We spend much of our time building our material houses.
What then of our spiritual house? Which gives the greater
protection from the storms and tempests of the mind?
Tag Archives: self understanding
Live free of corruption
Kitchen Table Philosopher Joseph Raffa asks if corruption is endemic to human nature…
Corruption has been exposed over the years in sport, politics, science, in fact in most areas where people come together to compete, to achieve, in a bid for power or to accumulate wealth.
Is corruption then, in some form, endemic in the human race? Why are people in prominent positions prepared to risk all for the dubious returns that corruption offers?
Regardless of good intentions, protective legislation, watch dog committees, nothing seems to halt the movement of corruption, sometime, somewhere. Always it looms as an offering of worthwhile value. Those who are initially confronted with a choice yield for one reason or another, then they are caught in a web of devious deception from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.
Are we helpless then to halt the tide of its movement? No. Humans have always been endowed with an inner capacity, a universal nature, the discovery of which releases a deeper perception of the extent and depth of corruption in the human expression.
In many it may not be the spectacular kind that holds the media attention or brings forth investigative committees, but to individuals learning to live corruption free lives it is of profound importance to understand and eradicate every aspect of corruption that bids to settle in the mind. Not only the forms of corruption that are easily recognised as such but also the lesser ones which society may even accept as being worthwhile behaviour.
Seeking the great river of life
Kitchen Table Philosopher Joseph Raffa muses on the search for the mainstream that feeds all life.
I have wandered many tributaries in my search for the Great River of Life. But so many of the streams I travelled led only into marshes and swamps. Oh, how I searched for this mainstream,this Great River that feeds all of life.
I have journeyed forwards and backwards, moved in circles that go round and around; wandered the highways and byways, endlessly asking the what fors and whys. Questions – always unanswered – reasons – on the tip of my mind. But the Great River remains elusive, refuses to make itself known.
Demarcation is not for the River, its movement is not for the mind. No sun shines on its surface, no wind ripples in waves. Its course is not watery motion, its silence like that of the grave.Why then does the search continue and the questions continue to fall like leaves from the trees in Autumn, that litter the ground but to die?
In our journey are we then like a river, lost and out on its own, seeking to flow into Greatness, but doomed to wander alone? Why then do we urge for the Greatness, yet wander the streams of the mind; these streams that lead only to deserts – where they dry out, wither and die?
- Joseph’s Kitchen Table Philosopher series of spiritual writing is available from Amazon.com and other online retailers.
Journey inward to reach home
Kitchen table philosopher JOSEPH RAFFA contemplates the ways of the mind.
Life has its demands. These cannot be ignored. The body has its needs. These must be met. In living the human expression many pathways beckon. People do their best to travel those that seemingly offer the best returns. The mind is the determinant, the decider of where to go and what to do.
If the mind is happy, at ease with what is done, all is well and life moves smoothly. But if uncertainty, resistance and compulsion settle in then the results are not very pleasant at all.
Not many live from moment to moment with a happy heart. Contradiction and choice are the bugbears that unsettle our movement through life, particularly when inner and outer security control the choices we make. The mind urges for self protection. The self is a complex mix of arising desires and demands. So many influences and attitudes have lodged in the mind. The past clouds its judgement.
The expression of choice is influenced by the past, by thinking, which is an attempt to lock the unknown of what to do for the best into a present frame of reference that is agreeable to the mind. The constant exercise of choice, to do what pleases, what is agreeable or profitable, is what makes living so difficult. Life refuses to be put 100 percent into a personal framework of this kind.
There are always challenges arising that we shy away from and, if face them we must, there is anxiety at the outcome. So, we venture through life with confidence at times, like timid mice at others. This cannot change while the self with its complex background is at the helm of human affairs. The insistence for the demands of the self to be met in every way leads to conflict. To have them denied by others also leads to conflict.
Life has become a push/pull affair, a constant attempt to satisfy and please the self. There is a persistence in this that is powerful. It can be held back for a time by discipline, channelled into organised courses for mutual benefit, welded into states, nations or movements to serve greater self interests, but unless every vestige is dug out of the human expression by a faultless understanding, trouble will follow in almost every human endeavour that the mind sets into motion.
The pressures within the self are like a ball held deep under the water. Relax the hold and it rushes to the surface and goes on its merry way creating mischief wherever it travels. Mind you,it has a high opinion of its own value. And it tenaciously clings to everything it has inwardly accumulated – agreeable memories, so many influences that have been absorbed in its journey through life. These shape its progress and its choices. Accustomed to being how it is, the self is very difficult to deal with. Being in control of its life, certainly having little understanding of its inner content, of what motivates its actions, it is not in a position to objectively investigate and evaluate its own behaviour. Nor can it easily clarify its relationship to others, to the outer world, to the society it lives in.
This does not matter if it is not interested in an exploration of the self. But it sometimes happens that the self sets to and decides to undertake an inner journey through its own nature. Itwants to understand what is going on beyond its surface extent, beyond the reasons, beyond the beliefs it holds. And, if it is stubbornly inclined in this direction it begins a learning that continues for as long as it functions in time in the way it knows. This journey, if it comes to fruition, takes it step by step from the outer it knows, from what it appears to be, through unknown levels that it was not aware of until it lodges without form, substance or illusion, in the heart of the strange Universal nature that is the essence of all things.
In this, it abides with the Eternal. The little self has come to rest in something vaster and grander. Now, a new rhythm controls its movement through life. Choice is exercised in little things, but in living the things that matter choice doesn’t come into it at all.
And the way of it is locked in the hearts and minds of those who travel this way – who make it to the Silent Strangeness. They are the happy, go lightly people who know what it is to sing thesong of the real and dance in time to heavenly music. What happens in time merely ruffles the surface. Their inner serenity remains undisturbed.
The little self that began the journey has come to the end of the line. And the end of the line is home.
- Joseph’s collected spiritual writing is now available as The Kitchen Table Philosopher series. It is available in print and digital formats from Amazon.com and other online retailers.
When words no longer matter
Kitchen table philosopher Joseph Raffa asks if we can set words aside and let the heart lead.
Do people ever tire of words and complex descriptions? Listen to the flow, to the accumulation, as it issues forth. We draw on it to explain, to communicate, to support our actions and standing in life. It pours out, an energetic stream of words, expertly put together in convincing and logical sequence. Very impressive, depending on the eloquence and education of the person expounding on issues of interest. Every person has learnt something of the art of verbal expression, has passed a period of apprenticeship in which the use of language has been mastered. Then, when the need arises or a challenge, so the outpouring begins.
The Christian is programmed with the Bible and all else that is relevant to such a background. Buddhism comes in with its own particular influences. The Chinese with opposing yin and yang concepts. Science adds to the score with increasingly complex symbols and explanations. A wide variety of contributions, many intricate and difficult to understand.
What has happened to simplicity and directness? Why do humans travel a tortuous pathway of expression abounding in verbal complexities that surge into action like a dazzling fireworks display? Every social establishment has its collected lore, its authoritative reference library. This, the mind absorbs, every word digested then filed away as a basis for action when the need arises.
Plants grow, seasons change, the universe goes through its movements without a word being involved.
How did life ever manage to be what it is – plants grow, seasons change, the universe go through its movements without a word being involved? Yet humans can’t seem to do without them. Fascinating, the movement of words out of the human expression. And often very wearing, whether its talk-talk or thought-thought. So much so, that when we’ve had enough of chatter talk, of the mind and its intellectual expression, we head for quiet places of natural beauty, maybe down to the beach to let a fresh breeze offer some relief, or into the quiet of meditation to escape from the buzz bee of chattering talk.
And even there, although we may be quiet outwardly, inwardly, so accustomed is the medium of language, that thinking stirs, regardless of need and we chatter to ourselves, verbalising what we observe. It functions like breathing, has become second nature, this business of language and thinking. We rely on it for communication, to make things clear, as guidelines for ideas and actions. Without it we would be lost, unable to function as we do. Not only without words but also without the special techniques the mind invents to regulate its approach to life.
Much of learning is the learning of technique. So now we have the how mind, the what, where, why and when mind, the cause and effect mind. Not the mind of love, of simplicity and directness, but the complicated mind, the problem mind. Through the mind, we take care, explore the options, exercise choice to advantage, count the cost before we proceed in matters considered important. We are more concerned with the ways and the means, with the outer show and organisation, with preparation, methods and techniques, with protection before we move. We want maps detailing the dangers ahead, the obstacles, the possible returns. Not for the mind an expression that does not take care of the self in every way – that does not meet with self-approval or accord with the self’s inclinations and desires.
Trust, to the mind, needs help; faith needs its support. So the mind sets to and provides its own protection, its own support base. And words and reasons are the background basis of this support. Blithely we move along a trail of words, reassuring ourselves with the accumulated knowledge that we are doing very well, thank you. The mind knows it all, about life, the universe, how to do this and that. Complex modern living reduced to learnable techniques. No need to be crippled. We can learn to be masters of ourselves, of our surroundings and fashion our lives as we will.
In the process, we’ve created experts for every social activity. Our accumulated background of techniques, of information and know-how goes back a long, long way and is now very complex. So too, is the spin off in relationship problems and behaviour – the dark side of the human expression that will not fade away in spite of our expanding intellectual development.
And, when we move to consider the disturbing aspects, of what disrupts harmony, so we collect the available data, bring the experts in, determine conclusions, directives and future courses of action to resolve the unwanted situations. And somehow miss out, for difficulties follow us wherever we go, whatever we do and not yet do we blithely move down life’s highway without disturbing and distressing things happening. Or without feeling threatened by events or other people at times.
Could it be that mind is too overloaded with complicated ways now so that it cannot clearly see how to proceed – too concerned with looking after the self, with the how and the preparation which have become more important than spontaneous, integrated action? Should we bypass the mind in our deliberations because it is too busy looking after its own little concerns, too busy protecting its standpoint and is not aware how to proceed from a universal standing?
Do we have to move slowly, a step at a time, each carefully considered while the mind determines how its position will be affected? Will we ever break free of the restraints, imposed by the mind from its background accumulation, and head in a new direction, making a completely new beginning and forge a new approach to life in the process? We have the means within. This is natural, not acquired, not gained through experience. It is something that has always been there within the human expression.
Call it what you will, the spiritual, God, the Universal, but please, put names and words aside and also the complicated mind of time and discover directly what it is we are writing about. Just be with it. Let the Sunshine of Life come through. Don’t worry about the how, nor ask for the way. Let the heart lead. Move as one with the heart. Don’t be seduced by the mind into staying with the ways, means and explanations.
Move – fellow humans – move. The Sunshine is waiting.
* Joseph’s collected spiritual writings are now available in the Kitchen Table Philosopher series. Available in print and digital versions from Amazon.com and other online retailers.
by Joseph Raffa
Understanding flows effortlessly out of enlightened beings. It is not intellectual but it uses this as a means of conveyance.
Truth is always truth – always consistent. The means of expression changes but not truth.
As the early means of mechanical conveyance and flight were one thing in the early stages, only to be superceded by later models, so the means of intellectual conveyance change to keep in tune with changing concepts of language.
The nature of what is being conveyed is eternal. It is not of the mind, not of concepts.
Encouragement is given through thought, through written and spoken expression. The intention? To awaken desire and give a focus to those who aspire.
The seeker creates the approach. Understanding guides the approach. As understanding develops and deepens so the approach changes.
When understanding is what it should be the approach ends. It is not needed any more.
The journey undertaken is created by thought, continues while given impetus by thought and ends when thought ends. It is a journey through the maze created by thought in its desire to come to a culminating point.
Thought projects a mental Mt Everest to give its movement a greater emphasis. The mountain withdraws only when thinking withdraws.
Thought and what it sets out to do go hand in hand. There is not one without the other.
Lodged in explanations, ways and means, thought stays there. It exercises itself at will, admires its own movement and reassures itself as to the importance of effort and endeavour.
Right understanding deals with all of this and cleans out the confusion thought creates.
Thought then abides in right understanding, becomes its willing servant, a pliant extension of that understanding.
Right understanding is natural, spontaneous. It flows from moment to moment. There is no explanation for it. It is. When thought abdicates its role as master, right understanding naturally arises.
It’s like the rising of the sun. When the world of thought turns and sinks out of sight, the sun of right understanding shines through and lights up the way to clearer, saner, enlightened living.
By Joseph Raffa
ONE morning, I sat quietly in our garden on the dry sandy earth. A fresh sea breeze stirred the leaves of the trees. Where I sat, with my back to a background of ivy leaves I was somewhat sheltered from the wind by an apple tree and a large rosemary bush. I dwelt in the quietness, in the peaceful presence of leafy greenness.
The wind, filtering through the backdrop of tree and shrubs, flowed around my body, gently playing tug-of-war with my hair. The fresh feel of the wind was part of the surrounding tranquility. I gazed around at each part of the garden in turn – just looked, asking no what or whys of the plants or the doves walking nearby, foraging for food.
So many questions asked of life, so many explanations offered. Life goes on unaffected by the questing mind. The green world is untroubled by questions nor does it seek answers. It is what it is, responding to the changing seasons, going through the cycle of seed, growth, fruiting, producing seed, then decay. All without complaint. Seemingly mute, it responds to sun, water and earth – acted upon by natural conditions and in turn leaving its mark on the environment.
The plant world goes its way without protest, without reaching out to be bigger or better by deliberate intent. Self consciousness is not the way of plants. This is the world of man and with it goes dissatisfaction, torment, the desire to expand, to be more – uncertainty and problems.
Would that we could not only be self conscious but also have the tranquility of a tree. To be calm whatever storms come one’s way would be a considerable asset. To take the buffeting then restore and repair the damage without inner loss would be commendable. This is the inner poise reflected by the sages, by those whose hearts are anchored in sublime stillness.
This is a strength of a different kind. Natural in its expression yet arising after years of selfless development. The weakness of ego expression has been eradicated to be replaced by spiritual strength, by what issues forth from the Eternal.
Physical strength, outstanding success on the field of sport, in various walks of life are not its immediate purpose. This may come to pass or may not. It is considered irrelevant. The sages are inwardly fixed on spiritual flowering, on indwelling in the universal. Ego is banished, not permitted to hold centre stage of the human expression.
They live a strange life. Outwardly similar, inwardly so different. Serenely still, they stay anchored beyond thought, though outwardly active in time. The tempests of time do not rage to disturb the inner equanimity. The incoming tide is muted by love and turned away. They have a rock-like stability untouched by the fracases of time. Timeless their refuge – where they dwell. They are the timeless ones, co-joined in a loving unity with the universal
Written by Joseph on December 10, 1995
Why ask why?
by Joseph Raffa
What use is it to ask the why and wherefore?
Birds fly, grasses grow without fuss or bother.
Only man torments himself with questions. Life goes on regardless.
Does life, the universe need reasons for its existence? Or is this the invention of the human mind, bent on understanding in this way?
Apart from man, life does not reason why. There is birth, growth, decay and death but the system goes on and on.
Only man suffers the torment of an inquisitive reason. So, everything is wrapped in reason and man is satisfied.
Sometimes I wonder if modern man belongs to the natural order of things – or is he an aberration? Long ago, before his present state of displacement he was close to the earth and the sky, to the seasons, to the green world and the sea.
Then he broke away and became civilized with all its attendant problems and deep sense of separation. Now technologically competent and reason wise he seems lost in an alien world, divorced from the wonder that surrounds him.
More’s the pity. His mind is ever busy and overflowing with movement.
But what of the heart, of that inner need to return to the magic that once he knew? When the Springtime of Life was ablaze with wonder and he walked in kinship with all that surrounded him and asked not questions of why and what?
For there was no need for this. He was at one with the All that Is and that was all that mattered. All else was secondary and of lesser consequence to the expanded state of his exalted Being.
The desire for peace
by Joseph Raffa
There is something deeply touching about the human longing for peace and cause for sadness in the different ways we go about realising it. This signifies a lack of understanding of the nature of the mind, of the worth of ideas, of the nature of reality and how it expresses its nature through the individual.
Those who live in the prison of the mind and do not know they do are content to stay within its confines and live accordingly. Not for them the sudden surprise of open prison gates, of the wide expanse of the Sunshine of Being beyond the prison – the sparkle of a springtime mood and the fresh stirrings of the winds of understanding from beyond the vale of time.
They live in time’s beleaguered field, assailed from all directions, disturbed inwardly and outwardly by demand and response, by tempest and movement. Not for them the calmness of Silent Being – of that stillness that calms the restless mind and brings peace, where formerly conflict reigned supreme.
The glimmer of an idea stirs on the horizon of the mind. It takes up the thought, the name of peace. From within its prison darkness, it projects a ray of light to travel along. It will follow this self-created light till it comes to the journey’s end of peace, then blissfully bask in its presence and enjoy the blessing that it brings.
But the light way is created by the mind. It will not lead to peace in spite of the mind’s good intentions. How can it when the mind has failed to understand the causes within itself that deny peace its chance to be? Peace does not lie at the end of a long trail of human initiatives like a prize to be won in return for effort expended. The reality of what brings peace is here and now. It lies beyond the mind, beyond its concepts and ideas, beyond the scope of its imagination.
When mind is still, like a day devoid of breeze and not even a leaf of mind-created movement stirs to disrupt the tranquility of Being, then that strange nature that is the basis of the universal expression arises to bless the human expression with its presence. And it brings with its coming that sought after longing referred to as peace. Nothing else makes true peace possible.
The tracks of the mind lead only to the illusion of peace. They have no enduring basis. The foundations are riddled with weaknesses and the formulated structures will collapse at the slightest stress. Whereas, the peace that grows from within – that flows from the deepening of understanding – will endure as long as the true measure of understanding endures. For these go hand in hand in the human nature. There is not the one without the other. And both flow, as a consequence, from that strange meeting between the Divine Universal and that within the human that is of the very same nature.
When these meet in a timeless union that defies human understanding, a fresh inspiration arises and begins a new expression in time. One that sensitively reflects amongst its qualities that which is acknowledged as peace.
Awaken the self
By Joseph Raffa
Every human undertaking has its Hall of Fame. Science, medicine, sport, war – you name it, all have their heroes, the greats who have left a distinguished mark in the social mainstream.
Religion, too, has its heroes – men who walked in harmony with God, enlightened men, moral supermen and women. They too left an indelible mark and their influence lingers long after they have gone.
The greats have become inspirational stepping stones. Their lives and deeds are held up to lesser mortals as worthy of emulation. “Look up to them,” we are told. “See what can be accomplished by dedicated people. Do likewise and lift your living.”
So, tradition settles in and carves its own channel of supportive endeavour; indeed, it becomes an authority rarely to be questioned, something to be accepted as the cornerstone on which to base human living. Being lost and uncertain, feeling perhaps entities of little value, we listen and lodge ourselves in the traditional byways offered to us. We enclose ourselves in traditional cocoons and outlooks and these become the shrouds of security that we are reluctant to cast aside.
The greats speak with such authority. The legacy they have left us in all walks of life makes it difficult for us not to turn to them in our time of need as a source of certainty, reassurance and inspiration. Why then should we divest ourselves of these influences? And what would we replace them with, we who are empty, confused, even lost in time’s seductive embrace?
If the words and experiences of the greats are wisely used, they will not become a crutch that we hold on to forever. Rather they should be seen as an encouragement to explore the human content, to investigate the human relationship with everything going on within and without.
Intelligence that relies on another is not intelligence. To awaken is the only worthwhile purpose in life. To awaken to what we are, to what is going on around us, in our hearts and minds. It is little use to worship at the shrine of past endeavours if we continue to sleep in time, in ignorance of our true nature.
Understanding demands self-reliance, a looking inwards and learning without intellectual restraints. The guidelines of the past are not for the young and adventurous in spirit, for those eager to travel to the timeless heart of human nature.
Whatever we learn in life, whatever teachers we have, there comes a time, if we are to mature, to let go of all the hands we have held for support. Otherwise we will never know the joy of walking alone. Love, truth, demand that we walk inwardly alone. Self-discovery can only take place when we are alone, when all else that prevents discovery – the barriers raised by the mind, the accumulation of timeful experience – have been discarded.
In that great aloneness that is there when authority and self-protection have been put aside, we join the essence that raised the spiritual greats onto the highest pedestal of human acclaim. We see then that there is only Oneness, not great and small; that distinction and divisions belong to the mind, not to the essence. And what is to be worshiped is “that” which comes when the mind is still.
Out of this stillness comes love, respect and maybe service, but that belongs to time where these are effective, each in their way. Essence is complete in what it is and that which joins the essence sees itself in the same light.
That’s the way of it.
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