse the mind, to pad out its emptiness and offer foundational supports of psychological substance because mind needs something to lean on before it can proceed with assurance.

What will the mind discover while its vision is controlled in this way, while its attention is idea tuned, discipline tuned, focused in on its complex maze of effort?   Will it not stay amidst its postures and projections?  Where then is there enlightenment amongst all this?

All we have is the discordant music of the mind, the shadowy images, the objectives, the disciplinary endeavours that weave and twist in the forefront of the mind, covering all else. And from all this it hopes to give birth to enlightenment, to that strange arisal that surges crystal clear, like a lightning flash, sudden and surprising.

This is not born, nor ever can be from the mind’s persistent efforts to coax it out of the unknown into the perceptive net of the mind.  It arises in moments of deep stillness not fashioned by thought or reason, nor from disciplinary endeavour. This kind of stillness is its own happening.

Its offspring is the enlightenment, the insights that pour into the mind bringing new vistas, new perceptions that expose the illusions created by the mind’s desires to discover something it can relate to – use as a stepping stone of support in its day to day living.

The new comes, not over the roadways of thought or desire but over the timeless bridge.  This brings to an end the movement of time and the sense of separation involved in timeful living.   When this is dissolved enlightenment happens as a natural consequence.  All mind could do was be still.  That’s all – just be still and what enlightenment is, comes through.

 

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Choose gentleness – not violence

Joseph Raffa reminds us there is a gentle side to human nature behind the darkness being expressed so widely in our world today.

 

The atmosphere of killing fields, of charnel houses, of cities devastated by bombs is something we can do without. The odour of violent death is not a pleasant one. There is something deeply repulsive about it.

Animals being led to slaughter show the fear in their eyes and in the frenzied behaviour of their bodies. Hasn’t this planet had enough yet? Must we go on living with such behaviour, reflecting the violence, the aggressiveness, the selfishness that has been part of our makeup for so long?

We don’t have to be like this. There is a gentle side to human nature waiting its chance to show what it can do. It doesn’t need the protection of force, of security screens and protective devices, of alliances and other means devised by minds riddled by fear and uncertainty.

Behind the darkness of human living, behind the aggressive mask there is indeed another face – gentle, sensitive, caring. All it needs is a chance to come out and, when humans experience it for themselves, when they dwell in its nature and know it for what it is, never will they choose to dwell in the darkness of human living ever again.

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In the silence of being we discover that which stills every

sound – the sound of breathing, the heart beating, even the

sound of thinking.


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Must we live in fear?

By Joseph Raffa

IT’S the 21st century and still the human race lives in fear. Fear of economic loss, of molestation, violent intrusion and disruption; of diseases and sicknesses difficult or impossible to cure; of a host of dangers, seen and imagined.

Fear stalks the corners of the mind ever ready to surface. Is this the devil in our midst with its insidious infiltration of the mind – this destroyer of confidence and equanimity? How it spreads like a forest fire, spark igniting spark until a conflagration of fear burns its way through the human psyche.

Is fear then to be the emperor of the human race? Must it sit on the throne of human endeavour and direct the course of human actions? Alarm bells ringing all the time – over political intentions, environmental changes, economic changes, disturbing events worldwide – anything that disrupts the self from its state of sleepy acceptance.

Which way to go to avoid the devilish intrusion of fear? Some will say, “Head for God. Turn to religion.” Others say, “Rely on reason.” It’s all been tried. Intellectual endeavour in the forefront of the battle but still fear lurks in the recesses of the human mind refusing to be eradicated by the intentions and efforts of the mind.

What to do? Give up the fight? Acknowledge defeat? Live with the devil? Make some kind of accommodation? No way. We would be slaves forever, never free, never in control of our lives. Fear would rule the human roost and we would do its bidding.

Why then does it rise, unbidden, unwanted, to torment the human race? Seek the answer to this in the nature of the self, in the drive for self protection of all the things that pertain to the self.

The solution lies in understanding the self. Fear cannot live in the light of a clear understanding nor take root and flourish well. What brings this understanding, this surging light into our lives? Is it born of a mind afflicted by fear – riddled with its effects? Such a mind is incapable of clear-view seeing and must act from a basis of being fear controlled.

Influenced by fear, the mind cannot deal with fear – not completely. It can try to over-ride, overlay with its own conception of not fear – explain, analyse, but this is not the same as a fear-free state.

This comes only when the mind realises that it is the fear, the creation of it and the expression of it; that it is born of the mind’s misunderstanding of its own nature and the nature of experience. Not only realising this but standing aside in a sense and not interfering.

This allows an underlying “deepness” to come through – something other than the mind – to absorb and banish the fear. And, as long as this “deepness” is active with its power to integrate the human expression into its own nature, fear has little opportunity of claiming a major foothold in the mind, ever again.

 


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The choice to change

by Joseph Raffa

In every human field change is inevitable. The old established attitudes are constantly being modified or rejected and new ones take their places.

The mind has a tendency to become fixed in traditional or habitual ways and resists change that appears too radical.

But change will not be denied its opportunity. Through new generations comes the support to take society in a different direction.

What people fully support will prevail. New arrangements may have little of this in the beginning. But if the changes are seen to have value, slowly the support comes.

It may seem that leaders, whatever their role in life, initiate change. But it is the readiness of people to embrace a new direction that determines the success or otherwise of the initiatives that leaders put into motion.

So, whatever issue surfaces into public awareness, the individual role is the final arbiter of what, for a time, holds centre stage in human affairs.


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A perfect expression

by Joseph Raffa

ID-10029114Old eyes, bored and tired, look out on the changing world and see only what old eyes can see. They see the shadow of death just around the corner and the constant surge of decay.
New eyes look at the world in a new way and see magic. There is magic in every precious moment of living. Strange magic!
The magic is in the birth of a new life. In the baby that lies, sleeping so sweetly in its mother’s arms. In time, the magic takes wings and the first smile breaks across a tiny face.
The mother smiles back and the magic brightens. They talk, these two, the language of a new love. The baby’s lips searchingly nuzzle at the mother’s well rounded breast. She bares the breast and teases the nipple along those tiny lips. Soft skin to even softer lips. She talks soothingly, gently.
The baby’s lips open and close around the nipple. Rounded breast and the face of a babe, contented together. A perfect expression of the magic.


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Seasons of living

eng_253by Joseph Raffa

Our lives are a ritual of prearranged patterns. Every morning it begins anew. We rise, wash and go through our routines. Blinds are raised, windows are opened to let in fresh air. We dress according to taste – light and colourful for the summer, warm clothing for the winter.

Every season has its chores but overall, some things do not change. Breakfast, dinner, tea, washing up and shopping. Reading the daily paper if that is your preference. Monday to Friday has its own tempo. Work for many, except for the unemployed, the retired – whose time is their own – and the children.  Some are cradled in their mothers’ arms or pushed about in prams and strollers. Those old enough head for school on foot, bike, bus or car. The seasons dictate their own patterns in dress, food, entertainment and behaviour.

Sometimes the ritual is broken by sickness, accident, or an unexpected change. But whatever it is that disrupts the orderly flow of our lives, once it’s over, we return back to the patterns we are comfortable with if we can. Being human, we love the complex patterns of our lives. And we like guidelines to direct our travel.

We have our web of relationships – our home, which is the centre of our living and our refuge – family connections and a host of gadgets to make life comfortable. And that’s the way it goes, a mixture of happy and sad, until death drags us away. Rituals then, don’t mean a thing any more.


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Trapped on life’s treadmill

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Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

by Joseph Raffa

Why is it that we are not left to enjoy our lives in peace? We are continually urged to do this or that, to work harder, produce more, spend, save or invest. And of course, at election time we are told to be very careful – to consider the issues intelligently, so that we vote for the right party and thereby go on to prosperity and economic wellbeing.

Inwardly, the pressures we impose on ourselves are just as demanding. We pattern out our lives in programmes and routines that must be done, regardless of how we feel, and we subject ourselves to stern disciplinary actions so that our intentions are fulfilled, come what may.

All the time we are harried from within and without. We are urged to drive ourselves constantly onwards, either by self-imposed directives or by outside authorities, eager to shape our lives for our eventual benefit. As a consequence, our lives are carved up – a slice for this, a slice for that, with a piece going here and there till there is very little left that we can call our own.

Is it any wonder then, that we throw ourselves into whatever pleasures or amusements surround us at the moment, to grasp a little of those experiences we can hold for ourselves alone? Something that we can give ourselves to, without hindrance or restraint, without any strong demand or urgent need arising to drag us away. At these times, we can function at a natural level, regardless of whether the moments indulged in are truly beneficial or not. Just so long as we express this deep-felt need to be ourselves as we want to be, if only momentarily.

For we feel the restrictions and demands of modern living so deeply. With the incessant ‘this must be done, then that’, on and on, endlessly till it seems that our lives are carved up into many little pieces, just to feed the voracious appetites of the dragons of modern social living and personal intention.