Happiness Is Knowledge Or Love Of God

Happiness is knowledge or love of God.

This is, as it may first appear, not a poetic formulation only. It’s a definition of happiness.

And happiness, it’s implied, can be none other than knowledge or love of God.

Consequently, all other candidates–popularity, wealth, status, pleasure, experiences, desire satisfaction, wealth, status, accomplishments, worldly success, a certain set of said to be objectively good objects, knowledge of the world, any mental state, service to others, and so on–are out.

In fact, everything centered on the mind, body, or world is out. That is, anything unreal–asat: meaning impermanent and not self-existent–is out.

But then the only way to know or love God truly is to be God.

This does not imply that God is seen through the prism of the ego for such is delusion. It’s not that the ego-self is God for such is blasphemy.

Rather, it suggests that when the ego illusion is thoroughgoingly seen through, then there is only, there has only ever been God: there is no real but Real: yea, there is no sacred knowledge of God but the very being of God, which is God’s eternally and infinitely being Himself.

This is only what can be meant by real happiness. This and nothing else.

Therefore, in order to be happy in the real sense, we must begin the spiritual search today–nay, this instant. And if the search has already begun, then we must continue henceforth in earnest, making the quest not just central but also entire.

For only God–the Real–IS and so only God–the Real–matters.

Amen.

Frithjof Schuon: On Getting To The Trailhead

In the “Introduction” to Frithjof Schuon: Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy, Michael O. Fitgerald cites Schuon’s wife Catherine:

[Schuon’s] function in the world is really to bring people
back to practice their religion . . . to bring them back to a path that leads to God. . . . [M]any people have gone back and practiced their religion very seriously after having read his books. He wants to help us to go back to where we belong.

I was very moved by this not the least because Schuon’s life, from what I can gather, was a beautiful one, also because his gift to others is just what’s needed at this historical juncture, and finally because I felt kinship with him at the very moment when I read this from his wife.

For at the risk of sounding proud, I’d say that, in my own modest way, that I have sought, over the past 11 years, to do something similar: to get others ‘to the trailhead’ (as I’ve been saying recently).

In my own case, I use a Trojan Horse strategy: we begin by inquiring into the sticky conflicts that arise in the domain of ordinary life (work, relationships, pleasures). In so doing, two things happen. The first is that these matters ultimately get sorted out over some years. The second–and more important one–is that one gets the hang of leading a more examined life. That is, one starts to have facility in examining one’s life on own’s one. The crux is that the examined life naturally leads–if taken far enough–back to spirituality and religion. To mysticism, in fact.

Evidently, Schuon was quite fortunate in that his students were already “ripe” enough to be interested in nondual metaphysics from the start. This, however, is hardly true for many Westerners who, nonetheless, are primed to reflect upon the shape and substance of their lives from the standpoint of philosophical discourse.

How, then, is the transition from the examined life to the religious or spiritual life effected? The way I put the ‘pivot point’ is by saying, “You are now on the path of self-knowledge.” And this path naturally moves, given enough time, rigor, and doggedness, from the self to the Self–from the conditioned to the Unconditioned, from manifestation to Principle. By this means and over the course of a number of years, conversation partners are indeed brought to “a path that leads to God.”

For me, I confess, ‘twould be nice if the path to get another to the trailhead were not so long, windy, and precarious, but so it is when the starting point is secular modernity, with its penchant for scientific materialism. An impoverished time like ours calls for patience and discernment. Much like Schuon, I want to “help us to go back to where we belong.”

Is The World Real? A Dialogical Meditation

Overview

“Is the world real?”

In this Dialogical Meditation, we investigate (a) whether the world is permanent and (b) whether the world is self-existent.

Through the inquiry, it soon becomes clear that the world does not qualify as sat (in Sanskrit): meaning being permanent as well as self-existent.

To Learn More

Ethical Practice As Purification

The Eightfold Path picks out Right Thought, Right Speech, and Right Action as the foci for ethical practice. This is wise.

I’d like to begin with where we are, however. We engage in wrong, unwholesome, negative thought patterns; and we react, in wrong speech and in wrong action, out of these unwholesome thought patterns.

In lieu of appealing to basic ethical precepts (however helpful these may be), might each of us try to identify the particular ways in which a specific unwholesome thought, speech, and action arise? If we could do that, then we’d be in a position to formulate ethical maxims that could be skillfully applied to the specific situation–just where we need them most.

It would be good, then, to begin by identifying one’s samskaras, or false identities. If John, out of pride, believes, “I am the knower,” then unwholesome thoughts will show up (“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about–the fool”) as will wrong speech (“It seems to me that quantum mechanics says otherwise”) and wrong action (the agent in question refuses to do X or Y on the grounds that both are ‘beneath him’).

The key ethical maxims, in this case, would be:

  • Be humble: let go of pride and thus of separation.
  • Be charitable: give a lot of slack to others as they express their views, etc.
  • Be open: let go of “yes this” and “no that” (Zhuangzi).

Understood thus, ethical practice is a way of purification and thus a way also of attuning oneself to Awareness.

Huston Smith On The Buddha’s First Noble Truth

I find myself returning often to the Buddha’s First Noble Truth. I do so because it is a noble attempt to articulate the human predicament in so few words.

Huston Smith on Dukkha

The simplest, though not terribly helpful, formulation is: “Life is dukkha.” According to Huston Smith in The World’s Religions,

Dukkha… names the pain that to some degree colors all finite existence. The word’s constructive implications come to light when we discover that it is used in Pali to refer to wheels whose axles were off-center, or bones that had slipped from their sockets…. The exact meaning of the First Noble Truth is this: Life (in the condition it has got itself into) is dislocated. Something has gone wrong. It is out of joint.

p. 101

I trust you can see that “the exact meaning” isn’t altogether exact. The parenthetical qualifier–“in the condition it has got itself into”–points up the ambiguity and attempts, in a vague way, to account for this fuzziness. For, we might ask, how much of life is dislocated? And what “torque” in human life is hinted at herein?

Two Conditions

I’d like to propose that the correct interpretation will need to satisfy two conditions. One is being accurate, or accurate enough. An open, self-reflective person should be able to see himself or herself as well as others in the formulation. The second is that it have enough oomph to thrust us onto a genuine spiritual path.

With the above two conditions in mind, I aim to tweak Smith’s statement about dislocation.

A Reformulation

Thanks to two young men with whom I read spiritual texts, I think we can say the following:

  • Life keeps getting itself dislocated.
  • Or, what is the same thing: Life has a built-in tendency to get itself dislocated.

After all, we need to account for the torque, the uncanniness, the tipping of the scales in the wrong direction, and my sense is that these statements do just that.

Now, is either statement accurate enough? I think so. Each alludes to the preponderance of cases–the skewing of sorts–toward feeling, or being, dislocated.

Does each provide enough oomph for practice? I’d say so. There’s something mysterious, and perhaps also terrifying, at the heart of each statement.

Mysterious because: why does life has such a built-in tendency? Such will bring us to the Second Noble Truth, the cause or source of dukkha. And terrifying because: is there anything we can do about this? And so, we arrive at the Third Noble Truth, the cessation of dukkha.

Is it possible for my life not be tilted toward out-of-jointedness? Yes, here is where faith in the teacher, in the teaching, and in the path all come in.