Wondrous Words: Only 3 Things Matter . . .

In-the-end-only-three

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.  -Buddha

Two mind-blowing classics every spiritual seeker should read

Excerpted from High Existence.

Nietzsche and Zen: Self Overcoming Without a Self – André van der Braak

nietzscheEverything you ever wanted to know about Nietzsche and Zen can be found in this magnificent book. Both Nietzsche and Zen propagate that selves don’t exist. Both deny an intrinsic order or value at the core of the cosmos. Both hold it is possible to reach a higher existence through the cultivation of the bodily drives. For zen, it is the goal of no-goal, Nirvana. For Nietzsche, it is the progression from the camel, through the lion to the child. In this fascinating book you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Nietzsche and Zen. How do we attain truth? How can we overcome ourselves if selves don’t exist? How can we break the chains of God and his Shadow? Prof. van der Braak writes eloquently when he looks at Zen through the eyes of Nietzsche and at Nietzsche through the eyes of Zen. A powerful book, a book for everyone and no-one.

“Discover the fallacies of the ego! Recognise the ego as misconception! The opposite is not to be understood as altruism! This would be love of other supposed individuals! No! Beyond “me” and “you”! Feel cosmically! –Nietzsche (KSA 9,11[7])”

The Perennial Philosophy: An Interpretation of the Great Mystics, East and West – Aldous Huxley

HuxleyThe bible for the enlightenment seeker, Aldous Huxley’s ‘The Perennial Philosophy’ is a must have for anyone who wants to understand the differences between the great religions and the same mystical ground they came from. While his main thesis is heavily debated today, this work remains a powerhouse of mind-blowing ideas. Huxley covers Zen, Hinduis, Rumi, Meister Eckhart and Taoism and discovers they share one fundamental fact – a yearning for transcendence. This is not a book to read in one go, but one to which you will return many times to ponder and re-ponder. The fascinating quotes in this book are complemented with a sharp analysis and will stay food for thought while a new light will shine on your path – the path to uno mystica! Get ‘The Perennial Philosophy‘ now.

Have you read these books? What did you think? 

Book review: Mareritt (Friar Tobe Fairy Tale Files)

Fascinating metaphysical mystery echoes acclaimed Rule of Ten series

mareritt-metaphysical-mystery-spiritual-novelTahlia Newland, guest reviewer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Mereritt  by Krisi Keley is a beautifully written, extraordinary and fascinating metaphysical mystery that is a great read for anyone who likes a supernatural mystery. It will particularly appeal to anyone who likes a bit of meat in their fiction and especially those interested in philosophy, which is seamlessly woven into the story.

Even the mystery itself is of a metaphysical nature. Four girls have the same nightmares, see ghostly visions and are involved in strange accidents, one of them is in a coma. The question is, is someone trying to hurt them, or are they just mentally unstable? It’s not a case the police can do anything about, so one of the girl’s mother seeks out the local private investigator, Friar Tobe, as he is known.

Tobias isn’t a Friar. He left the order before completing his novitiate, but he is a Christian with a clearly profound faith who had been on his way to becoming a Brother, and the locals have taken to referring to him as Friar Tobe.  In this way, he is the Christian equivalent of Tenzin from the Rule of Ten books by Gay Hendricks. Tenzin is an ex-Buddhist monk and also a PI but his cases are more of a worldly nature.

Tobias  is a likeable character, open-minded, self-aware, intelligent and with a highly refined wit that is shared by the equality intelligent female lead, Samantha. She is one of the four eighteen-year-olds involved in the case, and she flirts with him. He finds her enchanting, but since she is a client, he mustn’t fall for her, a fact that adds a nice undercurrent of sexual tension to the story.

Ms. Keley is a consummate story teller, and this book, like her On the Soul of a Vampire series, has a symbolic aspect, in this case in the shared nightmare. Tobias must piece together all the threads of a mystery that operates on the mental, physical and spiritual planes and that calls for his knowledge of linguistics and his understanding of the spiritual dimension.

All the characters are well-fleshed out and believable ( Sam is more mature than many eighteen-year-olds but not unrealistically so),  and another particularly likeable character is Father Mike. The relationship between the two men has the light touch that comes from a long and close friendship.

This is an entertaining and enjoyable mystery, but it is also much more. It is also a thought-provoking exploration of divine justice and redemption, a particularly wonderful book for those with an interest in philosophy, for Ms. Keley has a degree in theology. She knows her stuff and it shows. This is the finest kind of metaphysical fiction in that the philosophy and its world view are not only inseparable from the story, but also are fully researched and don’t in any way impinge upon or overpower the storyline. So it can be enjoyed on many levels; the kind of book that feeds your mind and soul, and perhaps even opens your heart somewhat.

It is also flawlessly edited, not a typo or grammatical error in sight. Highly recommended.

Review by Tahlia Newland. Read more of her reviews on Tahlia Newland, reader, writer & reviewer. You can also join her on Facebook , Twitter  Google+  or Linkedin.

Details:
Mareritt, by Krisi Keley
Krisi Keley, 2013
Kindle, 204 printed pages
Buy at Amazon
//

The “pied piper” of the modern yoga movement

Vivekananda: The monk who inspired Americans from J.D. Salinger to Nikola Tesla

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda, courtesy of Vedanta Society

Although J.D. Salinger of “The Catcher in the Rye” fame published his last story in 1965, he did not stop writing. From the early 1950s until his death in 2010, he corresponded with monks and fellow devotees of Swami Vivekananda of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York. Vivekananda’s amazing century-long influence on Salinger and other prominent writers, thinkers, and artists is splendidly chronicled by A. L. Bardach in The Wall Street Journal.

The central, guiding light of Salinger’s spiritual quest was the teachings of Vivekananda, the Calcutta-born monk who popularized Vedanta and yoga in the West at the end of the 19th century. “Franny and Zooey” is saturated in Vedantic thought and references. Salinger confided . . . that he intentionally left a trail of Vedantic clues throughout his work from “Franny and Zooey” onward, hoping to entice readers into deeper study.

Although he experimented with Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, Salinger settled on Vedanta. “Unlike Zen,” Salinger’s biographer, Kenneth Slawenski, points out, “Vedanta offered a path to a personal relationship with God . . . [and] a promise that he could obtain a cure for his depression . . . and find God, and through God, peace.” Salinger’s “ferocious literary ambition” was completely replaced by his spiritual quest, led by Vivekananda.

Vivekananda, a Bengali monk, introduced the word “yoga” to the West. In 1893 he spoke at the Parliament of Religions, convened in Chicago as a spiritual complement to the World’s Fair. His impact was huge, wrote Annie Besant, a British Theosophist and a conference delegate. She described Vivekananda’s impact, writing that he was “a striking figure, clad in yellow and orange, shining like the sun of India in the midst of the heavy atmosphere of Chicago.” The Parliament, she said, was “enraptured; the huge multitude hung upon his words.” When he was done, the convocation cheered him thunderously.

“No doubt the vast majority of those present hardly knew why they had been so powerfully moved,” Christopher Isherwood wrote a half century later, surmising that a “strange kind of subconscious telepathy” had infected the hall, beginning with Vivekananda’s first words, which have resonated, for some, long after.

When asked about the origins of “My Sweet Lord,” George Harrison said that “the song really came from Swami Vivekananda, who said, ‘If there is a God, we must see him. And if there is a soul, we must perceive it.’ ”

Vedanta teachings are rooted in the Vedas, ancient scriptures going back several thousand years that also inform Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. The Vedic texts present the idea that God is everywhere, in all things. Vivekananda’s genius was to simplify Vedantic thought to a few accessible teachings that Westerners found irresistible.

‘He is the most brilliant wise man,’ Leo Tolstoy gushed. ‘It is doubtful another man has ever risen above this selfless, spiritual meditation.’

Vivekananda’s teaching had profound influences on Harvard professor William James, his brother Henry, and a plethora of contemporary intellectuals from Gertrude Stein to John D. Rockefeller. The great actress Sarah Bernhardt became lifelong friends with him and introduced him to the electromagnetic scientist Nikola Tesla, who was struck by Vivekananda’s knowledge of physics. Both recognized they shared the same ideas on energy but used different languages to describe it. Tesla would cite the monk’s contributions in his pioneering research of electricity.

Vivekananda’s influence broadened well into the mid-20th century, shaping the work of Mahatma Gandhi, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Henry Miller, among others. Then he fell out of favor.

He seemed to go into eclipse in the West. American baby boomers—more disposed to “doing” than “being”—have opted for “hot yoga” classes over meditation. At some point, perhaps in the 1980s, an ancient, profoundly antimaterialist teaching had morphed into a fitness cult with expensive accessories.

To read more about Vivekananda’s profound influence on America, read Bardach’s full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303404704577305581227233656.html#ixzz2Oaj3dSxz

Thoughts: Compassion is spiritually superior to love and forgiveness

spiritual fiction compassion love buddhism christianity metaphysical new age novels

The Eastern principle of compassion is spiritually more mature than the Western principles of love and forgiveness in terms of social interaction. In short, in order to love and forgive you must believe that you and I are separate and that I can judge you. For example, I feel superior to you because I love and forgive you whether you deserve it or not. In Buddhism, however, there is no place for judgment. In order to feel compassion, you must recognize that there is no separation between you and the person you are interacting with, which requires a higher level of spiritual maturity.

Love and forgiveness beget judgment

Many people say that the primary (and some say, only) rule of Christianity is Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31–“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” which includes love and forgiveness. The two cannot be separated. In order to love unconditionally, you also must forgive unconditionally. However, forgiveness requires separation, which opens the door to judgment: God says I must love and forgive you–even you haven’t earned it–so I can become a better person. You bestow your love and forgiveness upon others as if it were a gift, and in return you feel superior. For spiritually immature individuals, then, forgiveness legitimizes judgment and feeds the ego’s desire to feel righteous and superior.

The emotions of separation and judgment are present when a parent teaches a child to love and forgive. Children learn to act as if they love and forgive, and their reward is parental approval and a sense of superiority. This relationship of the Father to his children is key in Christianity.

Compassion, however, is what the parent feels for the child. As a parent, of course you love and forgive your child. That is never in question. Your children are part of you, and you are part of them. A well-adjusted parent cannot not feel love and forgiveness, no matter what the child does.

Mature spiritual growth, then, means to evolve beyond God-as-Father and be the Father/parent–“be as God” (Genesis 3:5). Spiritually evolved individuals are able to experience compassion, for they recognize we are all connected. We are all part of each other, the world, and the universe, as the parent and child are part of each other. Therefore there is no need to give love and forgiveness, because those emotions are implicit when all things are connected.

Buddhism embodies compassion

A more profound spiritual growth is required to practice compassion. In Tibetan Buddhism, compassion is defined as wanting others to be free from suffering; the Latin word for “compassion” means “co-suffering” (Wikipedia). To be compassionate, you must feel empathy and recognize that there is no separation between you and the person you are interacting with. Everyone is on the same long journey of self-discovery; we all have made the same mistakes, and we all are doing the best that we can at this time.

Of course, the world is full of many spiritually evolved Christians (and atheists, and Muslims and so on), and they interact at the level of compassion.

How to live in compassion

When you meet someone and become frustrated or angered, you remember that, not only does a deep connection bind you both in the way a parent is bonded with a child, but you also understand, at the deepest level in your being, that you are that other person: At some point in the infinite universe, you have shared the same breath, the same physical space, the same atoms. And at some point in your infinite lifetimes, you have been that person: the zealot warrior, abusive husband, conniving merchant. You comprehend that you truly are that person (although not in this time or space) and you do not judge that person or see them as separate from yourself.

You understand what drives people at the core of their being, and you remember that you have experienced those motivations as well. You empathize deeply with them and feel overwhelming compassion–the same compassion you feel when you witness your children learn a difficult lesson.

Compassion sometimes means not interfering

You may wish you could lessen another person’s suffering. But you know you cannot, the same way you know you cannot take away the pain of your child’s first love, or rejection, or failure. You know they must experience those emotions and resolve the conflict themselves in order to learn. And all you can do is empathize with them, understand their missteps, and love them with all your being.

But you also experience their successes and their joys. As such, every interaction with every living thing is filled with pain and suffering but also with love, triumph, appreciation. And you focus on the good, and recognize that often the best way to help is to not interfere in their journey.

A note from PJ: This is the first time I’ve ventured into expressing my own openions. Am I off base? I’d love some feedback on this notion. Thanks, all.

Book review–Mixer: on a Strand

Visionary thriller destined to become a favorite among spiritual readers

Mixer: on a Strand metaphysical fiction spiritual novel visionary fictionRating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Many self-published novels promise a thrill ride with a touch of romance and spiritual insight, but few deliver. “Mixer: on a Strand” by Theresa Nash delivers like downtown Denver on the Fourth of July, excelling both as a multi-dimensional thriller and as an illumination of the nature of the cosmos. Fast paced and well written, the Mixer series is sure to become a favorite among readers of visionary/metaphysical/spiritual fiction.

Story: Secrets kill. Miracles go wrong. Just when you’re resigned to it, an ordinary life can turn…extraordinary. Merri s a moderately successful businesswoman with a pleasant life. But below the surface, nothing is as it seems. Family hides secrets, friends are foes, and dreams wait to awaken a long-forgotten truth. Once upon another life, Merri rode the Strands of life, threw miracles, and hobnobbed with Angels. Then a miracle went wrong, and she fell, and forgot, and became ordinary. Now she’s on the lam with her blind date and a police detective—and she doesn’t trust either of them. Mixer is Visionary Fiction for a new age, that illuminates the miraculous in the ordinary and explores the relevance of destiny in a world of free will.

Spiritual/metaphysical content: Medium. Nash sets up a rich and detailed ethereal dimension with Guides, Miracle Mixers, Angels, and a throng of characters both angelic and bedeviled. These light beings can influence the physical world, but the key is free choice, which is available to every sentient being in the cosmos. According to Nash, free choice is the only means for advancement, and the only means for decline.

Beyond the dimension of lightworkers, there isn’t much spirituality in the corporeal side of the story. Characters in the ethereal dimension spend a lot of time discussing the nature of reality: What is fate? Destiny? Free choice? The importance of intent? The will of the Creator? Nash notes that “Free will without context is just chaos. Souls need purpose.” She goes on to say, “Spirit wants to grow! But our measly little souls just want to contract, to huddle like frightened infants in the bosom of their mother.” I have certainly felt that dichotomy of existence–the drive to grow spiritually versus the need for stability and safety in the physical world.

Nash’s cosmology is thought provoking and easy to follow. And by placing all the metaphysical musings in the context of the parallel dimension, it frees her earth-bound characters from the need to preach in order to convey the spiritual theme of the story–a trap many spiritual/metaphysical/visionary authors fall prey to.

My take: Nash has conjured up a strong, sassy, and appealing heroine in Merri, a lightworker who accidentally incarnates on earth. Her character is outspoken yet endearing, and she outshines the male characters who try to save her but mostly get in her way. In addition to the earth and lightworker dimensions, this visionary novel also operates across time; Merri experiences a parallel story from the 1920s that holds the key to saving the cosmos.

It’s a bit too convenient that Merri’s kooky millionaire ex-fiance and best friend pops up with whatever it takes to bail Merri out of a scrape, whether it be houses with bullet-proof windows, cabins with trap doors, or conveniently located escape vehicles. However, Nash imbues the character with enough quirky detail and complex layers to save him from becoming a mere plot contrivance.

As an author, Nash has a light touch, leavening her scenes with dollops of humor. The few romantic interludes are touching, written with a sweetness and delicacy not often seen in thrillers. And a proper thriller this is, from the first door that gets bashed in to the fate of the seen and unseen universes riding upon an impossible goal. Mixer is an epic battle of good and evil that unfolds across multiple realities–the lightworkers against the darklighters, Merri and her friends against a misinformed police force–and across multiple timelines. The tension builds quickly in all three dimensions, prompting the reader to turn the pages faster and faster, until the multiple realities come careening together into an  explosive–and thoroughly entertaining–climax.

Details:

Mixer: on a Strand, by Theresa Nash
CreateSpace, 2012
Paperback, 365 pages
Buy at Amazon

Book review: The Leftovers

Literary novel offers a fresh twist on apocalypic tale

Leftovers Perrotta metaphysical fiction new age novel spiritual novelRating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Listed as a Notable Book in 2011 by the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and NPR, The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta distinguishes itself from most apocalyptic fiction by being pointedly low key and non-judgmental. While not a spiritual/metaphysical novel per se, this psychological examination of suburbia in crisis is enthralling, surprising, and beautifully written.

Story:  What if your life was upended in an instant? What if your spouse or your child disappeared right in front of your eyes? Was it the Rapture or something even more difficult to explain? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event? These are the questions confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey, the new mayor, wants to move forward, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized neighbors, even as his own family disintegrates. His wife, Laurie, has left him to enlist in the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence but haunt the town’s streets as “living reminders” of God’s judgment. His son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a crooked “prophet” who calls himself Holy Wayne. Only his teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she’s definitely not the sweet “A” student she used to be. (From amazon.com)

Spiritual/metaphysical content: Medium. Perrotta’s version of the Rapture is very different from what most people expect: People are taken at random, with no regard for what society labels “good” or “bad.” In fact, we don’t even know if it was a religious event or of alien origin. The not knowing what happened, why, or what will happen next is at the heart of this psychological literary novel.

In terms of a spiritual response, Perrotta offers several plausible reactions: The silent Watchers who forsake all possessions, empty themselves of expectation, and wait quietly for whatever happens next. Then there’s the Guilty Remnant, who embrace hardship and humiliation to recognize that continuing with “life as usual” is disconnected from reality. They no longer pretend that everything will be okay; they refuse to play the relationship, consumption, political, and religious games that consume most lives. Then there are the Barefoot People, hedonists who feel it’s their responsibility to enjoy life to the fullest. And inevitably, numerous prophets spring up and eventually are brought down by the same flaws that routinely unseat contemporary spiritual leaders.

Perrotta explores these alternative forms of religion and tries to find their meaning, demonstrating how each may be a reasonable reaction to such an extraordinary event.

My take: This is a psychological novel rather than a spiritual or metaphysical book, examining in depth how we as individuals might react to such an unfathomable catastrophe. Can we rebuild our lives around the friends and family who are left? Should we?

Many people in this suburban town are living lives of quiet desperation, hoping they’ll wake up one morning and find it was a bad dream or that the world has finally ended–it’s the limbo of not knowing what will happen next that slowly erodes their lives. The rest have splintered into different cult-like groups that beautifully illustrate the wide range of psychological reactions contemporary Americans might have.

Perrotta is a talented writer. The novel is low key and soothingly simple, considering how complex the situation is, and one individual’s story seamlessly blends into the next. The pointed lack of melodrama distinguishes The Leftovers from many apocalyptic stories. Sometimes you get the feeling that people aren’t feeling enough, that many are numbed to the point of barely existing, even after three years. The tone can feel bleak, even hopeless at times. However, it’s worth reading on to discover how such diverse individuals cope with tragedy on such a large scale and answer the key question for themselves: Should we bother to rebuild? The answers may surprise you.

Details:

The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012
Paperback, 384 pages
Buy at Amazon