Sunday, December 08, 2002


How much of our life is lived with a kind of dead­ness, with a mechanicalness, with a compulsivity? When the mind wants, when it views its goal, we can almost feel the magnetic pull. It leans toward the next moment, a moment of possible satisfaction. It often seems as though we are pulled from action to action because there is so little room, so little choice in our lives. So little space in which we consciously participate. When we relate to the mind from the heart, all the changing flow is just passing show. When we relate from the mind, the change becomes our prison.

"While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, delusion arises, and from delu­sion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelli­gence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool." Bhagavad-gita As It Is

If we can somehow develop self-realization, then we can see how everything has its use on the path of perfection. Those who are without knowledge will artificially try to avoid material objects and, as a result, although they desire liberation from material bondage, they don't attain it. On the other hand, a person who is self-realized knows how to use everything in God´s service; therefore he does not become a victim of mate­rial consciousness.

"For one whose senses are completely under con­trol, due to his regulation, the freedom from all attachment and aversion is easily obtainable." Bhagavad-gita As It Is

It should be understood that though we may exter­nally have our senses under control, if they are not engaged in some positive way, the chance of them remaining under control is very slim. If however we use our senses (in the service of God), without becoming attached to the action or the results of that action, then that is real control.

"As a boat on the water is swept away by a strong wind, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man's intelligence. There­fore, one whose senses are restrained from their objects is certainly of steady intelligence." Bhagavad-gita As It Is

Often when we begin to recognize the thirst of the mind we become a little awed at its power, its capacity to cause us to act blindly. We have a tendency to go at it with an ax, but obviously it is desire itself swinging that ax. Watching the avalanche of desire in the mind, we see how conditioned we are. How compulsively we react to each thought as though it were the only possible option in a flow of unceasing possibilities. We notice that the very nature of wanting is a feeling of incompleteness, of not having. An impatient waiting for another moment of temporary satisfaction.

What we usually call happiness is the ability to "re-create" previous pleasures. RE-CREATION. The pursuit of happiness is the attempt to satisfy old desires. The very nature of desire is a feeling of unwholeness, of being incomplete. We see that this thirst creates what could be called the "what if' mind. The yearning that says, "What if I could get this?" But to the degree the mind wants that object yet unmaterialized in its world, the less it can be here now for what is happening in the present. It is drifting off in future pleasures or musing over satisfactions past. The whole world nar­rows to just that desire, just that sports car, that prize, that pretty face. The whole world disappears into expec­tation and life is missed once again, traded off for a mirage floating in the mind. We seldom make direct contact with reality, but instead live only in the flat silhouettes that it casts in our mind.

Part 5 follows tomorrow

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Friday, December 06, 2002


The mind is continually contracting around its con­tents. Moment to moment, we are identifying who we are with what is floating in the mind, seldom noticing the space in which it floats, seldom recognizing our spiritual nature. Instead we stumble from mirage to mirage, from illusion to illusion, from insatiable desire to insatiable desire, lost in a sense of "I am this desire." If we think that we are the mind, that we are our wantings, we will always be miserable.

Our experience of the mind losing its inherent con­sciousness is called suffering. A heaviness, an isolation we notice in strong desires or heavy emotions. When we become lost, thinking that object "me," it becomes our predominant reality. It is the loss of context that causes pain in our lives, that causes the feelings of confusion and bewildennent that we so often feel.

If we are thinking that we are our mind, then we don't know who we are, or where we're going. We are constantly absorbed in thought, imagination, fear, and desire, seldom experiencing the depth of aware­ness which meets each object in clarity and understand­ing, without desire, wanting, without goal.

If we are attempting to satisfy the dictates of the mind, we will notice that even the objects of desire exist only in our changing mind. Satisfaction is short-­lived. The object of desire also is short-lived, decays, grows old, evaporates, and disappears. Sometimes in years, sometimes in a split second. And we are left with an unfulfilled emptiness. A life guided by desire, a life contracted to the mind's thirst, seldom has the understanding of who it is.

That pure awareness which wants nothing, which yearns for nothing, that's what our real nature is. If we are part and parcel of the complete whole, then we want nothing.

Awareness could be said to be like water. It takes on the shape of any vessel that contains it. If one mistakes this awareness for its various temporary forms, life becomes a ponderous plodding from one moment of desire, from one object of the mind, to the next. Similarly, we are spiritual, and like water, we take on the form of our container, our material body. We must not mistake ourselves for the material body, or at the time of death when this body is falling away, we will be bewildered, thinking we are dying. If we are in illusion, life becomes filled wtih urgency and the strategies of fear, instead of lightly considering all these forms, recognizing that water is water is water. . . no matter what its form.

The recognition, the acknowledgment of desire, al­lows the mind to open around its content, some space is experienced, and desire no longer becomes the sole motivating force. It instead becomes a reminder to keep alert, a mirror of how we hold, how readily we sink into the mind's content and forget our true nature, how we stay shallow. When the mind closes around desire, the heart is often not accessible.

So we start to relate to the content instead of from it. We observe the observer . We begin to relate from the heart. Watching whatever passes through the mind, observing without being drawn in, without becoming lost in thought as though it were reality. We begin to notice that a thought is a thought, just another bubble passing through. You see, you can't take a bite out of the thought "pizza" any more than you can be bloodied by the fearful imaginings of a car crash, or dismembered by dreamt-of demons from hell. With the thought of a pizza, this seems not so momentous. But when the mind is closed around fear or desire, the encouragment to stay alert allows a moment of clear seeing, an opportunity to experience the freedom with which we can live our lives, and die our deaths.

When we relate to the mind instead of from it, we relate to desire not from desire. Relating to fear we are not frightened, relating from fear all that we see frightens us. Relating to confusion there is clarity, relating from it there is disorder. Each moment of relating from the mind, each feeling becomes a tinted lens through which we perceive the world.

When we are angry, we see only our fears, a menac­ing world. In our confusion, the whole world seems upside down. When we relate from the heart, we see a world of awareness and effortless activity. When we relate from the mind, our perception of the world and the cosmic-manifestation is imprisoned by our prefer­ences and desires.

Part 4 follows tomorrow

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Wednesday, December 04, 2002


When desire is present it narrows the mind´s capacity. It causes the mind to contract in expectation of a single goal. Aquisition of the objects of thought and imagination causes temporary satisfaction and increas­ing thirstiness. Letting go of thought and imagination is called liberation. It is a going to the wellsprings of the soul, in which satisfaction may be found. Freedom seeks to satisfy nothing. No desire, no thirst, no want­ing.

Indeed, the Lord is our shepherd, how then can we be left wanting?

Desire is like unfinished business. Whatever has its goal in the future is an incomplete transaction with life. But if thirst is seen as thirst, business becomes finished in the moment of letting go. The mirage is broken. It no longer seems like "my" desire, something solid about which something must be done. Seeing the impersonality of desire, we are less likely to be­come lost in the compulsion to satisfy. Once we come to this particular point in life where we are forced to examine things in light of our disease and death, a peculiar quality can be noticed about desire, about wanting. What we call satisfaction, isn't really satis­faction at all, but only a temporary relief of our want­ing. Satisfaction is only our going from not having to having. Satisfaction is a momentary release from the pressure of wanting.

Indeed, when desire or any object draws our atten­tion in the mind, it is so seductive, so magnetic, that the awareness, the spaciousness of the natural mind, closes around it. Then the whole of our experience is that desire, a thirst for that object only.

But it is the edgeless space of awareness we refer to when we say "I." Whatever awareness touches, there our experience arises. Deeply involved in reading a book, for instance, we do not notice someone entering the room because we say, "I was reading; I couldn't hear." Though all of the elements for hearing may be present - sound and the ear's ability to hear - because awareness did not touch that sound, hearing did not arise in our experience. Wherever awareness is, "I" experiences. When awareness touches hearing, we hear. When it touches pain, we hurt. When it touches anger we become angry. When awareness makes con­tact with an object of the senses, we say we experience that sense. Without that contact, no experience arises. When we say, "I am here," we mean that awareness is present.

When there is desire in the mind, this vast awareness contracts around that thought or feeling, and our innate consciousness is lost. Whether it is the thought of an apple or a feeling of fear, the mind implodes, becomes hermetically sealed around that object, and the sense of our real nature is lost. This process is called false identification. When the spacious "I" of awareness is contracted to the shape of some object in the mind, we mistake that thought or feeling for "I." It is this state of identification with the contents of mind that results in our imagining that the mind is "I." This is merely another case of mistaken identity. Much of our experience of ourselves is a dull solidity of mind. All the ever-changing flow, the immensity of original mind, is lost in that single object of desire, in that thirst, in that mirage.

Unable to differentiate between the objects of the mind and the mind itself, we think of all the contents of the mind as our own, as "me."

Part 3 follows tomorrow

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Tuesday, December 03, 2002


There was once a man who lived in a small village on the bank of a gently flowing river. On the other side of the river lived a prostitute of whom he was particularly fond. As often as he could afford, he would make the journey across the river to see her and enjoy the pleasures she had to offer. One evening there was an incredible storm. Hurricane force and torrential rains sent all the villagers into their homes. But this man was overcome by lust for this prostitute and decided to cross the river anyhow. Though he had no boat, and the river was turbulent, and flowing so swiftly, he dove in and began swimming towards the other side. Finally, practically at the point of death, he reached the other side, and drug himself to her house and banged on the door. When she opened the door and saw him, she was overcome with emotion, and began to cry and addressed him as follows; "My dear, your desire is so uncontrollable that you have risked your very life for a few moments of enjoyment with me. This is touching, but very foolish. If only you would dovetail your strong desire in the cultivation of spiritual knowledge and service, you would have enjoyment everlasting. " Realizing that it was her duty to force this fool into giving up his desire for her, she sent him away and closed her door.
It seems that from birth, like the thirst for our mother's milk, we are also instilled with another thirst, a craving for life's experiences and sensations. A leaning toward pleasure, a retraction from pain.

This desire for experiences reminds us of a person stumbling in the desert without any water, driven by his desire for satiation. Again and again, we view the mirage, the illusory oasis, shimmering just over the next horizon. We see the objects of desire and run toward them, forgetting all else, imagining that at last the thirst will be quenched. We run to this mirage only to find there is no end to this thirst.

Each desire seems to be like another mirage beckoning just over the next rise. Each mirage only intensifies our thirst, only sharpens our desire. We see that the satisfaction of desire does not make desire disappear but only hones its cutting edge. Eventually, like that man wandering in the desert, we come to see that the mirage is a mirage. Only a dream of satisfaction. Even as we awaken from this dream, seeing that lasting satisfaction is not to be found in this temporal material world and all its accessories, the mirage yet remains. Though we run to it less often for satisfaction, it is still there.

When at last we recognize the emptiness of such visions, though desire still arises in the mind, we no longer cling to it as the only reality. We notice howour thirst creates the mirage and we maintain our direction without falling, without deviating from our path.

Part 2 follows tomorrow

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Monday, December 02, 2002


In Casteneda's books about the teachings of Don Juan, he mentions again and again how his teacher tries to bring this point to his attention. But Carlos' rational mind always gets in the way. Don Juan uses whatever tactic he can, especially Carlos' fear of death and the unknown, to bring his attention to the moment in which he will have to leave his body behind: "A man of knowledge chooses a path with a heart and follows it. . . He knows that his life will be over altogether too soon. . . He knows because he sees that nothing material is more important than any­thing else. In other words, a man of knowledge has no honor, no dignity, no family, no country. But only life to be lived."

Who is close enough to the truth to live without honor, without dignity? Who trusts in his path this moment to such an extent that they have no necessity to create some arbitrary morality, some ritualistic for­mality? Because they know that who they really are is an essence of morality itself? Who trusts their orig­inal spiritual nature sufficiently to allow oneself to respond appropriately in the moment of death to what­ever is called for?

During one hospitalization, I remember being at­tached to a respirator which painfully inflated and emptied my lungs, a needle the size of a pencil shoved in my femeral artery filtering my blood, because my kidneys were on vacation, overhearing the doctors out­side the ICU discussing my situation. "All we can do now is to make him comfortable. . . Start a morphine drip if he needs it. . . Has his family been notified? He looks like he's going bad. Has anybody called the chaplain?" Wondering whether I would be dead in a few days or weeks, or perhaps up and around again, I looked to the nurse and said, "You know, this whole situation has made me realize that whether I die or not I still have the same work to do."

So it can be seen that the unexpected or undesirable situations in our life, such as AIDS, the pain, the hurting, etc., brings each of us to the edge of our questioning. We come to the fear, the guilt, the doubt, the anger that we usually withdraw from, and we look at it straight in the face, and investigate it. Because we have always pushed these emotions away, or com­pulsively acted on them, with very little awareness of what was happening, they are often foreign and frightening when we first begin to examine them.

To some, this encouragement to acknowledge the blockages of the heart and the confusion of the mind may seem petty, or sentimental, or negative. But ac­tually what I am speaking about is the path, the un­obstructed path of God-consciousness, Christ-con­sciousness, Self-knowledge, the path of pure love. The acknoweledgment of the stuff which cuts us off from God. And the spaciousness which results in the illumination that has always been there, our original spiritual nature shining through, the joy of purity, the stillness of the underlying reality we all share.

Indeed, the mind is always dreaming itself. So we start coming to the edge of the dream, start cultivating the compassion for ourselves to let go. We relearn the ability to experience life as it unfolds, to play lightly without force. It is a war, but it is also a kindness to ourselves, which gives rise in time, with constancy, to a participation in life and in death. Beyond ideas of loss and gain. It is a war fought with love and trust, not envy and suspicion. Beyond ideas of life and death. Opening to "just this much," the vastness of it all.

We begin to open to awareness itself, threatened by nothing. Withdrawing from nothing, becoming united with God, knowing that nothing can separate us from our true nature and that only forgetfulness can obscure it.

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Sunday, December 01, 2002


It is not unusual to hear people say, "Don't worry, when the time comes, I' II be able to remember who I am, where I' m going." Good luck, because when it comes time, the energy you have now may very well be depleted. It may be difficult for the mind to concen­trate.

If you should die in extreme pain, how will you have prepared to keep your mind focused on reality and not the pains of the illusory body. When comes the time to carry the load of life throught death's door, one can take neither relatives, friends, servants nor possessions. Attached mind is animal mind. Abandon attachment.

No matter how intense the pleasure one may gain on the peaks of illusion, again shall one fall to suffer­ing, spinning on the wheel of unknowing, no shelter. Abandon grasping.

The limitless beings around us, parents who kindly nurtured us, are creatures seeking only happiness. Ab­andon the unkind mind.

All that appears to the senses in ultimate nature is empty. Yet in fallacious and illusory images, we con­tinue to grasp for truth. Abandon self-imprisonment.

To sense how difficult it might be to give up attach­ment and illusion, try to notice that even with a healthy mind and energy how often it is difficult to concentrate on normal topics, how readily the latent tendencies toward judgment or fear and forgetfulness sweep the mind away in a torrent of agitation and attempted control whenever we think of pur death.

How much more distracting would it be when our mouth is filled with the burning sores of candida, our breathing so laborious that it must be forced with an artificial respirator, our ass so raw with sores from being in the same position in the same bed for so long that we can't remember.

How difficult might it be to stay with our meditation, our rosary, our mantra in the midst of considerable discomfort and surrounding confusion.

I've seen many people as they have approached their death and seen how much clarity and openness it takes to keep alert and not fall into self-pity or incoherence. To keep so open that when fear comes up, they can look it in the face and acknowledge it without freaking out. If we are not attached to our mind then we will not become attached to the fear that arises only in the mind.

When pain and sickness arise I see there is the option to allow it, not holding or pushing it away, not blocking it, not intensifying it. When I open to it as a student, it no longer reinforces identification with the "suf­ferer," the "victim." It's just pain and sickness. And as I try to open to it, I see how it is a perfect preparation for whatever might come next, a deeper letting go. It shows me how I shouldn't hold to any expectation that life has to be any way at all. Being sick or acci­dentally stubbing my toe becomes preparation for the impossible, for dying, for living in the next unknown.

If you can participate in this moment openly, then you'll be open to death also. If you are present for this moment, then you'll likely be present for the next. If that next moment turns out to be on your death bed, then you'll be open to that also. There is no other preparation for death but becoming self-realized. If you are pure now, you'll be pure then.

Part 3 follows tomorrow

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Saturday, November 30, 2002


I cannot repeat enough the importance of being ready for whatever may come our way. If we are not open to anything that may happen, if we are opposed to any possibility, anything whatsoever, our perception will narrow to a kind of tunnel- vision which will exclude whatever reality that may disturb our minds. What disturbs our minds is generally anything that does not reinforce our fantasized image of who we think we are. We exclude an awful lot, considering most things with a type of blindness.

There is a wonderful story from the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. King Yudhisthira and his brothers had been wandering the forest for a very long time, and one day came upon a small pond. Being very thirsty, the brothers all began to drink from the pond, one by one. Soon after, one by one, they also began to fall over dead. Yudhisthira, seeing this, didn't even consider that the same fate awaited him if he drank from the pond. Bending down to drink, he heard a voice that said "Beware, do not drink from this pond." He was bewildered at hearing this voice, and asked "Who's there?" The voice then began to question Yudhisthira about many different philisophical sub­jects and finally asked him "Yudhisthira, of all your many wonderful realizations, which is the most won­derful?" Realizing how foolish he was at seeing all his brothers become ill and die after drinking from the pond, he replied, "The most wonderful thing that I have realized is that at every moment there is somebody dying around me, but I don't think it will happen to me, that is the most wonderful thing I have realized."

We never know when death will come, therefore we should always be ready. We have to always be on our toes, so that when the test comes we will be pre­pared. It means an opening to that not-knowing, just being ready.

We cannot elude any moment, but we can by culti­vation become ready for anything, no matter how hor­rible.

That kind of preparation in our life is the perfect consciousness to be in at the time of our dying. It means that we will be ready for whatever happens, excluding nothing. How many people do we know who are so in tune with themselves and their eternal nature, that even death could not distract them? That's not something you wait until death to find out. That's something you cultivate right now. There's no other moment to begin preparing for death.

It might be noted here that the word "God," while I haven't used it much so far, is not equally useful to all. I use "God," throughout this book, out of exasp­eration for a way to denote the Complete, Reality, Absolute Truth. Nature or Tao, or Dharma, or just Truth would equally suffice yet remain insufficient for the indescribable. For some, "Jesus" is not the historic personage so much as a term to describe the perfected heart; "Buddha" not the prince of ancient India but the nature of translucent mind; "Krishna" not the but­ter-stealing cowherd boy, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all-attractive and all-powerful. Whatever your affiliation, I hope you won't be offended by this generic word "God." The goal is to remember this "God" no matter what you call Him, or how your faith perceives Him. Just remember Him.

Part 2 follows tomorrow

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Friday, November 29, 2002


There have been people with AIDS who have fought their disease angrily until they were to weak to do so any more. Only when they were too tired to fight, and in exhaustion surrendered to whatever would happen, did their non-attachment manifest in their healing. There is no need to stress the intrinsic value of healing, of having a body in which we can learn and serve, nor is it necessary to underscore the benefit of physical healing, but we must attempt to balance the misconceptions about the healing which is inherent in death itself. Death is not our enemy. The enemy, rather, is our ignorance and lack of self realization. Because we identify only with our material body, mind and senses, we. seldom realize or trust our true nature as eternal spiritual persons. Perhaps illness is the harvest of a life sown with disharmony, distrust, and unloyalty to our real nature: the conflict that results when we try to deny ourselves a life of truth.

It may be that your AIDS diagnosis, like no other experience you have ever had, will cause you to look within, to contemplate things that were previously of little or no importance. For some the AIDS diagnosis, though tragic, may be the only experience that would get them to pay attention, to begin exploring the self, to cultivate real knowledge. For many it may be understood that their infirmity is a type of grace period, for it has the potential of putting them in touch with their essential nature, in a way that none of the experiences of a lifetime of small traumas can do. It literally forces an examination of that which we have been hiding behind, that which we use to protect ourselves from reality.

I have known persons who have spent their lives, (like myself), in search of the perfect teacher, the Guru, the Messiah who would give them some sense of the essential, some glimpse of reality, which would cause them to become serious about their life, and that at last it turned out that their teacher was their illness. It may be that AIDS is your guru, the mirror in which you can see the truth. Disease may be our key to real health, and the impending death the key to life.

If we see our disease as the enemy, when we are confronted with emotions, we will make all judgments according to how we are feeling physically at that moment. When we are asked how we are, we will say "Awful." But are we really "awful?" When symptoms of illness force themselves on us, our feelings of worth are diminished and the agression with which we attacked our disease turns inward in self-pity and guilt.

On the other hand, if we recognize the disease as a teacher who is showing us where we need extra work, we will strive towards harmony, bringing our consciousness back into balance, improving the quality of our life, while preparing for our death.

In the process of investigating how our healing doesn't exclude the possibility of our death, we must examine what is within us that clings to life. This "survival instinct" makes healing difficult, even impossible.

How do we cope with the survival instinct, that force that makes us cling to the body even though we can see it decaying before our eyes? Isn't it this very survival instinct that motivates our selfishness, our desire to get everything that we can for ourselves? Isn't it this survival instinct that is the basis for every desire to be somebody, the source of the imbalance which is the cause of disease itself? In a perverted way isn't it this survival instinct that kills us?

Giving up our survival instinct, however, does not mean creating an instinct to die. Both are attachments to the body, both are based on mistaken identity.

We must ask what is more important. Is it more important to save the body or is it more important to save the soul within? Sometimes the healing of the soul comes from losing the body, and sometimes the healing of the body comes from denial of the soul. ".... what protiteth a man if he gains the whole world, but loseth his soul?"

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Thursday, November 28, 2002


My experience with most healers is that they have a tendency to become proud, to believe that they actu­ally have some particular power. It is this pride and arrogance, no matter how sincere, that keeps them from actually being an instrument for any healing ac­tivity. When we think that we are the "doer", we are only in illusion, and sure to become attached to the results of such activities. Healing must be allowed to happen, it cannot be forced. We can surrender to he­aling, but we cannot capture it. We must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that we have been cured or healed. If we think like this, then when we again become ill, we will feel that it is somehow a let down. We must become open to whatever is coming our way, even though it may not be pleasant.

When we approach our healing process in this con­sciousness, we are not forcing anything. We are not pushing away life or death. We are in reality not even attacking disease . We are just allowing our natural survival instincts to balance the score.

In order for healing to occur, there must be a con­ducive atmosphere and the proper consciousness.
Our healing energy cannot come from our mind. He­aling comes from surrender, something greater than our predicament, and often has nothing to do what­soever with the body . We cannot second guess healing.

It can be seen in many healers, that the attachment to the result is what reduces the chances of healing.
We can see in those who volunteer to work with people with AIDS, the type of love and availability to others that develops. At first many are unsure of themselves, feeling awkward, even scared of failing, but eventually come to a place where they get over their fear, and expectation, and can unconditionally love, and be present for whatever is happening in the life of their "buddy." It is this cuJtivation of non-attach­ment that enables them to remain functional when all about them are falling and dying away.

There is no need to ask, "How does one know when to stop healing and begin preparation for death?" If we are actually healing, then there is no difference between the two. If we are cured, then we have been prepared for death.

If we try to differentiate between healing and prep­aration, we are forgetting that each are aspects of one complete picture. It's not the activity, but the con­sciousness in which it is performed. If our conscious­ness in everything we are doing is that of detachment to the result, then we are simultaneously becoming healed and prepared.

We must use the symptoms of our disease as man­ifestations of our attachments. If we cannot see it this way then any attempt at healing which seeks to over­look this view, will be unsuccessful. Is healing the body really the only thing that we are trying for?

We cannot, however, welcome death in a suicidal way, thinking of it as an escape. That is a rejection of life, and the same imaginary conceptions of life and death will occur.

Part 4 follows tomorrow

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Wednesday, November 27, 2002


There where times that my condition seemed to have completely returned to normal. I gained weight, I could run and swim and eat the foods which I like to eat.

Because of diet, and exercise, and positive thinking, I seemingly had forced my immunosupression into remission. But every time this happened, after several weeks, sometimes even a few months, there would come that familiar wheazing again and I would be back in the hospital. I have been in the hospital a total of 16 times in the last 3 years; a total of five months in bed. Each time expecting not to come home, but each time getting strong enough to leave, and enjoy some time in good health. I have learned that health and imfirmity are both transient, and I can no more cling to them than I can cling to this life itself. I have learned that to prepare for death is to continue remain­ing open to whatever life has to offer.

It appears that the balancing of healing and dying can either displace illness, or can advance our disease process even more. In either case, if we can come to a balance and not be attached either way, then healing has occurred. When we can finally let go of precon­ceived results and let go, there is little to maintain imbalance. The popular phrase is that "Survival is highly overrated."

It is often frustrating to be on this up and down roller-coaster existence, or illness and apparent health. Our friends often will pray that we will die, that we will become free of our suffering. Perhaps they just want us to hurry up and ease their own suffering. I remember sending one letter to a friend with the open­ing sentence "Rumors of my death have been extremely exaggerated." Sometimes I feel that I have been dead for these past few years, just holding on by some thread wondering what I am waiting for. When we realize that each individual (including ourself) experi­ences their original nature in their own way, then heal­ing or dying becomes a lens through which we focus the presence of each and every moment. We cannot worry too far into the future, it isn't here! Likewise, to lament the past is foolish for there is no way to call back even one moment lost.

If our priority in fighting this disease is to try to change the facts, perhaps the most that can be expected is that the body may become somewhat stronger, but the frailty of spirit, the weakness of the mind, the attachment to a particular situation that has always obscured our pure vision, will not be encouraged to dissolve.

As long as we are contemplating our healing as a means of avoiding death, there will be illusion. We cannot avoid death. As long as we separate life from death, we separate ourselves from reality, and we will always feel that there is something to protect, some­ thing more to attain, another cause for inharmony and "DIS-EASE". When our attitude towards healing is in proper focus so will be our understanding of death.

Another thing we must realize is that any type of physical healing we may experience, whether from conventional medicine, psychic surgery, prayer, or positive thinking, is all temporary. The only type of healing which can possibly survive the changes of our bodily circumstances is that healing which takes place on the spiritual platform. Perfect healing is to be ready for whatever happens, with understanding and open­ness. What else can we practically do? How can we, if we have the slightest bit of intelligence, attempt to protest the death of our body?

Part 3 follows tomorrow

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002


There are many explanations pertaining to the cause of disease in the body, but it seems clear that there is nothing one can do to avoid them. There are many very saintly beings who have died of cancer, or diabetes, and many very disturbed and vio­lent persons who have lived long healthy lives only to die "peacefully" in their sleep. Practically speaking, there isn't much we can do to avoid the sufferings that are inherent with the body.

Of course, now we know that AIDS could have been avoided by simple precautions, but what's to say that we wouldn't have contracted or developed some other ailment, perhaps more horrible than AIDS?

There was a joke I heard quite some time ago, that "AIDS is the gift for the person who has everything." It may be that for many of us, disease is a way by which we can finish up our business here, a balancing of the books.

When faced with a disease such as AIDS there are certain decisions we have to make regarding our future. We must decide whether we will follow our mind, or follow our heart in matters such as healing, chemotherapy, or letting the disease run it's course.

My own experience is that persons who take an active participation in their own recovery, are more apt to be around to tell about it, where those who put their faith solely in their doctors, and do nothing them­selves generally don't live too long, and die in bitter resentment of the suffering they experienced at the hands of "conventional" medicine and impersonal treatment.

On the other hand, in our fight against disease and for good health, we must know when to acknowledge realistically that the disease itself has won the battle. If we fight to the very end, we may be seen as courage­ous, even heroic, for going down with our ship, but factually it would be foolish not to take some of that time to develop some acceptance.

If we can go beyond our conceptions of what healing is, we would be able to understand that being healed is not always equated with having a healthy body. We must also have some concern for ourselves and not just our vessel. This is much like the man who day after day polishes the cage of his singing canary, but neglects to feed the bird within the cage. The bird eventually dies, and the cage is no longer serving it's purpose.

We must be careful in our efforts to hold on to good health that we don't neglect our very self. What is the glory in going down with a sinking ship? This is no­ thing but foolish pride, and sentimental courage. There is no intelligent man who will claim that it is honorable to stay in a burning house, or not eject from a stalled plane.

Part 2 follows tomorrow.

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Sunday, November 24, 2002


When I was diagnosed with AIDS it caused quite a panic among the nurses on my floor. I can remember one who absolutely refused to change my bedding, "Do it yourself!" she would say, "Why should I be subjected to your dis­ease ?"

I recall now, with some humor, the horror and shame I felt at being an AIDS patient. AIDS immediately brought to mind my promiscuous involvment in illicit drugs or sex, labeling me and placing me in a category of "sub-human." There were flourescent red placards on the door to my room, bathroom, on my bed, etc., declaring boldly: "BLOOD AND BODY FLUID PRE­CAUTION."

After several admissions I didn't take the precau­tions and isolation so personally. In fact, it became somewhat of an inside joke between myself and the others in my asrama. I would label everything that was mine with a hot pink "INFECTUOUS" sticker, so that nobody would use my cup, or borrow my razor. Though the isolation became routine, I was offended at the unwillingness on the part of nurses, doctors, family and my peers to talk about the implications of my diagnosis. Nurses often would try to be encouraging by saying "Who knows, they may find a cure."

The doctors would say "You've been tolerating the pneumonia well so far, I think you'll make it." My mother's adamant denial "You don't look like you have AIDS. It must be something else. You DON'T have AIDS!" All this denial only made me more intent on facing the real issues. I DO HAVE AIDS. AIDS IS A "TER­MINAL" ILLNESS. THIS MEANS THAT I WILL PROBABLY DIE SOON.

I found that when I was able to admit these things to myself, others were more willing to talk about it. Their denial was actually a
reflection of my own cling­ing. I wanted them to deny it, to give me some encour­agement. But once I faced the facts, I was able to look more objectively at my situation. "Perhaps I could fight this disease. It couldn't be, like they say, 100% fatal." But I also knew that for better or for worse, the work I had to do on myself was still the same. For about a year I watched people with AIDS dying all around me, still I was reluctant to prepare. I had the idea that to actually start preparing would be a cowardly surrendering to the disease process, an ad­mission of my weakness, an unwillingness to fight.

Often I was reminded of the story of Maharaja Parik­sit. He was an emperor of what once was considered the largest and most opulent dynasty in all the world, what we now know as India. His kingdom was un­rivaled in wealth, military strength, and righteousness. One day while traveling through the forest he came upon a yogi who was deeply absorbed in meditation. Due to his concentration, the yogi didn't properly re­­ceive him, and Pariksit became offended. Pariksit, in his anger, placed a dead snake around the yogi's neck and returned to his palace.

Later in the day the yogi's son came and saw his father in this condition, still in trance with this dead snake draped around his neck. He became so enraged to see his father, who was a very elevated yogi, in this state, that he cursed Pariksit to die within seven days from the venom of a snake. Pariksit, upon hearing of this curse, was faced with the same situation that one with an AIDS diagnosis must face: What to do? We can react in so many ways, but generally we either accept or reject the diagnosis as being absolute. We accept that we are going to die, or we convince ourselves that we can fight it. Perhaps we just deny the existence of the curse altogether.

Pariksit didn't know for certain that the curse would come to pass, nor did he have any evidence to the contrary, so he took the safe route and began to seri­ously question the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami, who in turn instructed him to prepare for the worst. Sukadeva's rationale probably was that whether Pariksit lived a long life, or died immediately there would be no loss in preparation. Their questions and answers went on for seven days and seven nights non-stop, and comprise 18,000 verses, and some 30 volumes. So, you can see that Pariksit took this opportunity very seriously. In­deed, many persons have glorified him throughout the ages because he saw that this curse was actually a blessing in disguise. Because his death was fore­told, and because he used his remaining time to prepare for it, his whole life is seen as glorious.

Of course, our prognosis may or may not be so severe, but we can, just as Pariksit did, take advantage of our curse, and turn it into a benediction. In order to have this vision, we must first ask our­selves "Why is there any need for preparation?" Indeed we must ask "Why bother?" If we don't first ask this question then there will be no real context for further discussion.

Whether you subscribe to traditional Judeo-Christ­ian beliefs, Eastern philosophy, or new-age thought, these will widely determine your answers to "Why bother?" Perhaps you want to float softly through a tunnel of light, or attain to the Kingdom of God, or achieve some void. Perhaps you just want another body? Generally speaking, the desire behind all of these aspirations can best be described as wanting a "peaceful passing." That's what most of us want actu­ally, because what we fear most is a violent or turbulent death.

A large percentage of people who die, do so in a state of confusion. Either they are so medicated that they don't know who or where they are, or they are so scared or angry that they never stopped worrying enough to question their position. If we actually decide now what we want to achieve through our dying then we have already answered the question "Why bother?" With this goal clearly in sight, our dying process takes on a new light. No longer a curse, but a rare opportunity to prepare for, and become open to our death.

"As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly carries on through death. The self­realized soul is not bewildered by such a transition." Bhagavad-gita As It Is

We are all individual persons, and within this very lifetime undergoing different "re-incarnations," man­ifesting as an infant, toddler, youth, adult, or as an old man. Yet the same spiritual spark, the same con­sciousness survives these changes of body without undergoing any change itself.

Is it so inconceivable that this soul can perhaps survive the cessation of the material body and carry on - even in death? If we take this opportunity to cul­tivate "self' or "soul" knowledge, we will never be deluded by the change of bodies. This cultivation of self-knowledge requires a deliberate preparation, a conscious exploration of "Who am I? Where am I going? How do I get there?"

Chances are, in a diseased state, that we may have some spare time in which we can ponder these essential topics. So rather than asking "Why bother?" we can ask ourselves "Why not?" Death will come for us, just as it comes for everyone else, too soon, as sure as death. It is often amazing that we see death all around us but we fail to see that it is also just around our comer. There are people dying at every moment, but we are thinking "It will not happen to me." Don't we ever consider that every night when we go to sleep we have passed another day of our life? That we are one day closer to death? As soon as we are born, the clock starts ticking, and we never know when it will stop. When the time runs out, there is no way to prolong our life. The scientists cannot increase the duration of the body one moment beyond its alotted time.

Death will come, as Don Juan told Carlos Cas­teneda, "Altogether too soon." Nobody can attempt to remain in this body forever. Isn't it odd that we don't prepare for the inevitable future. We prepare for Christmas, we prepare for the tax season, we prepare for so many things, but we don't prepare for death.

Bhaktipad Swami writes in "ETERNAL LOVE":

"Therefore we are advised to live every mo­ment, every thought and deed, as if it were ourlast. By doing so, we would complete many tasks still undone, and leave undone many things we ought never have started. In this way, we would have a good conscience and not fear death. After all, if we are not prepared to die today, what makes us think that we will be ready tomorrow? Besides, when death comes, it will not be tomorrow, but today. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day for enlightened action and liberation. Even if we live three Score and ten years, or even ten Score and three, that is no guarantee of happiness. There are trees that live for thousands of years. A long duration of life has no intrinsic value. It is not the quantity of life that counts, but the quality. Unfortunately, our nature is forgetfulness. Al­though we all know that many people die suddenly and quite unexpectedly, we carry on in our usual humdrum way, as if all were well. When our final moment comes, however, we may think differently of that life which will then be over. There is often much regret and remorse that the boon of human life has been carelessly wasted. Remembering that the moment of death is always at hand, we should be motivated to become detached. Remembering that the moment of death for this body can actually be the moment of liberation, we should feel happy rather than sad. Oh, what fools we are! We plan for happiness here, but in a second everything is finished. Who will remember us then? Who will help us? When death comes, it is too late for change. Either for good or ill, the die is cast. Let us therefore act to assure the soul's safe passage."

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In order to overcome our fear of disease and death, we must first ask ourselves some basic questions."Who's doing the suffering? Who's doing the dying? What is disease?What is death?" Indeed, we must ask ourselves "What is health, what is life?" It is easy to ask such questions, but far more difficult to answer them truthfully.

When we ask "Who dies?" the automatic answer is of course "I die". But who, or what is this "I"? Is it my body, my mind, is it me? What are the symptoms of life itself? Is it the beating of the heart? Is it the permeation of consciousness? How can we know what death is if we have no knowledge of life ?

Sometimes we may think we are the material senses, but when we refer to "my" sight, "my" dog, "my" house, who is this "my?" We don't say "I" house, "I" dog, "I" sight. Perhaps we are the "my", the "our", the "me."

But what is it? Certainly without it we couldn't experience any of the sensations of the body or mind. This awareness that is "me" is essential to any physical, mental, or sensual experience. Without consciousness, there would be no motiva­tion to feed the body, no coherence, no growth. It is this consciousness that is the key to life itself.

Our bodies, as complicated as they are, are basically intricate lumps of blood, bone, mucus, flesh, etc. The presence of consciousness is what brings these bodies to life as functioning machines, the absence of which causes the body to decay.

From where does this consciousness arise, and where does it go upon leaving the body? Without in­quiry on your part, this entire book will be useless. It requires a sincere, deliberate, contemplative investiga­tion. By asking such questions, we are placing our­selves in a vulnerable position. Open to attack from our mind, our preconceptions, the dictates of our imperfect logic and senses. This work is, and your work must be, a "conscious" exploration, coming from that place which is not subject to any outside influence, or con­tamination by any illusory perception.You must dive in, and expect to swallow a little water, but remain confident that "you" will not drown.

"For the soul there is neither birth nor death. Nor having once been does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain. He can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same. "Bhagavad Gita - As It Is

The mind is fickle, the senses misleading, the body grows old, diseased, and eventually we must leave it behind. But behind it all, there is something non-mate­rial, and therefore spiritual, the "self' or the "atma" or the "undying", whatever you prefer to call it, which remains intact throughout the traumas and trips of the material body, including death.

We must completely abandon all previous miscon­ceptions to understand this simple truth, this eternity that transcends birth and death, the realm of quarrel and illusion - with no defense but inquiry and a sincere desire to know the truth.

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Saturday, November 23, 2002


I have always been somewhat infatuated, perhpas amused, with the way in which different people of different tribes and faiths react when faced with impermanence. Of course I haven´t always handled it well myself, but I have always been able to look at it from an objective view point because somehow I knew that it would never happen to me. That is to say that death, or complete cessation of life, has never been, nor is it now, a reality for me.

Two great grandmothers, two grandfathers, two high school classmates, my boarding school headmaster, (suicide), as well as my father all died before I was 16. Everyone thought I had a heart of stone because I always distanced myself from the mourning process. This was not because I had any profound realization, or supernatural understanding, but rather because death scared the hell out of me.

I suppose that is why I have chosen to make a life out of understanding just what death is.

I was constantly asking questions like "What would you do if this was your last day to live?" or "Just think, we could all be dead tomorrow. What do you think happens then?" This didn´t make me the most sought after party guest, but I have, no doubt, met the most interesting people on my quest.

I wondered why birth was a time of celebration; baby showers, passing out cigars, decorating the nursery, when birth itself is the very door to death. Why was death such a time of sadness and grief; veils, tears, drawn curtains, rainy funerals with shiny black umbrellas and whining organ music.

The AIDS epidemic, of which I am a casulty, seemed to change my line of questioning as suddenly I was faced with this incredible surplus of people who were literally dying for someone to talk to. I found that each and every one of these people was a guru, a priceless piece of a puzzle that I had been trying to piece together for a lifetime.

Seemingly I had all the right questions, all the time in the world to listen, all the right advice and solutions. Then I started to hear something that shattered my illusion of perfect understanding. In August of 1985, five years since any possible exposure to the HIV virus, I began wheazing. I knew immediatlely what it meant. I had been feeling fatigued and feverish for about six months. There was no question in my mind that I was sick. Needless to say, I was devestated, even suicidal. I thought that I was ouf of danger, after 5 years, but doctors soon diagnosed my pneumonia, and I joined the elite ranks of th "AIDS VICTIM".

Gone (for a while) were the days of self-confidence, when I could look at a person who was in his las hours and say "Hey, it´s O.K., I understand just what you´re feeling." True, I had an incredible way of making the dying experience tolerable, but now tolerable just wasn´t enough. The fact was that I didn´t understand. I didn´t know how they felt. I didn´t know that verything was going to be "O.K:"

I didn´t want to merely tolerate death any more than you right now are craving an appendectomy. Of course I knew I could tolerate dying, but what I sought was a deeper understanding of the process. In my own way I began seeking a way to actually avoid it, to overcome it.

Well, this may sound a bit pretentious, but I was then, as I am now, convinced that it is not impossible to conquer death. This conquering does not come, however, through any material or scientific means of prolonging life, but instead, by living life in a preparatory way in which each day, filled with inquiry, is a small victory, the culmination being an awareness at the time of our passing which robs this "death" of its horror, its fear, its pain, supplanting the joy, courage, and freedom that comes from knowing that which was previously unknown.

I consider my writing, and the many episodes which have brought me to this particular point of interest, to be an ongoing dialogue. This endeavor has been of immense benefit to me, transforming my own dying process into one of enlightenment, compassion, and growth.

I am not a great writer, nor a storehouse of profound wisdom, but rather a longtime practitioner of a spiritual path called bhakti, which means literally "loving service". I have, therefore, dedicated myself and my service to those facing death, and this dedication, as well as my direct experience has echoed the essential truths of my spiritual tradition and confirmed the realizations of my heart.

Often repetitive, perhaps hard to follow, this book was written hastily and with great urgency. Understanding this, I hope you will overlook any inequities and enjoy this attempt to magnify, from a lifetime of inquiry, all that I have realized about this subject.

I offer this in sincere compassion to everyone, especially those of you who are "ripe" for it´s message.


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