Towards the Silent Heart

kitchen table philosophy


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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.”

 

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Mightier than pen or sword

By Joseph Raffa

There is an oft-repeated saying that the pen is mightier than the sword.  Although both have been active for many years human nature has not improved significantly for the better. It should be obvious by now that it must take more than the pen, force or human intention to bring about the changes that are badly needed.

A clearer guidance system in human affairs is necessary – one superior to the present collective human reason and one capable of over-riding the disarranged and disjointed efforts that have prevailed to date. What would follow if scientists tried sending a rocket projectile into outer space with a faulty launching system? The rocket could well go anywhere but where intended.

Human living has been in disarray, not expressing the harmony that should flow naturally from being cast in God’s image. Is it the Creator at fault or human nature in ways not yet fully understood? Certainly violence, selfishness and disturbing behaviour have a wider expression than love and happy cooperation.

What’s the attraction that draws people to a vigorous support of the self and its standing in life? If any experience, any action threatens the self or blocks its demands and desires, then reaction and retaliation follow.

Another saying often heard is that unconditional love is the solution to our problems. But this kind of love seems to be beyond most people. Love that expects a return, we know. To give, to do, and gain favours in return, this is the way of the mind, of the self in action. Our love has boundaries. Our families, friends, state, nation, we will give and work for what or who we are identified with. After this our kind of love loses its force. Outsiders are looked on differently.

What we care for then, is the self, all that’s included within its conception of what it is and should look after. Outside of its own area it is somewhat indifferent to what takes place. What then is the self? How has it come into being? What is its basis for action? We know it as a conscious expression in time, a composite expression of physical and mental attributes. These we have evidence of. We hear too that there is a spiritual side – a soul side. This we may or may not know. It depends on whether evidence of the soul has come our way.

Perhaps in this lies our trouble. We act from the physical, mental and emotional side and confusion often follows. Troubles too. Spontaneous action from the soul or spiritual side and there’s a different story. Harmony, love, joy, follow, understanding too. A welcome change in the human expression flows. The self is temporarily put aside, its self-destruct capacity brought to an end.

Where does evidence come from to verify all this? Not from reason. The spiritual is beyond its comprehension. Nor in any way from a mind conditioned by the senses or the ordinary flow of experience. The barriers are too great. The mind can only act from what it knows, talk about what it has experienced or believes.  But life, to be lived without disruption, needs a factual base, one of the reality of what we are and a clear understanding of what is actually taking place. The clearer the understanding, the more informed the actions.

Enter the spiritual, the reality of what we are and the source of the clearest insights that could ever flow into the mind – about human behaviour, its motives for action, its background, even of the ultimate nature of the universal expression.

We hear this, we read words like this and we are stymied. The spiritual is an unknown quantity. We can’t find a signpost pointing the way that guarantees certitude. People try, each in their own way, formulating methods, adopting techniques, meditating, disciplining mind and emotions. Everything helps a little including reading and reflection. But only on an intellectual level. And this is not the spiritual.

The self is persistent in its movements and will continue as long as it is imbued with the idea that intention, application and reason are the way to go.  All this plus the “right” techniques. And that is the core of the difficulty in this business of spiritual discovery. While the self is full of its own activity, that which is not a mere self-projection cannot come shining through.  If the darkness continues can there ever be light?

Understand this. The self is the darkness, the barrier that prevents realisation. While it circulates as the centre of the human expression, it holds centre stage like a prima ballerina. Let the dance of the self stop. Do not feed it in any way. All the strands of self activity must come to rest. Mental, emotional, imaginative, the whole kit and caboodle of what the self is.

And if this is allowed to happen, naturally, spontaneously, it’s like the sudden end of a prolonged storm, Serenity reigns. Serenity and silence. In this moment when the self is not, the spiritual shows its nature and whomsoever it happens to, is reborn. And then you learn that there is something mightier than both pen and sword and also that the spiritual is what we came from and this is what we are going back to and that a life based on spiritual discovery is the best way to go.

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Elusive enlightenment

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Photo: Marcuso. FreeDigitalPhoto.net

by Joseph Raffa

 

What is this enlightenment we hear about?  So many people seek it.  Does it indeed exist and what is its nature?

So much effort 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.

* A collection of Joseph’s beautifully expressed reflections on life and living is now available for Kindle from http://www.amazon.com/Beside-Still-Waters-Joseph-Raffa-ebook/dp/B00GXG7YGI/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1399003550&sr=8-5&keywords=Joseph+Raffa

Stillwaters cover website


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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.


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Who will save our Earth?

IMG_0229Please save this earth.  It is our home – all of it.  From the icy Arctic to the snows of the Antarctic, through the temperate zones and the equatorial tropical areas. Today, the earth lies shattered, bruised and broken by a relentless human attack that shows little sign of easing. Everywhere, destruction of natural areas, of the rain forests continues as the demand for economic expansion accelerates regardless of the consequences to the health of the planet.

Where are the champions who will step forth to defend the planet; who will stand on the rostrum of public attention and demand a halt to this rapacious advance? Have our feelings for our mother earth faded completely, pushed aside by the urgent need for economic expansion?  Don’t we bleed as the forests go – do we feel no pain as species of wild life vanish?

Where are the sensitive people who love this Earth, who will cry out enough, who will demand that we take far more care of what is left, who will live differently so that they consume less and do not demand more and more? Who ask, not for a constantly increasing and affluent lifestyle, but who will settle for less because they love this Earth and the natural beauty they find here; and now, no longer can they bear the pain of this despoliation for the sake of an increasing production that doubtfully adds very much more of real value to the human expression.

And not for fear do they ask for an easing of economic expansion, not only because of pollution or the threat of destruction to the ozone layer and what this may bring, but because they love, really love, from the very depths of their being, this beautiful planet they live on. And they want it to go on being a delightful place to be on, for themselves and for those who come after.

Joseph Raffa


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What Kind of Love?

Baby2_edited-1People speak of love as the solution to the problems and difficulties that come our way. But, to say “I love you”, is that enough? You may care as much as you will for children, friends, even feel for the human race but this does not bring an end to the troubles that keep on coming.

We need more than to be loved. We need to be able to understand our actions. To be loved does not guarantee this. I speak here of what humans understand as love, in the way they love their children, or as husbands and wives love one another.

I do not speak here of that other kind of love – of what is called God’s love for mankind. This does indeed bring enlightened action and a deeper understanding of our actions, our motives and thinking processes. By this love we do see deep into our minds, into the very heart of what we are. Ordinary human love, no matter how well intentioned, cannot compare with this, neither in quality nor in its power to bring about change.

Both are necessary. Ordinary human love is enough to provide shelter, food, clothing, education, affection. This is the kind we know. It gives a measure of guidance to growing children, security and a feeling of well-being.The other overlaps this and extends beyond it.  There is a light that glows in the darkness of our living, that will not permit the brooding problems of the mind to overwhelm it. Human love as we know it cannot do this – cannot take us through life without being torn about inwardly, without being prey to anxieties.

Extend our arms as often as we will – offer ourselves, our help, our time, search for the words that may soften a blow – none of this can match the touch of Universal Love. The emptiness we feel inside, the loneliness, the disarray we reflect, the single-minded pursuit of what draws us regardless of consequences to our minds or health – this does not yield to words or good intentions.

When minds are enclosed, locked in a personal prison of desire and intention, the key to freedom lies not in the hands of the mind. We can acknowledge the desire to be free – urge to cast aside the restraints we feel, rail against the dark, prison walls that surround us – but if a greater love does not come our way, bringing the light of a fresh understanding, we will languish in time, in the restrictions of the mind. And we will not even understand why we are in trouble, why we suffer as we do nor why we are harried from all sides.

Joseph Raffa

For a list of Joseph’s books and links to where to buy them visit Joseph’s Bookshelf.