Towards the Silent Heart

kitchen table philosophy


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Am I or am I not?

 

Kitchen table philosopher JOSEPH RAFFA urges us to question our ideas of what we are.

Love brings the fresh, vibrant growth, the joyous outpouring of springtime. Love also brings the decay, the fading colours, the dying leaves of autumn. Without death there is no renewal.  Yet mind holds to the past, fearful of letting go and surrounds itself with images.

Look back and you can see.  A long trail of familiar memories rises to greet you. “This is me,” you say, “the core of what I am, myself, my journey.”

I was the child playing here and there – fresh as new spring growth, eager to break out and grow. Absorbed, I grew into every phase that opened out.  Small child into older child.  Older child into adolescent teenager, teenager into adult. I took all this to be what I am.

I see, I feel, I taste.  Life’s experiences are my playing field. What am I without what I see, without this long trail of memories? Am I nothing?  Look back, look now.  And what of tomorrow should I still be here? My friend, my body will still be with me, greeting me as usual.

How the idea of what I am haunts me.  Am I flesh, memories interlinked, accepted and acknowledged? Self here, self there, myself, me – what a torment. What is it in me that holds to substance, to form, to flowing experience? Am I nothing without all this.  Or do I still exist? What do I hold to?  Why do I hold on?  Is it another of thought’s creations, an urgent desire driven by a fear of coming to an end as substance, as form? So that something of what I am continues in some way?

And when I say “I am part of the All, of a Universal Oneness.”  Is this not thought reaching out to establish continuity in the Absolute? There is no home for thought in this – none whatsoever.  It abides in silent contemplation.  There is no establishment in this of thought created separation or conceived existence. Thought is a lesser state, beginning and ending.  A projection from a secret source – itself unknown, its creations known.

How then can one speak of it?  Draw back into the depths of what you are.  Be the unknown for a moment. Then, you will understand.

  • Joseph’s Kitchen Table Philosopher series of spiritual writing is available 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.

 


What is wrong with us?

Joseph Raffa, the Kitchen Table Philosopher, asks “Where is love?”

 

Isn’t it remarkable how quickly humans can change their environment.  Need housing or industrial estates, harbours constructed, dams built, cities and towns refashioned, forests cleared, whatever it is, mind and technology will do it. Out with the old or the natural order, in with the new.  Often this is done regardless of how citizens feel.  Rarely is there unanimous consent.  People are divided according to how they are affected.  But change marches on: the energy in mankind surges onwards, ever onwards.

Not always is it used for useful purposes.  Destruction too, runs riot – cities destroyed, people massacred as technology geared to war and death dealing is unleashed. What a mixture mankind is, capable of love and caring and also of hate, prejudice and cruelty.  And always there is controversy on who is right, who is wrong, even on how best to constructively develop and meet human needs in an orderly way.

It makes you wonder, what is wrong with us?  We argue and fight, abuse other races and nature, treat others with little regard or respect.  Where people differ or there is deep resistance to change, bring in the bulldozers, the police, the army, enforce political will nevertheless.  What’s it matter that people are hurt, maimed, killed or jailed in the process.

Troubles erupt here and there, refugees flee, the bombers fly on their deadly missions, the military mind takes over and mayhem shatters the former fragile peace.

Haven’t they heard of “Love they neighbour” or, “Do to others what you would prefer done to yourself?”  No way, just ride roughshod over deep human feelings for gentle and peaceful living.  Justify yourselves in any way you will for what you do but it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. How can we be living rightly when so much agony, contention and controversy surges like a raging river in flood?

Sincerely I ask, “Where is love, that wonderful quality that lifts humans out of their misery, banishes conflict and indifference to another’s pain and brings about harmony in human relationships?”

Where indeed, as force, coercion and political power continue to be used to settle human differences.

  • The Kitchen Table philosophy series of Joseph’s spiritual writing is available now from Amazon.com and other online retailers.

 

 


A deeper significance

By Joseph Raffa

buddha-918073_1920There is a hidden agenda in the world, a deeper significance, not usually noticed as the mind goes about its daily business.  Through surface perception the world is clearly demarcated.  Our surroundings, the things we do, our appearance, all this is familiar and with many this is as far as they go.

It’s the world we live in.  The eyes, the ears, the bodily based senses inform us of this world.  Through the senses we do not receive clear evidence of a deeper significance, of anything different from the usual run of manifest phenomena.

The mind dwells in contact with an ocean of sensations, forged into perceptions that are the basis of the experiences it knows.  Thinking takes its cue from this reservoir of imprints.  It arises in response to the known.  It is from this known base that it seeks to expand, to go wider and deeper and get down to ultimate answers.  Its movement is conditioned by the known and by its measure of understanding.  It seeks solutions and conclusions that its understanding agrees with.  What else can it do?

To go beyond its understanding would leave it in a void of uncertainty.  It would be like a fish out of water, not knowing what, where or how nor itself in the process.  Could the mind come to grips with a deeper significance that is beyond its normal range of understanding, beyond the process of knowing that it is accustomed to, beyond the awareness it has of itself, its surroundings and the interactions that take place?  And where would the evidence come from if not from the mind’s acknowledgement of what this is?

The sensitivity we are (mind) is the basis for living,for knowing ourselves and the world.  Deny this and where are we?  This sensitivity is included in the hidden agenda, the deeper significance mentioned earlier.  It cannot be left out, to stand aside and be a reality in its own right.

The sensitivity we are and its relationship to the Universal is the hidden agenda, the deeper significance not noticed by surface perception.  With the surface mind we are linked to appearance yet in essence we are one with this hidden reality. Thinking deals with the imprint of life, with the footprints left by life’s moment to moment flow.  Thinking cannot go beyond itself and apprehend the unlimited.  In this deeper significance all things are at rest in an unbroken state.  Appearance is not an absolute.  All phenomena is a passing parade.  While it holds the centre stage of attention the hidden significance cannot reveal its nature.

Revelation breaks this impasse, takes the mind beyond.  The known is discarded for a moment.  With this out of the way, there is nothing to prevent the realisation of the deeper significance.  The problem created by the mind is solved, but not by the mind. Mind, in its essence and the deeper significance are One.


Is it beyond understanding?

 

leaves-1804646_1920.jpgCall it grace, enlightenment, realisation.  It happens, and because of this happening, so individuals set to and in spite of the limitations of language, as much as they can convey to others, they do so.

By Joseph Raffa

There have been imaginative attempts to explain the creation of the universe.  The explanation in the bible is shrouded in difficulty.  The language does not clearly convey the how.

Science comes up with its own explanation – the big bang theory – also very difficult to understand.  Scientists are reasonably satisfied with it but will humans ever clearly understand the way of it?

We are on the wrong side of the process, on the outside as it were, trying to look back with a mind conditioned by sense-based experience.  To such a mind, one thing proceeds from another, known cause to observable effect.  This is how the mind explains phenomena.

For a state of non-existence to precede existence doesn’t make sense.  Religion goes back to the pre-existence of God as the cause of the universe.  Science goes back to a compact ball of dense matter – or is it energy and electrical particles? – suspended in space.  Then, a big bang – expansion – evolution – hey presto! Stars, planets, the universe of appearance forming, reforming, our sun, the earth, life, more evolution. Along came homo sapiens and here we are today, with the kind of mind trying to find absolute answers.

And in the way the mind thinks of it, none of it makes completely satisfying sense so that doubts do not linger. Change there has certainly been – construction and destruction.  But overall the process continues to maintain and sustain itself.  A strange energy, on the move as the universal expression.  What we see via the senses is our side of the universal presentation.

Science expands the senses with its instruments and the scene changes.  Solid matter disappears, gives way to electrical particles and these in turn to energy in motion (whatever that may be ).

Coming to rest in a final reality dances out of reach of the space/time mind.  The more it tries to grasp, the more a tangible reality slips away.  And why?  Is it because the mind tries to project a reality that does not include itself?  The picture it tries to construct is one that appears to a separate observer.  How far can you go in this manner?

Surely the final step is one in which observer and observed merge in the one and same reality or, is the observing mind to be put on a pedestal apart, as something that preceded creation and stays apart?  It is just not possible to observe the state that precedes creation when reality is of one nature without difference or distinction.  Separate points of reference haven’t been set up.  Where then is the dense ball of matter or the observer to know and acknowledge its existence?  For us the universe does not begin until we are aware of it.  How can we question anything we are not aware of?

We not only need a universe we know but we ourselves have to be capable of knowing.  It’s because we separate the two that we compound our trouble in understanding.  We put the self on one side of the fence and the universe on the other.  And we try to fit the evidence of universal existence into the framework of our limited understanding.

Stretch out understanding as much as we will, the reality of it will escape us until separation vanishes and then the unbroken reality of universal existence reigns supreme, just as it now is, as it has always been.  Time, space, separation, life, these emanate out of it.  Such is its nature.

Before the spontaneous arisal of creation – untouched by time, unobserved and unobservable, the Eternal existed.  What we see and know of the universe, the changing face of life, forms and energy, this is the reflection cast in the mirror of space and time – all a reflection of our own state of awareness.

And that in turn is grounded in the universal awareness,  The Eternal is a uniform sensitivity.  No personal sense resides there, neither human or greater God.  No wind blows, nor sun shines.  No bird calls.  The movement of life is still, deeply still.  Starry systems, vast nebulae, the flow of energy, none of these mar the serenity of such repose, nor disrupt the tranquility of Being.

Our language fails to convey this essence.  The mind deals with concepts, ideas, appearance, not with the reality as such for this includes the mind within its nature.  Where all is one and distinction is dead what can be said to make it clear to another?

Yet, when thought is still and sensations cease to rise, when the observer loses distinction, that’s when it becomes clear and not till the mind returns to the world it knows does it realise the wonder of what has happened.

Call it grace, enlightenment, realisation.  It happens, and because of this happening, so individuals set to and in spite of the limitations of language, as much as they can convey to others, they do so.

And they leave it to something deep within those they address to respond in like fashion and discover the way of it.


Build cities for harmonious living

 

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by Joseph Raffa

In life it is impossible to stand still.  Even if we are very happy with the way things are.  Yet it seems that in the way we build, even though we plan carefully, we are uncertain of the consequences.

Eventually, we are confronted with the results of decisions all along the line and somehow they do not fit, not one hundred percent anyway.  We look at the accumulated developments.  Some we appreciate, others we are not so certain about.  We seem to have lost something along the way and now we are wearing new clothes that do not fit comfortably.  Yet now, it is all we have.

We can’t go back, yet forward leads to what?  If we are not completely happy with what we now have, with the results of past decisions and planning, how can we be sure that present decisions will take us in a direction that will better reflect the kind of people we are and what we want in city living?

Then it could be that we are not very clear on this and that is why we leave it to the experts, to business people, to councillors and people of power.  We put our trust in these people, but if we cannot communicate what we deeply feel, how can those who initiate changes include or consider any part of our unformulated wishes in their programs for change?

Each person may add only a little piece, maybe just a slight suggestion.  It’s up to the planners to listen, to collate, to sift through the accumulated data, then to have the intuitive wisdom to sort out what to proceed with.

Logic is not always enough; majority demand may not always be the best way to go.  Intuitive wisdom adds that touch of inspiration that complements all the other processes put into operation by the mind.  It lifts conclusions out of the ordinary approaches, coordinating logic, experience and expertise but adding something more – an inner certainty that points the way.

As citizens we may not be in a position to see the whole picture. We may just have a deep rooted resistance to various mooted projects.  Yet often, we cannot say with certainty what course of action we would like to see undertaken.

Certainly we know what we are comfortable with.  A city designed to meet our deepest needs for tranquil living, liberally sprinkled with gardens and trees, with appealing architecture, that caters for arts, amusements, music – that treasures the past but does not allow it to control the present.  Above all, one in which people are the main factor and not profit.

Fill a city with bright, happy, vibrant people, sure of their relationship with each other and with nature and they will reflect a sunny disposition in everything they build and do.  And they will build and design accordingly with care, with love, with meticulous attention to detail. They will be alive to present needs, in touch with each other and with a deep understanding of the human process.  These then are the people who will build the city of their dreams and live therein in happy harmony.

 

 


The Way to Peace

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By Joseph Raffa

The existence of God and the nature of evil have perplexed humans for centuries. Rational reason cannot reconcile a God of love with the behaviour expressed by humans hellbent on a destructive rampage. Especially seeing that God is said to have created man in its image.

Rational reason should look at its own behaviour. Reason, not God, created national and religious divisions. Reason, not God, supports greed, ruthless ambitions, oppression, racial prejudice, economic exploitation.

Reason invented the technology used to create super weapons that destroy at the touch of a button. Reason over-rides the heart, unleashes fear and war and observes without compassion the death of its brothers and sisters.

Just listen to rational reason as it plausibly argues who the enemy is, what the calculated response should be and why war is the way to peace.

So many have suffered and died because of (ir)rational reason. Reason has divided mankind, shattered the God-created unity of the human race, found so many reasons to hate, kill and exploit those who are weaker.

And reason wants a pliable God, one that supports it in what it does. Hence the cry, “God is on our side” when war is raging.

Let reason draw from the inexhaustible spring of Universal Love and watch then the transformation. See how fear flees and the ego loses its force. See divisions fade, illusion and ignorance evaporate when a Universal togetherness takes over.

Then love becomes the master and reason its servant. The reign of evil ends. So too does rational reflection on God end when God and humans are reunited in one omnipresent reality.


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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.