I am struck by the audacity of our discussion here today, which is about ancient principles, as thought I knew everything about ancient principles and was going to reveal them in some sort of bolt of lightning! Therefore, in advance, I apologize. However, these are some of my thoughts on this interesting topic.
Many concepts and desires have been indoctrinated into us by our modern world that did not even exist fifty years ago. For example, the Internet has substantially changed the way we communicate and how we gather knowledge. I personally find it delightful and convenient. I am especially happy to be able to stay in close contact with students and answer their many questions. I have even times on the computer late in the evening when an email arrives from a student in the middle of a spiritual experience wanting to tell me about it. I email back, "Why do you not go back and continue meditating for a while longer?"
There is immediacy to Internet lifestyle. It has become something we depend upon to be fast and reliable. There are also new needs that arise in conjunction with this new communication device. If we did not have the Internet, we would certainly not need spam blockers. Who heard of spam blockers twenty years ago or even ten years ago? Now you would not think of logging onto the Internet unless you have a web safety program.
As I am writing this article, my friend Namkha Rinpoche, who I am visiting in California, came to sit with me outside at the sunny morning table wearing white earphones. Smiling, he sat down and announced that he was participating in his prayer practice on his MP3 player in Tibetan. Soon, his interpreter arrived barefoot carrying a skype phone calls from the orient. Rinpoche so delighted to see his family and another from a student.
Now, I mentally remove myself as they switch to Spanish for another one of his students and return to my musings about …oh yes…. Ancient principles.
There is a fluid quality to culture that carries us along on a wave demanding us to desire objects of a different quality than fifty years ago. Since we rarely analyze our role in this, we simply participate by desiring what we are supposed to need.
For example, there was a strange new ladies fashion some years ago; fashion pants were really, really low, and tops were really high, and the results was precariously frightening. For someone wearing long pants, how very little clothing they were wearing! The first year, all the little, skinny girls were wearing it, and then the next year it that was not so. Everything that was beautiful or interesting about the first year “display of open skin” dissolved. This is the point when fashion overcame caution and even going to the grocery store was a dangerous visual odyssey.
On our way to the actual discussing about ancient principles, I somewhat incongruously am thinking about cell phones and how they have freed us from stationary life. Now we can go anywhere and be with them, feeling like they are in the same room with us. A very nice family in Thailand a while ago, hosted me. Even then, in Thailand, the cell phone was everywhere. A doctor friend and her assistant were showing me around. Wherever we were and whatever conversation we were involved in, as soon as a phone rang, suddenly their body was there but they we absent. Have you ever really looked at someone when they are on the telephone and you are across the table from them? They are not even there. It is the strangest feeling. They completely disappear off radar, participating in a virtual world other than the location where they are physically with you or their own bodies. Check sometime while you are on the cell phone in public, you do not see others or your environment, you do not see the people you are with, but are fully occupied with what is happening on the telephone. It is just the way things are now a days.
Ancient principles cannot be divorced from how they are applied in our world, either skillfully or unskillfully. Another thing that I was curious about is Second Life. This virtual reality activity on the Internet gives a feeling that we are interacting with others with a created persona that allowing us to play-act our fantasies. I was curious to see how people act with each other, so I went in, and moved around Second Life for a short time. I wanted to see what people are doing. I found that people in Second Life are purchasing virtual land, building virtual houses, and shopping for virtual furniture with money earned in virtual businesses as well as chatting with each other.
With the technology induced environment we live in, it seems as though our world is so different than it was in earlier days. However, in 1593, tulips were brought from Turkey and introduced to the Dutch. The novelty of this new flower made it widely sought after and therefore fairly pricey. After a time, the tulips contracted a non-fatal virus known as mosaic, which did not kill the tulip population, but altered them, causing flames of color to appear upon the petals. The color patterns came in a wide variety, increasing the rarity of an already unique flower. These tulips, already selling at a premium, began to rise in price according to how their virus alterations were valued or desired. Everyone began to deal in bulbs, essentially speculating on the tulip market, which was believed to have no limits.
Prices were rising so fast that people were trading their land, their life savings, and anything else they could liquidate to get more tulip bulbs. Many Dutch people persisted in believing that they would sell their hoard to hapless and unenlightened foreigners, thereby reaping enormous profits. Somehow, the originally overpriced tulips enjoyed a twenty-fold increase in value in one month.
Needless to say, the prices were not an accurate reflection of the value of a tulip bulb. A domino effect of progressively lower and lower prices took place as everyone was trying to sell and not many were trying to buy. The prices began to dive, causing people to panic and sell regardless of losses. In this way, the Dutch people received a wake up call to common sense, isn't that so? This was in 1593 to the early 1600s, when the tulip panic and tulip craze was going on.
Like that, many spiritual seekers today are alive, meaning something is happening inside. They are experiencing a special kind of an anxiety feeling, and hear the alarm clock ringing inside, with a wake up message calling them back to a balanced and careful review of their life. There is not much time, and we have been wasting time and energy on what will not have the desired result. Like the people during the time of tulip mania, rushing here and there, investing time and money and activities in doing things which will not have the desired result, spiritual seekers need to have a special kind of wake up call aware from trying to find something that is not producing the desired result.
Part of returning to balance, returning to the natural and organic process of evolutionary development, should create in you a wish to return to uncomplicated basics. To be continued…..