Towards the Silent Heart

kitchen table philosophy


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Climb the Spiritual Mountain

by Joseph Raffa
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Image courtesy marcuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are people who love to climb mountains.  When asked why,

some may say “Because it is there”.  There is another kind of

mountain that others seek to climb – the mountain of Ultimate

Reality.  They do not know why, only that they have to go.

The mountains of time are well defined, the destination sure, the

equipment is available.  Ultimate Reality has no defined pathway

leading to it, the equipment necessary is the nature that we are.

This journey we travel alone.  Gurus can only take us so far,

then we must be left to face our own uncertainty, our weaknesses

and fears, whatever we are.

We move this way, we move that, try this, try that.  When we come

to cul-de-sacs we turn, retrace our steps then start again, over

and over.  Gradually it dawns that we are journeying through

ourselves, that we create the obstacles and the mountain to

climb.  When we’ve exhausted our efforts, when we are at the end

of the line with no more stations to travel to, we pause, and sit

and let go.

Effort falls away – everything is shed – the tiredness, the

struggle, the striving.  We just let go and then suddenly we are

there on top of the mountain.  We have been transported all in

one instant and we are basking in the full sunshine of Being.

Our journey is over, without sense of movement or achievement.

We didn’t do a thing except to be still.  That’s it, just still –

the stillness of a mind not seeking, not striving.  a sudden

unexpected, unexplainable stillness and we are on the top of the

mountain.

We know what we come from and we know where we are going.  Never again will we be

lost in time.  We are home – home where we belong.

 

 

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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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A Gull Returns to the Silence

by Joseph Raffa

The struggles of the dying gull were sad to see. Borne helplessly towards the shore by a gentle breeze and the flowing motion of the water, it drifted, wings outstretched, head hanging limply backwards, beak open.  Now and again it made a desperate attempt to flutter its limp wings but the effort was beyond it.
It floated almost lifeless, rising and falling with the gentle swells, eyes closed, waiting, waiting for the peace of death to claim it and take it back to where it belonged – back to the great unknown.
I sensed a resignation about the gull, a subdued acceptance of the inevitable as if the force drawing it away from the world it knew was too powerful to be resisted.
With the patience engendered by the Eternal it awaited the end while its brother and sister gulls wheeled above or floated nearby, slightly agitated, knowing in the way that birds do that death was at hand.
The universal, knowing no death but only Eternal life enfolded the feeble gull into its all-embracing silence, absorbing it deep into the being from whence it first arose with wings of joy, eager to be active.  It lived fully as a bird does, sharing with its kind the feel of sun and wind, the sight of wave following wave, floating on the crests or flying high, wheeling and turning, diving arrow-like into the water, rising with a fish in its beak.
Surely life has consequence even for a bird if it has tasted all this even for only long point_522a short time. Is there need for deep sadness at its going?  Nature prepared all for it, fashioned its wings, its body, supplied the seafood it hunted, air to fly in, the sea to rest on and the seashore to forage along.  That which has given so much surely cannot be condemned for taking it all back if that is the way things are.
So, my children, put away your sadness.  The gull has gone but others remain to delight us with their ways. All things are lonely in death if one gazes only on the outer face of nature’s handiwork but to those who are blessed with awareness of her inner being there is the conviction of a deep togetherness even in death.
(Written after our young children were distressed at the sight of a gull dying slowly on an almost placid river.  It was too far out to retrieve so we had to let it be.)


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The silent solution

Photo: Neil Mulligan

Photo: Neil Mulligan

by Joseph Raffa

“Don’t speak to me with words,” said the sage as I approached him with my questions on life’s meaning.

“Rather, speak to me as does the sky, with white clouds floating high. See the blueness. Can words describe it – convey the wonder that is there? Words are such feeble things – cast gossamer-like on wings of thought. Life is too grand to be explained.

“Rather than speak, open up, let awareness flow, silent and wordless. Cast not the self as an ‘I’ wrapped in finite form. In this you dwell while all around the grandeur of Nature’s presence calls to thee.

“Join the wonder that you are with the wonder that you see. Discard the chains you fashion, thought-woven and spoken. Be silent as a graven image. Stir not in thought or movement.

“And, in that silence, deeper than any you have yet to be, the answer, not in words, comes to thee of what thou art.”