Category: Reality

Five Fundamental Spiritual Truths

Five Fundamental Spiritual Truths

There are many spiritual truths and they are found in most religions and spiritual traditions, although not necessary in ways that are obvious to the seekers of truth. I have found these five spiritual truths to be fundamental to the mastery of life. Know these five fundamental spiritual truths well and internalize them into your life and you will be able to find peace, happiness, good health and abundance.

These are the five fundamental spiritual truths:

1. This is a SPIRITUAL universe

This universe we live in is not purely a material universe. There is a spiritual aspect to it. In fact, we ignore this spiritual aspect of the universe at our own peril because this spiritual aspect of the universe is the source of all things. Learning about it, befriending it and knowing how to make use of it can dramatically change our lives.

“Something there is without form, yet complete
Born before Heaven and Earth
I know not what it is called
For lack of a name, I called it Tao”
— Tao De Ching

The ancient sages knew about this spiritual power. That is why many have searched for it. However, most people searched for it in the wrong place. This Tao is not something that can be perceived with our five physical sense organs. We cannot see, hear, smell, taste or touch it. The only way we can perceive it is with our mind.

The Sanskrit word “Akasha” refers to a primary element that is not perceivable by our five physical senses. It is believed to be the source of the four great elements of earth, water, air and fire. Many English words have been used as a translation of this word “akasha”. Words like ether, spirit, space and sky have been used to described this formless, limitless, eternal and inexhaustible source of all things.

For a long time, scientists have disregarded the existence of this “Spirit”. Perhaps this is because it is intangible and cannot be detected by any of their instruments. Or perhaps using the term “spirit” was unfortunate as it seems to imply something not totally scientific and real enough for them to seriously study.

However, through quantum physics, we now know that there is “something” out there that we cannot perceive with our physical senses, yet is very real. The physicist David Bohm postulated about its existence with his theory of an unseen Implicate Order that unfolds and manifests itself as the visible Explicate Order of the universe. As researches in quantum physics progressed, we soon discover the existence of an amazing invisible world apart from our visible material world – a world of pure potential and energy.

It seems there is an invisible field after all, and one that is everywhere in the universe. In fact, everything in this universe is submerged in this field, including us. It is inside us and outside us, in the air and in solids, and everywhere you can think of. This field has unlimited potentiality and is the source of everything in the universe. If you are interested to know more about this field, I recommend that you read Lynne McTaggart’s “The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe”, Gregg Braden’s “The Divine Matrix” and “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot.

For now, all you need to know about this field is that it has unlimited potentials and is the spring of all life, and that it is malleable by our mind.

2. Mind is the CREATIVE force in the universe

The field is impersonal and inert until it is worked upon by the mind. This field of potentialities can be molded and sculpted by the mind. It is accessible to everyone. In fact, all of us are already doing it, albeit unconsciously, mostly to our disadvantage. However, we can learn to do this deliberately, consciously and purposefully to achieve all our desires. We only need to learn the how-to and put it into practice.

In quantum physics, we know that the wave form (the intangible, invisible form with unlimited potentialities) collapses into a single particle form (tangible, manifested form) when it is observed or acted upon by the mind (consciousness, observer). What this means is that creation from formless to form requires the presence of the mind. In other words, our mind is what molds, sculpts and creates our reality. You can learn more about this in Fred Alan Wolf’s book entitled “Mind into Matter: A New Alchemy of Science and Spirit” and Amit Goswami’s “The Self Aware Universe”. Both these authors are physicists.

Let us first understand a little bit more about the mind. We can find much more information about the mind in the Buddhist sutras than any other sources available to us today. For example, in Chapter V of the Lankavatara Sutra of the Buddhist Mahayana tradition, there is a good description of the various aspects of the mind – the Universal Mind, the Intuitive Mind and the Personal Mind.

UNIVERSAL MIND

Firstly, there is the Universal Mind which has been called many names. Some call it the One. Others call it God, the Mind of God, Supreme Godhead, Great Spirit, Tao. It is important to realize that fixation on names only leads to more confusion. So we should not regard the names as important. What is important is to know its nature, its true essence.

Here are some of the qualities of the Universal Mind.

  1. The Universal Mind is Impersonal. The universal mind is an undifferentiated mind. It is therefore impersonal. Since it is impersonal, it does not take sides. There is no bias, no prejudices. It embraces everything into its fold.
  2. The Universal Mind is Creative. In fact, it is the only creative force in the universe. When you think about it, nothing is created without the mind. Creation begins with a non-tangible thought before it becomes a tangible reality.
  3. The Universal Mind is the Repository of all Things. The universal mind serves as the repository of all thoughts, all experiences, all things. Thus this is also the source of all information, knowledge and wisdom.

INTUITIVE MIND

The intuitive mind is the bridge between the impersonal universal mind and the personal mind. It dips into the impersonal universal mind for all its information, knowledge and wisdom.

Thus whatever information or knowledge that flows through the intuitive mind to the personal mind is what we called intuition, and has the characteristics of inclusiveness (embraces all) and wisdom. This information, if not filtered or altered by the personal mind, is always accurate and is for the higher good of all.

Often, however, such high quality, untainted information is unfortunately filtered and distorted by the personal mind out of the false sense of superiority, insecurity and fear.

The intuitive mind is also sometimes called the Higher Self.

PERSONAL MIND

The personal mind is a fully differentiated mind. It has a sense of self. It has a sense of separation. It has a sense of uniqueness and individuation. This separation from the whole universal mind and the individuation into a unique self opens up a whole new world of infinite possibilities and potential experiences, but it comes at a price – a trade off – for the separation also brings about a sense of incompleteness, a sense of lack, a sense of insecurity and thus fear is born.

The personal mind has:

  1. A Sense of Self – which gives it uniqueness, individuation, self-centeredness nature
  2. A Sense of Separation – which gives it a sense of incompleteness, lack, insecurity and fear

Paradoxically, it is this sense of separation that gives it the drive, desire and motivation to constantly seek wholeness, completeness and oneness with God (or whatever name you gave it). It is what drives us to strive higher, be better, and seek greatness and self actualization.

On the other hand, because it is self-centered, it has difficulty seeing the “big picture” of the wholeness of life. It also has a false sense of vulnerability and therefore the need for self preservation.

In the Western tradition, we often refer to the mind in terms of the conscious mind, subconscious mind and the unconscious mind. This way of looking at the mind is describing the mind according to the level or degree of awareness of the mental processes going on in our mind. Thus, our everyday thinking mind which we are aware of is the conscious mind while those thinking processes that are under our conscious awareness is grouped under the unconscious mind. The subconscious mind refers to an area of the mind that is just marginally below our conscious awareness but that we can consciously become aware of with some concentration and effort.

3. YOU are the center of YOUR universe

This third spiritual truth has been misinterpreted and distorted before. It does not say that you are the center of THE universe (which only makes our ego bigger), nor does it say that the EARTH is the center of the universe (which probably led to the medieval belief that the earth is the center of the solar system).

What it does say is that YOU are the center of YOUR universe.

What this means is that you are the creator of your own world – your own reality – and I am the creator of mine. Without exception, every one of us lives in a world of our own design. We are the creator of our own universe and we create it through the only creative force available to us – our mind. This is the message that all those gurus teaching the Law of Attraction is trying to tell us.

There is another aspect to this creating reality business – one which is not often touched upon by the Law of Attraction gurus but is found in the teachings of the Buddha. This aspect is about how we experience reality. There is a deep spiritual truth to be realized and that is that all things are empty of any intrinsic value except the value we give to them.

For example, you and I may find a piece of diamond to be of great value and we may therefore invest a lot of energy into acquiring or owning it but a diamond given to an obscure aborigine in the deep jungle of Amazon may simply be thrown away because he does not see the value or utility of the same piece of diamond.

The values we assigned to people, things and ideas obstruct our ability to see things as they really are. These values are rooted in our beliefs and they colored our experiences. By changing our thoughts and beliefs about people, things and ideas, we are able to change the experiences in our lives.

It is important that we realize these two aspects of reality creation because not realizing these truths leaves us a victim of fate while knowing them can make us master of our own destiny. Both require that we take full responsibility for all our creations and experiences. This decision – of taking 100% responsibility – once made and acted upon, empowers us and put us on the right footing or mindset towards a positive transformation of our lives.

4. As WITHIN So Without

This phrase is borrowed from the Law of Correspondence in the book “The Kybalion” – a book about the seven spiritual laws. The Law of Correspondence is the second of seven spiritual laws (or sometimes called principles). Its complete phrase is “As above, so below. As within, so without”

This spiritual truth reveals to us how we create our reality with our mind.

We create our reality through our thoughts. Thoughts are real. They are the wave forms (intangible, invisible form) that are instantly manifested in the formless, and given enough focus, attention or energy, attract, magnetize or gather mass, thus manifesting into particle forms or our perceived formed reality.

Thus, what we experience or perceive as reality outwardly now is the fully manifested form of our own creation, seeded through our thoughts in the past. In other words, we can say that our outer experience is a mirror reflection of the inner content of our mind, thus the saying, “As within, so without”.

There is a story about this in the Buddhist teachings. When asked about reality, the Buddha replied that the common worldlings perceive the reflection of the moon in a lake as reality, not being aware of the real moon in the sky.

A modern analogy of this is the computer and the projector. The projector projects an image from the computer onto the wall. In this analogy, we perceive the image on the wall as reality, not realizing that the way to change the image on the wall is not to manipulate the image on the wall. Instead, we need to change the content in the computer in order to reflect any change in the image on the wall. Another way of interpreting this analogy is that the image itself is an illusion – an error in perception – and in order to see through this illusion, we need to train ourselves to see things as they really are (that is, they are empty by nature).

This is exactly what we need to do to transform our lives. To change our lives, we need to change the content of our mind. We need also to change the way we think. We need to choose consciously what we focus on. In doing so, we alter the state of our mind. As our inner world changes, so too our outer world changes to reflect accordingly the content of our inner world.

5. Whatever you FOCUS on grows

You are fully responsible for your life because you have the ability and free will to choose what to focus on and whatever you focus on grows and expands. Even if you are ignorant of this truth, it does not change the fact that you are the creator of your own reality. Knowing this truth, however, empowers you.

The mind works on the basis of “like attracts like”. Positive thoughts attract positive experiences. Negative thoughts attract negative experiences. When you focus on something, you energize it or you increase its ability to attract similar vibrations. Another way to put it is that you increase its ability to magnetize its vibrational match or equivalent.

This brings to mind a story about an old man and his son. The old man was dying and before he died, he wanted to impart a valuable life lesson to his son. So he requested for his son to come to his death bed and he said to him, “Son, there are two tigers in my heart. One is called love and the other is called fear. They are constantly fighting each other.””Which one will win, father?” asked the son, and he replied, “The one I feed.”

For us, it is important to remember that whenever we focus on something, we are feeding it with energy, making it stronger and more able to attract similar thoughts to itself.

How the Universe work: Absolute and Relative Realities

How the Universe work: Absolute and Relative Realities

This perpetually changing universe that we live in was born out of something that is unchanging.

This “something” that is unchanging – permanently the same – is named the Absolute Reality (ultimate reality, absolute or ultimate truth). Our ever-changing universe, on the other hand, is named Relative Reality (apparent reality, relative or apparent truths).

Both science and religions have been attempting to describe these two contrasting realities. When each describes these realities using their own words, labels and terminologies, it can become extremely confusing for the spiritual seeker. Sometimes, same words used may carry different meanings, while at other times, different words used may refer to the same thing.

One way to go around this confusing state of affair is to look at the meaning, qualities or nature of the thing that the words are trying to convey.

Another way is to read all these different descriptions of realities and compare and contrast them to see how they all can fall into place, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, with all their pieces in their proper places.

Here are some of the resources to help you come to your own conclusions about how the universe works.

  1. The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science, by Thomas Troward (using scientific terminologies)
  2. The Impersonal Life, by Joseph Benner (using Christian terminologies)
  3. The Tao de Ching (Eastern mystic)
  4. Lankavatara Sutra (Mahayana Buddhism)
  5. Kybalion (Western occult or hidden knowledge)

After reading all of the above, this is how I have come to understand how the world works. This is how I have come to see realities.

What is Spirituality?

What is Spirituality?

The ultimate goal of the quest for spirituality is to know and experience the ultimate truth, and to return to that original state. But, what is ultimate truth, and what is relative truth, and why are they important?

 

ULTIMATE TRUTH

All spiritual traditions generally agree that there is an ultimate truth or reality that is unconditioned and unchanging, that is beyond time and space. It is indescribable using any languages or symbols. It cannot be known simply through logical inference, but it can be known and experienced through a purified mind.

 

RELATIVE TRUTH

Relative truth or relative reality is the universe we live in and experience. This material world is said to be emanated or unfolded out of the ultimate truth, but this is not to say that the ultimate truth is one thing and the material world is another thing. It is more accurate to say that the material world is within the ultimate truth, although even this description is probably not satisfactory.

Some people have described the material world as a holographic projection out of the ultimate truth. In Hinduism, for example, the material world is called “maya”. It is regarded as illusory and is merely a projection of our mind.

We could easily do a thought experiment with regard to this illusory nature. For example, we can ask ourselves – “Does the world exist if we are not aware of it?”

 

MIND AND MATTER

Through our own observations, we can know that this material world is made up of two things. The first is matter. Matter is perceivable to us via our five physical senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. The other is mind or consciousness. Mind, unlike matter, cannot be perceived by the five physical sense organs. It can be perceived only by the mind itself. That is why mind is considered to be our sixth sense.

 

MIND, SPIRIT, GOD – DIFFICULT TO DESCRIBE

Now we have arrived at a crossroad. How do we measure or quantify or define something that we cannot perceive physically? Where are the boundaries? Where does it begin and where does it end? What is its nature or essence? What are its qualities and attributes? Can we even describe it accurately with the languages that we have?

This is where confusions abound in discussion about spirituality and religions. The same term used, such as the word God, can mean differently for different people coming from different backgrounds and religions. On the other hand, something that is the same is often described differently by different people, as perceived from different perspectives. This is made worse if we see only the parts instead of the whole, as in the story of the blind men and the elephant.

Thus, words like mind, spirit, god and several others may simultaneously mean the same thing at times, and at other times hold subtle but important differences.

Without recognising the limitations of words and languages, our discussions on spirituality or religions can and will very often lead to confusions and confrontations.

Yet we know that if there is an ultimate truth that is unchanging and unconditioned, all our collective experiences of this must somehow be the same, albeit seen and understood from our personal perspective, which is coloured by our upbringing, culture and beliefs.

So, the way to avoid or minimise such confusion is to first define the words we use, and make sure that everyone is using the same words with the same definitions. Here is how I would define some of these words:

  • Mind is defined as that which perceives, cognises, thinks and is aware of. This would include both the cognitive and affective aspects as well as consciousness. Mind is also creative.
  • Spirit is defined as the fabric, base or foundation on which the mind acts upon. Thus, mind can be said to be contained within spirit.
  • God is defined as a natural impersonal creative force of the universe. The process of creation is subjected to natural laws.

You will notice that the above definition of God does not fit the God of the Old Testament, which is personal and even vengeful at times. Also, because both mind and God are creative, the two words are sometimes interchangeable, depending on the context in which they are used. In addition, since spirit is defined as the base or foundation from which creation emerges from (or emanate from or spring forth), and God is often regarded in the same way, spirit and God are also often used interchangeably.

So, even with the above definition, there is still room for confusion to occur.

 

TWO LEVELS OF EXPERIENCE

So we have the unconditioned, unchanging ultimate truth or ultimate reality, from which springs forth the material universe, the relative truth or relative reality existence where sentient beings get to experience life as we know it. Sentient beings can experience life from two different levels or perspectives.

  1. A Dualistic Personal Experience

A sentient being is conscious and aware of itself relative to its surrounding. It sees itself as separate from its surrounding. It perceives a “I” and a “other-than I”. It is a dualistic view of existence. This dualistic way of experiencing life is what we know and are used to.

In order to do this, we need to label or name things. We need to discern or compare, perceive differences and make judgments. Thus we see big and small, tall and short, and we sense hot and cold. This is how we make sense of the world we live in.

We experience all these contrasts from a personal perspective or view.

  1. An All-Inclusive Impersonal Experience

There is, however, another way to experience life – a way described by certain accomplished saints and meditators. Ancient sages from all traditions have told us of this higher perspective of experiencing life. It is an experience that is all embracing, all inclusive and free from thoughts, personal biases and prejudices. It is experienced from beyond the perspective of the self. It is an impersonal experience.

This experience is described in superlative terms and is regarded as a higher and more superior experience than our normal dualistic experience. Words such as unconditional love, great compassion, blissful joy and peace are often used to describe this supra-mundane spiritual experience.

It is also described as an inner and inherent essence or quality of our purified mind or spirituality, and is not affected or corrupted by anything outside of this mind.

This elusive and blissful state is what motivates and drives worldly beings in search of their spirituality. This is a state that is free and independent from any physical reality, and is achievable through a purified mind attained via meditation.

This state is called spiritual happiness, contrasting it with the more transient and illusory worldly happiness that is dependent on pleasing our physical senses, and is described not just in the Taoist, Buddhist or Hindu traditions but also in the Christian gnostic, Jewish Kaballah and Muslim sufi traditions.

Considered an even higher happiness than spiritual happiness is the total release from existence as we know it, culminating in a total union with the ultimate truth or reality with no possibility of coming back in any form.

 

Dhamma

Dhamma

The word “dhamma” in Pali or “dharma” in Sanskrit means truth. Often, it is taken to refer to the ultimate or absolute truth – truth that is unchanging and timeless. This ultimate truth is also simultaneously taken to mean absolute, unchanging reality, which is in contrast with this ever-changing relative reality of a universe we live in.

Realities

So, we have two contrasting realities. The first is the absolute unchanging reality while the other is the ever-changing relative reality. It appears that the second reality springs forth from the first. So, absolute reality is the source, the field, the canvas on which relative reality unfolds from and unfolds onto.

The nature of the absolute is that it is unchanging and impersonal. The nature of the relative is that it is ever-changing and also impersonal. There are two components that make up the relative – mind and matter. Both of these are ever-changing. Both mental and material phenomena are also impersonal. These are their true nature.

If we are able to see this true nature of reality and live in accordance with it, then all experiences are free from suffering. All experiences are just as-is. We would be able to experience every phenomenon as ever-changing and impersonal. We would simply accept it as it truly is. This is the perspective of experience for those who are fully enlightened, for the arahants.

However, and unfortunately, that is not the case for us worldlings.

Instead, we experience everything from a limited perspective of the self – a self that sees everything as separate from itself. From this perspective, there is an “I” who sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches and thinks. There is an experiencer and what it experiences. Every experience becomes personal. It is through experiencing from this perspective that sufferings occur. The trade off is that there is also the experience of joy. After all, everything in this relative universe is relative to each other, conditioned by each other.

Relativity

The relative universe exists relative to the absolute.

The relative universe has two essential realities – mind and matter. Mind is intangible relative to matter. Matter is tangible relative to mind. There is a whole spectrum of mind-only existence and matter-only existence, and everything in between that has both mind and matter in various degrees of combination. So we have entities that exist only as consciousness and we have entities that exist only as matter, without conscious awareness, and we have entities that exist with various degrees of mind and matter.

Everything in the relative universe exists relative to other things, dependent on other things, conditioned by other things. However, there are at least three important relative objects we need to pay extra attention to, mainly because they affect our lives and experiences in a big way.

The first is that all our experiences are relative to other experiences. None of our experiences are absolute truths. They are only relative truths – relative to our perspective. This brings to mind the experiences of the six blind men and the elephant. One of them touched the tail and claimed that the elephant is thin and long like a rope. Another touched the legs and claimed that an elephant is big and straight like a tree trunk. Yet another touched its ears and claimed that an elephant is flat and broad like a fan. None of them could experience the whole, thus was not able to truly know what an elephant is like. The same is true with our own experiences.

What we experience is limited by our own personal and localized perspective. Thus, what is true for us is not necessary the absolute truth, only relative truth.

The second is that all values are relative as well. There is no absolute value for the simple reason that values come from the perspective of the self. The impersonal universe does not value one thing over another. It regards everything is the same way – impersonal. This is the reason why “God” does not interfere with evil deeds or stops natural disasters or prevents war and famine.

In addition, values – as in everything else in this relative universe – change with time. A good example is the concept of beauty and fashion. What is seen as beautiful now was not so regarded in the past, nor will it be regarded as so in the future. Even solid tangible things do not have real values. For example, a diamond may be deem valuable for us but not so for aborigines living in a remote jungle.

The third is that all views are also relative. What is viewed as correct today may turn out to be wrong tomorrow. For example, at one time, people believe that the world is flat and that the sun and planets revolve around the earth. Today, we know that they were wrong.

Knowing this truth is important if we were to live in harmony with each other. We can then avoid the arrogant belief that only we are right and everyone else is wrong. This is especially true in today’s world where wars are fought over beliefs and in the name of religions. Admitting that no one has exclusive rights to absolute truth is the first step to dialogue and tolerance.

Going Beyond

So, if everything in this relative universe is relative, and there is no absolute, how do we reconcile with our need for being and doing good, and overcoming evil? Yet we know that every major religion teaches the concept of “good over evil”. Are they all wrong?

Well, they are not wrong.

The reality is that we can experience via the perspective of the self or we can experience life by going beyond the perspective of the self. This latter form is what the arahants experience, and it is free from sufferings.

However, in order to be able to attain this level of experiencing life that is beyond the self, we must first work through the self. This is not the same as denying the self, destroying or eliminating the self or even strengthening our belief in the self.

Working through the self requires that we first truly know the true nature of our self. For that to happen, we need a mind that is calm and concentrated so that it can clearly see things as they truly are. The prerequisite for attaining a calm and clear mind is a mind that is pure, thus the need for purification of the mind – for a mind that is free from hindrances, from disturbing and restless thoughts. Thus, we have to work through all defilements of the mind that is preventing us from having a clear and calm mind.

The prerequisite for purification of mind is a mind that is free from remorse and guilt, a mind that is glad and joyous. This is only attainable when we, from the perspective of the present self, are practicing virtuous thoughts, speeches and actions. Thus, the perfection of morality or virtues is a prerequisite to getting a mind that is absence of remorse and guilt, and filled with gladness and joy. Only then it is possible to attain the perfection of concentration and one-pointedness of mind, a stepping stone towards gaining perfection of knowing and seeing.

The complete path to mental purification and perfection of virtues, concentration and wisdom is spelled out in the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha.

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