Richard Moss: 1. Redefining Progress 2. The Greatness of Lincoln 3. Buddha and Jesus

1. Redefining Progress

As a student of history what I see in the progress of human cultural evolution is the continuing belief in the illusion of separateness and the simultaneous survival impulse that belief creates. When separateness dominates consciousness, “Me” trumps “You.” “Mine” trumps “Yours.” “Ours” trumps “Theirs.” And the needs of humankind continue to trump the inherent rights and dignity of every other form of life.

In all of human cultural evolution can we actually credit ourselves as conscious beings since belief in the separate self and obedience to self-interest is so instinctual? Even when bolstered by the highest levels of education or when we seemingly prove our intelligence by achieving exceptional success (in consensus terms) should we credit ourselves and such capacities as demonstrating true consciousness? Maybe the best we can say – and it would certainly do our collective human grandiosity that is sucking the life out of the earth a great deal of good – is to acknowledge that such basic human behavior is only conscious within a relatively narrow context.

The consciousness we need today to overcome the illusion of separateness and the consequent unconscious slavery to self-interest begins when we are aware of our survival instinct in all its manifestations: material, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and religious, and can more completely witness the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are based in this illusion. Then we can begin to make choices that ally us with all of life and our own lives become lived primarily as servants to the whole and not as sovereigns over whatever lesser domain we stake out for ourselves.

2. The Greatness of Lincoln
In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln simply and eloquently stated the consecration for which the Civil War was being fought: “All men are created equal, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”

He knew that constitutional self-government belonged not just to the United States, but needed to continue to stand as example for all humanity for millennia to come. It could not be forfeit to economic self-interest and especially not to such self-interest built on the back of slavery. He spoke to the souls of those who were willing to live and die for a profound principle.

We must each discover the profound principle – beyond self-interest – to which our lives are consecrated. Only then are we spiritually born. – Richard Moss

3.Buddha and Jesus
Buddha and Jesus have some historical reality, but even their historical reality is highly controversial, or more to the point, their existence is presumed and essential invented based on the interpretation given to whatever historical textual evidence still remains. The key point for me is that who or what Jesus or Buddha may be is completely imagined/invented by each and every person. So you (meaning everyone) create your imagined Buddha or Jesus and give those creations meaning… and in so doing you create yourself. That is you create what matters to you, what gives you meaning, what you want to follow of consecrate your life too, etc.

It is of no matter to me spending any time on intellectual clarifications about whether they “live on within us,” or are “dead and buried”; these are just intellectual imaginings – personal creations of one, or two (or innumerable) intellects arguing (or let’s be more polite – discussing or positing) their own imaginings. Why then do so few people admit that it is only their imaginings, their thinking, and nothing whatsoever can be known about Buddha or Buddhism, or Jesus or Christianity that isn’t the creation of the thinker? And if you take scripture as truth or God’s word, that too is just what you imagine to be true. And that imagining creates the rigidity or openness that your own interpretation creates or someone else’s interpretation that you might follow creates.

So feel free to imagine anything you want about Jesus or Buddha, because how you imagine them is how you create you – your values, your behaviors, your adherences, etc. The “dharma” is a creation of many people who have done their own imagining and thereby influenced the imagining of others. I do not mean to trivialize the richness and wisdom with which some people have thought/imagined the depths of figures like Buddha and Jesus and the richness with which they have imagined the teachings they associate(d) with their names. The dharma you follow is the dharma you believe in and thus the dharma that creates/influences you. To be a follower trying to get the teaching right or the interpretation of the meaning of Buddha or Jesus right based upon someone else’s past imaginings, is to be a person either limited in imagination, or who is afraid to acknowledge that he or she is truly the creator of his own reality. Too much responsibility for most people; too scary to realize that you are the beginning, middle, and end and nothing that you believe is anything more than what you believe. Of course belief is powerful (and unavoidable) because its truth is not something that can ever be proved, but instead resides in how you feel and how you behave because of what you believe. Plus if you can find a community that thinks that way you do or to which you are willing (usually it is a matter of need) to adhere your thinking, then you have the important social support of a community, very essential to our hypothalamic level of consciousness. Unfortunately, these communities usually find some way to imagine themselves as distinct and generally superior to other communities, so we are back into the security of identity ratified by numbers and the resulting conflicts that then ensue.

Just for the record, I imagine that Buddha and Jesus realized that they were the creations of whatever they created and therefore lost all (or most) identification with any mental object. Therefore they lived in their bodies, but those bodies were not aroused by thinking and therefore we inseparable from the whole of their environment: inner and outer a single one. And imagine this because gradually it is where I live most of the time.

As for the Holy Spirit, feel free to imagine its existence and significance in any way you want. These quasi-historical beings and all the symbolism developed around them have profound importance in that they generally invite a deeper contemplation than say dwelling on smudges on the refrigerator. But then, Walt Whitman dwelled on grass and very, very few have been more profound or eloquent. And as Jesus is purported to have said in the Gospel of Thomas – “Pick up a stone and you will find me there”- this seems to suggest that go deep enough into anything and will bring you to the “all and everything.”

As to why Buddhism is more popular or attractive than Christianity today in the West and especially for younger people, for me that answer is that Buddhism teaches through experience; look for example at your experience of the retreat you describe. Their methodology is to create the experiences or the awareness or the states, whatever way we want to describe a shift of consciousness that invite a new way of organizing information, new insight, new sense of self, etc. They don’t waste too much energy on symbols and intellectual pronouncements, especially Zen. It is the way that I teach: the philosophy is unimportant; what you do with the experiences I invite people into is what potentially opens them to new levels of consciousness and invites them to be their own teachers.

Once you are teaching yourself in everyday life, with what is emerging/lived moment by moment, there is no longer any reason to seek out any teaching. The present is all that is. If you are your own teacher you know you are inventing/imagining the meaning of your experience and that is what every other person has done so you can pay more attention to your own imaginings and not be so distracted or enticed by others. You are free, though where others have gone in their imaginings can be very stimulating. But I suppose, the fear of standing in one’s own light is always hiding there deep down and until we learn to be very inventive with fear, we will imagine that there is a way to follow something that will liberate us from fear, or just plain liberate us. We become the prisoners of the very paths we choses to follow until we know that there is not path, there is only the step we are taking. – Richard Moss

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