move to love's quiet music
Published in "Letters to the Editor", The Berkeley Daily Planet, Oct. 19, 2001.
Spiritual consciousness looks inward to the “self” for the causes of problems. It offers no solutions to social problems, but the radical root of a sound foundation for good religious and political action.
Religious consciousness works with inter-personal relationships as the causes and resolutions of problems. Religious consciousness without a strong link to the spirit easily takes over behaviors of groups – so that we have the “letter but not the spirit of the law.”
Political consciousness is “world” centered. Politics is just a step beyond religious consciousness. The same feelings that are religious interchange with religious patterns of behavior and thinking. Religious groups often try to take control of politics; or, politics tries to control religion. The founders of the American Constitution insisted on the separation of church and state for these reasons.
Some years ago, a friend of mine took me to task on my political activism, pointing out that “first we must change ourselves, before we can change the world.” Eventually, I understood his wisdom.
I admit it – I want a peaceful world, where people live in harmony. Not a very exciting vision. Peace is a precondition for happiness. To get there, I need to stay with the first step – which is to learn to be peaceful myself. Than learn to share that state with others around me.
In other words: be the peace that I want to see in the world.
The following verse, constitutes a Hindu prayer uttered at the moment of death and often said in funeral rites. It's a good prayer for living well.
Absolute and relative – he who knows these two together, through the relative leaves death behind and through the Absolute gains immortality.
The threshold of Reality is veiled by golden light.
Reveal It, O Lord, for the guiding purpose of my life is to know the truth.
O Lord of light, the knowing one, the golden guardian, giver of life to all, spread apart your rays, gather up your brilliance, so I may perceive your finest and most splendorous nature, the cosmic spirit that lies at your heart.
For I myself am that!
Let my breath merge with the cosmic breath; may my body be as dust.
Remember, O mind, remember what has been done.
Yes, remember, O mind, remember what has been done!
O Agni, show us the right path, lead us to eternal freedom, You who know everything.
May we not be diverted from our goal, for with all devotion we submit ourselves to You.
Translated by Alistair Shearer and Peter Russell
I've gone to coffee houses for being alone -- especially to get away from the people at home, so I can write, think, speculate, ruminate, or do business. Then again, I go to coffee houses to be with people in a light way.
One of my very best friends told me that we need only plan having a cup of coffee each day! The rest takes care of itself. For us, this became a spiritual practice much like the Japanese tea ceremony. Of course, many things may happen in one day. But the art of coffee drinking is in the ease, the gentleness of the act. The simplicity of the situation. Life is good when kept down, for a moment, to a single point.
Sometimes, we would go to a place, like The Coffee Mill in Oakland, and talk about books whether, Martin Hiedegger's Being and Time or A Course in Miracles, and take periodic "mind breaks" that we called "twelve seconds." These mind breaks consisted in looking at a spot on the wall or remembering just one word for twelve or more seconds, until the mind experienced a moment of pure stillness.
That is the essence of the art of coffee drinking: to bring the mind to an active stillness. To be relaxed, yet wide awake. We naturally get this state when we drink good coffee in a good coffee house or in our favorite spot at home. Most of my best writing happens in coffee houses such as The Coffee Mill in Oakland or The Cafe Mediterranean on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue. For me, going to the same places over and over again has a way of stimulating the writing process. But I write just a little bit each time. I don't write continuously, for that would turn the coffee house into an office, a place of work.
The power of simplicity can be seen in almost all aspects of life. The judo master flips the opponent with a thought. Remember when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev shook hands in front of a fireplace -- and the world felt like it was moving closer to peace between the superpowers.
Going to a coffee house and drinking that cup has become like a church mass for some of us. It is part of the ultimate order of life itself. A sign that things are working well enough for at least a few moments.
When the mind is alert and at ease, miracles begin to happen. Clear conversation between people becomes possible. If you go to the same coffee house regularly and often, you begin to know an extended community of fellow lovers of life. The alienation of modern human existence is reduced.
A cup of gourmet coffee is a joy to the palate, just like fine wine. The flavor is rich, but not bitter. The acidity is low and not a disturbance to the stomach. Coffee should be taken in moderation -- it is a drug not a food. Treat it with respect. Two strong cups a day can be more than enough. Better yet, only one cup. We should get high on life itself -- not caffeine, alcohol, or whatever.
We get the most from coffee when we practice the high art of coffee drinking. Drink it slowly. Don't gulp it down. Do not ruin the experience with "to go" coffee. Sit down. Look out upon the passing world and the people all around. Know that there is time.
My cup is now empty. My writing pad is filled with these notes. Time to go to the word processor.
Shortly after graduating from college, I developed the habit of being late for work. Even during college I was often late for classes. I would constantly look at my watch and race against it to be "on time." I once read a novel where the main character got so frustrated with time that he tore out the hands of a clock. But the clock kept ticking anyway!
I journeyed to London, to the timekept City
--from "The Rock"
- T. S. Eliot