Father Thomas Keating – Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

By | October 13, 2019

>>Rick Archer (RA): Fr. Thomas, I am honored to have you as my guest
this week. I have really enjoyed reading a couple of
your books and I’ve really been looking forward to this.>>Fr. Thomas (TK): Thank you.>>RA: I thought I would start by asking you
some very fundamental questions, maybe even metaphysical. Then we could move on to your idea of the
road map of the territory from initial awakening to spiritual interest to its culmination,
and then finally we can talk about centering prayer and contemplative prayer. How does that sound?>>TK: Fine with me.>>RA: Let me start with probably the most
fundamental question. In reading your books, the word “God” is mentioned
many, many times. So please define for us, if you will, what
you understand or experience God to be. What is God?>>TK: This is a very difficult term in interspiritual
or interreligious dialogue, because there are as many ideas of God as there are people. “God” was used originally in the Hebrew Bible
in distinction to the other local gods of different cities, states. It was pretty much not even a national deity,
but people looked to some entity, some higher power, to protect them from their enemies. It would be nicer if we had another word for
God. But one can start getting too metaphysical
and just quote the Hebrew Bible, “I am who I am” or “I am that I am” [Exodus 3:14]�a
text discussed at length by many scripture scholars. The best description of God is “isness” without
any limit, “I am,” without any other pronoun. The Buddhists have done well in establishing
an attitude towards the uncreated God as distinct from the God of creation or the creator God. It’s the same God, of course, but God as I
will use it here is simply a label. It is the one I’m used to in my tradition. Maybe someone can invent a better one. God is everything. Call him “Butch” if you’d like!>>RA: You know there’s a tussle that’s been
going on between science and religion for quite some time. When I look at anything of a scientific nature,
if I look at a presentation on astronomy for instance or a Discovery Channel show about
the microscopic world, or listen to a quantum physicist, to me I am hearing and seeing God. That’s what they are talking about: this incredible
explosive, infinite creativity is micromanaging every subatomic particle and yet, at the same
time, managing the galaxies.>>TK: You have certainly got the right idea
as far as a Christian perspective, especially that of the mystics. But, of course, one’s idea of God changes
as one’s own consciousness matures, and one gives up treating God as a kind of dependency
where one may get into codependent attitudes or even demanding attitudes towards God. The main thing is to have a big idea of God,
huge! Science, both the infinitesimal aspect of
it and the grandiose astronomical aspect of it, are presenting us with a new cosmology
that religion has to take into account, especially the Christian tradition. Our scriptures are really based on a view
of God that is patriarchal and limited by the culture of the time, and it just doesn’t
work anymore. Theology needs a solid cosmology on which
to build a theology that will appeal to people of our time.>>RA: Would you be comfortable in using the
“omni” adjectives for God: omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent? Does that jive with your experience of God
or intuitive sense of God?>>TK: Yes, but they’re a little too metaphysical. They come from the essentialist metaphysics
of the Middle Ages, which was a great tool of research and did a good job, but has severe
limitations, because God has aspects that are beyond reason. That is to say, those aspects don’t reject
reason, but reason isn’t enough. For instance, how do you resolve infinite
justice and infinite mercy? Well, you don’t on the rational level. It remains a mystery, a contradiction. You have to open your consciousness and transcend
the rational concept of God. It’s only in the experience of that transcendent
presence that one perceives that God is in everything without being limited to anything. God is as dynamic and expansive as change
itself, and that is what is changeless about him. The dynamic idea of God that evolutionary
cosmology has provided for us (and only in the past fifty years in a convincing way)
is a revelation of a higher power in which we are immersed and engulfed, and can never
be separated from, because we have really no identity except what has emerged in the
evolutionary process. Creation is not a onetime event. It’s always happening, and in a sense, the
being of God is always becoming. Becoming what? Becoming everything. Because God is constantly producing everything. Human consciousness is really God experiencing
human consciousness. That means that we’re a kind of icon of God,
as Bernard Lonergan put it. This is why humans are so important and are
so dignified, because God dwells in them and is calling them into a certain equality. It’s equality as far as that’s possible, for
humans have limitations even after they have been healed by the infinite gifts of the Almighty. Whatever we say of God we have to be prepared
to say the opposite. He doesn’t quite fit into any affirmative
statements. If you say, “he is . . .” you have to be willing
to say, “he isn’t . . ..” He isn’t anybody you can think of, that’s for sure. Thus, one of the main breakthroughs of the
spiritual journey is to perceive that God is manifesting in us and inviting us to become
fully human because that is the way to become as fully divine as humans can be in this evolutionary
process. We don’t know the end, but there’s no reason
that the process should stop. We’ve been evolving from amoebas for billions
of years and we haven’t stopped. The brain is still evolving without question.>>RA: I have a friend who likes to refer to
us as sense organs of the Infinite. By that token, and if we consider God to be
omnipresent, then not only are we sense organs of the Infinite, but dogs and mosquitoes are,
and even rocks, we could say. Everything expresses or reflects that to the
best of its ability in terms of its physical structure.>>TK: All that is very congenial to my way
of thinking�in regard to the development of consciousness from the infant, who starts
out with almost zero self-consciousness, and begins to build the self that is dependent
on parents and teachers and culture and its experience, its temperament, its limitations. The world that we see, and that everybody
else is judging all the time, is very prejudiced. It’s seen through my tinted glasses. In that sense, the world is unreal�not because
it is unreal, but because our view of it is. It is built on the illusions of what we want
it to be and our appetite for control, pleasure, and security. The spiritual life involves recognizing these
appetites as illusions of our false self and detaching ourselves from them without expecting
that these problems are going to go away or that suffering is going to disappear. The spiritual life is precisely to lead this
divine life in human circumstances that involve both suffering and great joy and is continuing
to evolve. We don’t know where it’s going. We have to learn to take responsibility for
the world that we’re in, and this we are very reluctant to do because it limits some of
our desired freedoms.>>RA: Our short-term goals. So, ultimately, when you get right down to
it, we are God looking out through these eyes. You hinted that if you go to our very core,
that’s who and what we are. To what extent can that be realized? And if it is realized fully, say in the person
of someone like Jesus Christ, does one actually rise above the possibility of suffering? From the perspective of suffering, people
looked at Jesus and said, “Oh he must be suffering terribly.” From his perspective, was he really suffering
if he was fully one with God, or was he residing in a sort of a transcendent haven that was
beyond anything the physical body was being subjected to?>>TK: It’s a very important point to understand
suffering. Most of us are too busy getting away from
our own personal suffering to think about it too much, unless you are thrust into or
immersed in terrible suffering, as many people are today. I think this is where our cosmology even comes
in. What does evolution mean? Does it mean that we are going to evolve out
of suffering altogether while still in this life? That is not the promise. The promise is that we are developing our
capacity as human beings to do the things that God does with the greatest of ease: to
forgive, show compassion, respect everyone, experience oneness with everyone. In the Christian perspective, God has identified
with human nature even in its spiritual poverty, or sinfulness and alienation from himself. That says so much about God. Why would God want to identify with such a
helpless and spiritually destitute group of people, who are certainly the lowest intellectual
beings we know of in the universe? They may improve somewhat, but right now they’re
pretty childish? we’re pretty childish in many of our social choices. But God doesn’t look at suffering the way
we do. There is a certain interrelatedness of the
Christian mystery, so that the Trinity is the great mystery, that somehow God is a community. God is not three persons, as we understand
“persons,” but there are three relationships that treat us in a personal way. God seems to adjust himself to every creature
at their level of consciousness, however primitive. What Jesus has done is to integrate the human
condition with all its limitations, with which he completely identified as a human being. He threw away all the divine privileges in
so far as being human and just showed us how to be human in a divine way, which involves
the acceptance and the realization of being called to unity with God and oneness with
each other. That seems to be the program: to change what
is most opposite to God or distant from God or alienated from God into divine love itself,
and in this way to manifest what is, perhaps, one of the deepest realities of God, which
is his humility. He doesn’t seem to care about being God. He has everything and has need of nothing,
except to pour out his goodness and love on those who are willing to accept them. Once humans begin to have a certain choice,
limited though it is, God can’t control everything that happens in the same way. He has to respect the gift he’s given us of
autonomy in some degree.>>RA: It’s reminiscent of an adolescent maturing
into adulthood. At a certain point, the parent has to grant
them a certain degree of autonomy and freedom. It’s a very risky business and they might
go off and do crazy things. But if that freedom isn’t granted, they’ll
never grow into adults.>>TK: Right, and parents need to trust children
even when they make mistakes, because everybody makes mistakes in this society, even though
we have some social inhibitions from people who think we should do well. Making mistakes is human, and God is not put
off by it. There are a million or perhaps a trillion
chances, hence no lack of generosity or abundance on God’s part.>>RA: This discussion points to something
that I find fascinating. I tried to write out a question to really
express it clearly. So I’ll just read it and maybe we can make
sense of it: “Is loss of wholeness a necessary condition for manifestation? If somehow all the parts maintain full awareness
of their essential nature as wholeness, it seems there wouldn’t be any impetus for diversification. The tendency would be to merge back into wholeness,
and actually some enlightened people have reflected just this. They practically have to be fed to be kept
alive, while others have become more dynamic and engaged in the world.” I don’t know if that was clear. But if you imagine the Big Bang and the manifestation
of the universe, it is almost seems that God necessarily has to play a hide-and-seek game
with himself, where he creates these parts and appears to get lost in them, even though
he essentially is the parts.>>TK: What do you do if you are infinite and
have infinite happiness and don’t need anything, what do you do to occupy yourself?>>RA: You get bored. You say, “Hey, let’s have some fun.”>>TK: Then what do you do?>>RA: “Let’s play. Let’s create something.”>>TK: You play. In other words, there is a playful character
to God. He wants to see what these creatures can or
will do in different circumstances, and this enables him, by his identification with us,
to feel what it’s like to be human with our limitations: to love us in our weakness and
spiritual poverty, and to love healing and forgiving us�all the things we find hard
to do, is what makes God apparently happiest.>>RA: I came across a quote from Teresa of
Avila. She said, “It appears that even God is on
the journey.” In other words, this whole process of the
universe is one big evolution machine, which is God’s spiritual practice.>>TK: You hit the nail on the head when you
said God likes to play hide and seek. That’s the classical game. But that doesn’t mean that he wants to cause
us suffering. There is so much to learn, and one of the
great things to learn is that the game is designed for us to have fun, not to accomplish
something. As soon as you want to win, you’ve lost the
pleasure of playing. A certain amount of competition is not bad,
but the game is over once you make it a career. There are lots of other games God plays and
another one he likes very much is, “Let’s pretend.” Or again, “Let’s do it again,” like a child
who has joy in knocking down a stack of blocks and then cries out, “Oh Daddy, let’s do it
again.” He has this marvelous, apparently playful
attitude, but he also can play rough. He wants to see if we are willing to join
him in the game. The most serious of games is that of healing
the wounds of the world and then becoming whole, which is the same idea as salvation
or redemption, and we’re aware of having this capacity for boundless happiness. That’s the greatest proof of God’s presence. Even in strange ways, people are always looking
for happiness. If they are malicious, that’s their idea of
happiness.>>RA: Like you said earlier, our perception
of reality gets filtered through these lenses of our perception and becomes quite distorted
in the process, at least in certain stages of our development. So we think it is going to make us happy to
kill somebody or rob a bank or things like that. You mentioned a minute ago that God likes
to play rough sometimes. There are probably inhabited planets throughout
this vast universe that are routinely smashed to smithereens by asteroids and this planet
alone is evidence enough that all kinds of horrible things can happen. Thinkers and philosophers have pondered this
for millennia, and there have been books like Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People. Let me hear your comment on this thought. Would it have been possible for God to have
set us in a universe that didn’t have polarities? It seems the very nature of relativity is
if you are going to have hot, you have to have cold. If you are going to have fast, you’re going
to have to have slow. If you’re going to have happiness, you have
to have suffering.>>TK: That is the human condition. That’s the way we were launched on an evolutionary
process towards wholeness, not a possession of wholeness from the beginning. I think it is a good idea to remember that
once God creates anything, he’s in trouble, because it’s not going to be God if it is
a creature. It doesn’t have all the power. In creating, out of his goodness, creatures
to share his happiness, he’s taking the long view that it’s not going to be hunky-dory
all the time. Certain situations have to evolve for people
to be able to accept God, especially when he plays rough.>>RA: If it is all about play . . .
>>TK: Not all about play. An aspect of reality is its playful side. Life on Earth is a serious game? it’s a serious
situation. It is also true that God has a great sense
of humor and likes to play and would like us to understand that some things he does
are a game and not to take it too seriously. Once you have creatures with free will, anything
can happen, and perhaps that’s why God made it this way. The Father, in the Trinitarian relationships,
is infinite possibility and the Son is the articulation of those possibilities and actuality. The Spirit is the complete surrender of each
of those relationships to each other in total oneness. God is always infinitely one and infinitely
diverse at the same time. The relationships couldn’t be more different. The Father and the Son can never be made into
one on every level. There are relationships in God that are distinct. We’re invited into this dynamic of self-giving
love and this is our problem. Humans don’t like being creatures. They want to be in control. They want to be in charge of their efforts
and draw attention to themselves, which is not what God is. He just is. He doesn’t need any attention and he doesn’t
need any adulation. We need adulation in order to remember that
we are created out of nothing. As soon as we can fully accept that, and I
emphasize fully, we can become everything. We can be God, too. God, of course, can’t support something that
is not true. We are not God by nature, but we are invited
to become God by grace�the sheer gratuity of God sharing his goodness, which means,
of course, his compassion, forgiveness, respect, and oneness. These are the real values of the human person. We’re just barely beginning to emerge from
the domination of our animal instincts. Some anthropologists are beginning to think
that the evolutionary process is at a critical level in our time, in which a new level of
consciousness beyond the rational, the capacity to understand reality intuitively, may be
beginning to emerge globally. The globalization of the world may be an opportunity
in which the higher power can reveal to people more and more at the same time these insights
into ultimate reality that we haven’t been able to reach on the rational level and can’t
because of the nature of that level of consciousness.>>RA: Someone once brought up the metaphor
to me that two thousand years ago, in the time of Christ and Buddha, it was as if there
was a very thick membrane that had to be penetrated in order to realize God and to become enlightened. But now that membrane has been penetrated
over and over again so many times that it’s become quite porous, and the price of entry
is much lower now. People are having all these awakenings all
over the place quite spontaneously, even without doing any spiritual practice�at least that
they can remember.>>TK: Yes. It’s interesting that many people who can,
I think, reasonably be believed about their spiritual experience are pointing to invisible
energy that science hasn’t taken into its reckoning as yet, and which it needs to do
because of the increasing evidence that such energy exists. What holds the body together are its trillions
of cells with no apparent head office or center of activity, so that consciousness is a communion
of all the possibilities of human, body, mind, and spirit and a kind of synthesis of all
levels of creation. The human as an icon of God is worth reflecting
upon. If we try to dissolve difficulties on the
rational level, we just get into emotional turmoil. To accept them, sit with them, wait them out,
and give them to God is the best way to deal with suffering, according to many of the mystics
of all the world traditions.>>RA: And perhaps to learn to embrace paradox
and to encompass irreconcilable notions within one noggin.>>TK: Yes. This is why meditation is so important, because
it’s probably the most direct access to our deeper capacities for consciousness beyond
the rational level of consciousness. One of the great questions is, “Who are you?” Adolescents are said to take great interest
in that question. It certainly isn’t in our resum� or what
you tell a doctor when you are going to see a new one about your life. It’s not about our personality, in which our
character and our education are expressed in the details of our behavior and our major
way of looking at the world. Beyond the egoic self, as it’s usually called,
is a self that we don’t normally access except through meditation or prayer
or some special invasion of God’s presence into our life, which is totally gratuitous. At the deepest level, there suggests a self,
deeper even than the true self, and this is the manifestation of God in our spiritual
poverty and weakness and in the difficulties of human nature. Somehow, who God is
is expressed in that experience of human weakness. Not too many people understand that yet. In meditation, by sitting long enough, the
dust begins to settle, and you begin to see more clearly that the deepest self is God
consciousness manifested in our uniqueness as a human being. We are completely united with everyone else
in the human species. God is in everyone else. To me, this is one of the great gifts of the
evolutionary cosmology and of science today and why religion has to listen to science,
because it’s really giving us UpToDate revelations of who God is and developing a cosmology that
can support deep union with God. What is being revealed is that everything
is interconnected and interrelated in the material universe and functions in community
or communion with other things. As you go up the levels of consciousness,
the presence and the action of God are in everything that happens: not just God’s presence,
but God’s presence and action. That action is healing the conscious and unconscious
wounds of growing up and childhood trauma, and at the same time activating all the capacities
of grace�which are, in the Christian scheme of things, the fruits and gifts
of the Spirit. In this perspective, death is not the end. It is the completion of the human journey
that prepares us to move beyond human support and all possessiveness, just to be who we
are and to be content with that immense gift.>>RA: Death is just a pit stop. I know this is not part of the official Christian
doctrine, but do you personally believe in reincarnation? Do you feel that the soul carries on from
life to life and evolves in that way? Or does that not fit for you?>>TK: It doesn’t appeal to me, at least from
my experience. In my view, and it seems to me to be enriched
by the discoveries of our time, people have past life experiences that are very strong. We know now that everything is recorded in
our bodies somewhere and maybe there’s some master database somewhere, and everything
that has ever happened is recorded there. Nothing dies except what is false, which is
the false self. That’s what dies. But you don’t have to die physically to die
to the illusions of the false self.>>RA: Are you saying that when you have a
past life experience you’re picking up on somebody else’s memory that was recorded in
the cosmic computer?>>TK: I’m saying it could be possible without
our knowing it, because of the oneness of human nature. You think past life experiences are your own,
but they might not be. However, I don’t know, and so I’m happy to
respect the fact that so many people believe in it. Actually, I think both could be possible.>>RA: It’s just that the vast majority of
humanity obviously did not end up at the pinnacle of human spiritual evolution. So what happens to them? Do they get another chance, or what?>>TK: That’s the great question. I don’t think you will ever get a complete
answer, because it’s part of our package of trust that we need to surrender completely
to God. It doesn’t matter what happens, as long as
it’s God’s will, because that will is one of infinite love and compassion and is trying
to bring us into our particular contribution to the evolutionary process. We can’t do that without a community, that
is, without support from other folks and learning from other folks. Human nature has been pretty limited up till
now. We all need the support, the encouragement,
the trust, the love of a community to become fully human. There is a lot of interesting information
about dying now. Actually, many hospice people are beginning
to say that the dying process is a transformative process. As the dying go through the stages that Elisabeth
K�blerRoss identified, they become stages of liberation and freedom. One moves from denial to anger to fear to
acceptance to peace to joy.>>RA: If death is gradual, I suppose you could
do that.>>TK: God isn’t limited by time, so he can
transform us in a nanosecond. But it’s a good question. In other words, we are always looking at reality
or the biggest events from our limited perspective, with our tinted glasses from what we heard
in kindergarten, from our parents, or from our important others. We have to graduate from those attitudes or
at least reevaluate them in later education and especially in adolescence and early adulthood. We need to provide young people with opportunities
to discuss these basic issues of life, more than they seem to have in most universities
today. There is a preoccupation with drink and sex. That is the way it was when I was in college
and that’s the way it apparently still is. It’s childish, but it’s a way of growing into
one’s own decision-making capacities, and it is in that state of uncertainty that the
young people need to be loved by parents. We’ve all made more or less the same mistakes. And we will not recover from advice alone,
but only from love, and from being loved in our mistakes.>>RA: You’ve mentioned the false self, several
times. Perhaps we should get into that. In your books, you outline in great detail
how the false self gets formed and how eventually it is seen through. In contemporary spiritual circles there seems
to be a lot of talk of “no self,” there being no one home, so to speak, and of being egoless,
and so on. It would be interesting to discuss this for
a few minutes.>>TK: There are some very good books on the
subject. Thomas Merton has one from a contemplative
perspective [What Is Contemplation?]. We have to take steps as we grow conscious
of the self to protect the life that we have. The false self is a project to build a self
out of what we perceive in early childhood to be sources of happiness or gratification. Security symbols, the affection and esteem
symbols, are very important, and later the desire for control and power. These instincts are normal and necessary to
survive in infancy. But since there are no standards to judge
these by, they tend to become not just needs, but demands. Since everybody else has the same needs and
demands, we’re in for social conflict. Here is where a wise and appropriate religious
instruction could be extremely helpful in preparing the human psyche for maturation
and going beyond. The gratification of those three energy centers,
when excessive, produces frustration. Then come the afflictive emotions, like anger
and grief, and you are in various moods for hours, days, years, or a lifetime. The false self doesn’t exist. It’s all in the head.>>RA: It sounds like you’re saying that even
though ultimately the false self doesn’t exist, it’s necessary to form one in order to function
as a human being. Would it be possible for a child to grow and
not form one at all?>>TK: It might be better to call that ego. Ego is the development of the necessary and
the good side, the human values that are involved in development. It’s the exaggeration of them, the fixation
on them, or the addictive process that the false self initiates, that leads to exaggeration. Hence, it’s impossible to realize, because
everyone else is trying to do the same foolish thing�that is, squeezing gratification out
of sense information that is meant to give pleasure, but can’t give permanent pleasure
or true happiness.>>RA: In your experience, have you ever seen
an example of anyone who has gone through infancy and adolescence and formed a healthy
functional and necessary ego without forming what you call a false self?>>TK: Some certainly try. But the information that I would consider
essential for human growth is missing in ordinary education. There is such care nowadays not to impose
a religious attitude on children, which is perhaps correct. There’s not a universal set of ethical values
that you can present to a child that would help it to see the value of moderation in
its desires and openness to relationship even with people we don’t like, or at least openness
with people who are different from us.>>RA: So are you saying that the absence of
proper ethical training is the main culprit in the development of a false self and the
fact that it is so predominant in our society?>>TK: I think you need some basic ethics. But here’s another problem. We don’t have a common ethic among the world
religions or no religions. His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his book Beyond
Religion, and in his activities in recent years, is trying to develop an ethic that
is built on human nature and that everybody could identify with.>>RA: And no religion would have a problem
with, presumably.>>TK: Yes. It would have to consist of very general principles,
and then each religion could add the particularities that are special to their respective traditions. His Holiness had two main principles when
I last heard him speak, if I can remember them. One was the unity of the human family. If we could just believe the discoveries of
science, which in microbiology and other sciences show how unified the development and structures
of the living body are, we might be able, just from the facts of science, to realize
that humans are inseparable from one another. Once you accept oneness as a principle of
interhuman relationships, you feel responsible for everyone else’s needs and sufferings. Most people are not about to take that on,
unless they are strongly motivated.>>RA: No man is an island.>>TK: Exactly. If I’m suffering, everyone else is touched
by this. As one of the quantum mechanics scientists
said, [WHO?] “You can’t have a thought without influencing
everything in the universe instantaneously.” Even a thought about others, or a judgment
of others, affects society in ways that we don’t understand yet or we don’t realize the
damage that negative thinking can produce. Or especially negative acting, like vengeance. No good has ever come from violence that has
any permanency to it. Yet that’s the regression that most humans
go through in conflict situations? they regress to the level of animals, which is revenge. The evolutionary process is stuck or stalled
at a point in which we can’t go back to the irresponsibility of the beasts and we can’t
go forward into divine union without the grace of God. We are literally crucified between heaven
and earth, to us a familiar symbol. When you look at a cross, even though nobody’s
on it, it’s a marvelous symbol of where the human condition is right now. To get out of that place requires an integration
of joy and sorrow, of hope and realistic self-knowledge. It is not just one thing, but the holistic
development of all the human qualities that are inspired by the principle that most people
can accept. We can hope that science can convince us that
we really are part of the oneness of everything and that everything that happens to one person,
affects us. Paul in his teaching on the mystical body
of Christ expresses that insight from a spiritual perspective. We are mutually intended to support each other,
and everyone is needed for the full health and development of the corporate body that
is evolving into the fullness of the human family and its potential for unity with God.>>RA: We were talking about how some sort
of universal ethical training might prevent people from developing the false self, which
causes so much trouble. I was thinking that maybe that’s a top�down
solution and that, in fact, your solution, which has been centering prayer, might get
more to the root of the issue. In other words, ethical behavior might spontaneously
spring from a deeper communion with God and with the innermost self, and that would take
care of the issue. Some sort of universal training at an early
age in something like centering prayer, contemplative prayer, might really transform society. I’m sure you’ve had that thought.>>TK: Yes. We’ve had that thought. To be realistic, however, a number of people
will think, “It comes from the Christian tradition and I’m not a Christian.” Or some Christians who are very literal minded
will think, “This is not the way I understand the Bible.”>>RA: But you yourself have had an eclectic
background with regard to meditation. I know you were exposed to Transcendental
Meditation back in the 1970s. Would you agree that perhaps centering prayer
could be adapted to any tradition and that within the context of any tradition something
like centering prayer could be taught that would be harmonious with that religion?>>TK: Sure. Some of the other major religions already
have similar traditions and teachings. Centering prayer is a lot like Zazen in the
Buddhist Vajrayana tradition.>>RA: It’s a lot like Transcendental Meditation,
too.>>TK: They’re just sitting. It’s not quite the same as Vipassana, which
is a concentrated process and is good mental training, to control
the mind. But centering prayer is a kind of receptive
practice. Anybody who can be receptive will benefit
from it and it could be presented or adapted to people without a religion. We’ve taught it in prisons, and there we discovered
that when men in the yard saw their friends becoming more calm and peaceful, they asked
them what the cause was. Some asked to come to the weekly meetings,
which was all the authorities would grant. Sometimes there was a lockdown and they couldn’t
get there. Prison is very tough, and not much is done
for rehab. In any case, those men who had no religion
at all and who came to the weekly meetings began to experience the same effects of peace
and calm and less impulsive reactions to insults and things like that. In other words, they were becoming more human. But you can’t always persuade people to do
this? you can only offer. There are a number of efforts being made,
not only in centering prayer practice, but by other forms of meditation like the World
Community for Christian Meditation founded by Dom John Main and generously spread around
the world by Laurence Freeman, also a Benedictine monk.>>RA: So what is centering prayer? How does it work?>>TK: It doesn’t “work.” It is a receptive process.>>RA: Well, describe the mechanics, if you
will.>>TK: OK. We have four major guidelines. The first is to make the intention of consenting
to God’s presence and action within us. By “action,” as I said earlier, we mean purification
and the enhancement or enrichment of spiritual practice: that is, the practice of the virtues
of forgiveness, understanding, and the service of human needs. A lot depends on intention, so whenever you
sit down to do the prayer, this is the first thing to do: resume your intention to consent,
which is a kind of enhanced form of acceptance. Acceptance is the necessary basic relationship
with God, but consent is a little more personal and a little more warm. It is the welcoming of God’s presence.>>RA: Let’s say you’re teaching me centering
prayer right now, and you’re going to tell me to sit down and to have the attitude of
relinquishing control: to consent, to be willing, malleable, receptive.>>TK: Give yourself to God and put yourself
in God’s hands. Fall into the hands of the living
God, so to speak. It’s the safest place there is in all creation.>>RA: It’s not like, “I’m going to sit here
and I’m going to do this, by golly!”>>TK: Actually, there are four steps. The second step is to introduce a sacred symbol
that expresses that basic intention of consenting
to God’s presence and action within us.>>RA: Visual symbol, auditory symbol, thought?>>TK: It can be a word. It can be watching the breath. It can be a simple inward glance towards that
deeper self that I spoke of earlier.>>RA: But it’s not an external thing, not
like some music you put on, or something you think will be helpful.>>TK: It’s totally receptive of God alone. It is a chance just to be with God alone and
to be, “Well, here I am, dear Lord, at your disposal. Please heal my faults when you see that they
are no longer of help to me.” It’s a single syllable, if you use a word. We call it a sacred word. It can be a holy word, or it can be something
that expresses your disposition, like “love,” or “peace,” or “gratitude.”>>RA: Or it could be a mantra like “OM” or
“shalom”?>>TK: Yes, it could be. It could be the holy name of God.>>RA: You are not chanting it out loud? it’s
mental.>>TK: Yes. It is totally interior. You don’t say it in centering prayer as a
mantra that is said repeatedly, deliberately. It’s only used when you need it�that is
to say, when the bombardment of thoughts gets a little overwhelming and you think you can’t
put up with it much longer.>>RA: Let me just interject a question here
that someone sent in to ask you on this very point. They said: “In your guidelines for centering
prayer, one chooses a sacred word and introduces it with eyes closed. And when one becomes distracted by thoughts,
one returns to the sacred word. What does one do between introducing the sacred
word and before becoming distracted by thoughts, if one is just a beginner? Specifically speaking, does one introduce
the sacred word once or can one keep thinking the sacred word over and over again in the
beginning stage?”>>TK: The crucial distinction is, are you
having thoughts or are you engaged in the thoughts? If you are having thoughts, this is normal
and impossible to avoid. The brain is a kind of receptor set and you
can’t do anything about that. It’s like a river with boats moving on top
of it. You can’t stop the boats, but you can stop
yourself from getting on a boat to see what’s in the hold. So you just let the thoughts come, let them
go. As time goes on, the capacity to let go of
thoughts becomes more and more second nature. But it takes time. It’s not a onetime success story. You have to do it regularly because we have
habits of constantly thinking about every blasted thing that happens. It’s an exercise in not thinking or detachment
from thinking. It’s not as if thinking is wrong. It’s that we’ve abused it to the point where
we can’t think as a rule under our own initiative when we don’t have some special project we’re
thinking about. You notice you’re engaged with a thought like,
“What are we going to have for dinner”? As soon as you get into the contents of the
meal, you’re engaged, you might say. Then you ever so gently return to your sacred
word as a symbol of your intention, because this is not a success story or our project. It’s surrendering to the invitation of God
to learn how to be. This is even more important than doing. You keep returning patiently again and again,
maybe a hundred times to the sacred word. You’re free to return. You don’t say it like you’re hanging on to
a life preserver, because then it has become an egoic project. You don’t look for success, or you don’t look
for consolation or peace. You just are present to God’s presence and
action, and over and over again renewing that intention. You don’t think about the sacred word or whatever
your symbol is. You just do it. Sometimes, as you get more proficient, to
even start to do it is enough to return. Sometimes you may experience an attraction
towards a deeper silence. This is a sign that you’ve connected with
this practice. In that silence, it is consciousness without
content, so that presence best describes it rather than a thought or a desire. It’s a sense of being in God or God in us
and wanting to be there. You keep that up, we suggest, for twenty minutes
in the beginning, because it takes most people that much time to quiet down. We suggest doing it twice a day for at least
twenty minutes. Every meditation requires at least twenty
minutes, just because the mind is so coopted by habits of thinking and choosing that are
related to those three basic instincts: security, power and control, and affection and esteem.>>RA: The body takes a while to settle down,
too.>>TK: As your defenses go down all the time,
purification begins. That is to say, thoughts that are in the unconscious
that we repressed because they were too traumatic to handle in childhood begin to come to our
awareness. Then you just acknowledge them and give them
to God. If you want to think about your insights more
fully, you do so after the prayer is over.>>RA: Will people be able to practice centering
prayer based on our conversation, or is there some kind of formal instruction needed?>>TK: We have formal instruction that we recommend,
but some have picked it up from the books that describe the process. The practice has a certain subtlety. It is as simple as could be. But simplicity for humans is the organization
of much multiplicity. You need the help of others as well as further
training. You make an intensive retreat where you do
more sitting than the normal twiceaday practice. We need to find a place for it in the very
active lives that we lead in the American culture. This requires motivation and determination. We urge people to realize just how illusory
the false self is. Sometimes the best preparation for centering
prayer is some incident that brings to our attention just how little we actually know
about anything.>>RA: So if I were practicing centering prayer,
and my sacred word was love, and I’m sitting there, I sit and close my eyes, maybe I wait
for half a minute to let myself down a little bit.>>TK: Good idea. A few deep breaths might help.>>RA: A few deep breaths, and then I introduce
the word “love” and I don’t say “love, love, love.” I just think it once. (I’m just repeating your instructions here.) Then I sit and enjoy the presence. The next thing, I notice I’m thinking about
what I’m going to do tomorrow. As soon as I realize that I’ve wandered off
on to that thought, I just come back and think “love” again. That’s pretty much the process, right?>>TK: Right. When your twenty minutes is up, sit for another
minute and a half or so to allow whatever has happened to the nervous system to settle
down and work its way into your active faculties so you can bring a little of the peace you
received or experienced into daily life and into relationships that are difficult.>>RA: You were saying that as you settle into
this more deeply restful state, then the repressed material buried in the nervous system and
psyche begins to bubble up. Silence gives them the opportunity to begin
to release the emotional junk of a lifetime, which they can’t do if we are running around
like crazy people. Once we habitually settle down, they have
the opportunity to start.>>TK: Yes. The body naturally gets rid of negative or
harmful influences if we allow it.>>RA: It has a natural tendency to want to
do that, right?>>TK: It’s habituated not to do it or even
not to know that it’s possible to do anything different
from what we’re doing. We’re pretty much enslaved to our culture
and you are always thinking about how to resolve problems instead of accepting them and moving
on. The
sense of God’s presence is likely to appear in daily events. You’re more sensitive to the divine action. Distracting thoughts are like boats going
down a river. The current will take
them all the way if you just wait a minute. Just don’t get on the boats? let them go by. That’s the purpose of the word. The practice of returning to the word is not
magical, nor has it any power. It just gives the true self a chance to have
a little breathing space. In your relationships with others, you will
often notice your faults, and you may reflect, “Why did I get so angry at that statement?”,
because it didn’t seem proportionate. The Holy Spirit begins to show us how to improve
our response to people, difficulties, and challenges. The prayer does help people to get through
great trials, like suffering a great loss. The prayer will help them let their feelings
come and to grieve and to let them go without being as blown away as they used to be by
difficulties or tragedy. This is something we all need in our time,
where the media provide us with the endless woes all over the world. Every day, you get bombarded with violence
and injustice everywhere in the world. This can’t be good for people. We need some kind of a break. The mass media have their limitations and
we have to figure out a way to balance the bad with the good, so we are not overwhelmed
by depressing thoughts. We need to have some beauty to live in this
world. Nature seems to be intended for that purpose.>>RA: When people are sitting in centering
prayer, and they enter a deeply, restful state and some of this kind of repressed negativity
or conflict begins to bubble up, can they expect to experience negative emotions, anger,
fear, sadness?>>TK: That’s exactly what they experience.>>RA: Turbulence?>>TK: Whatever they repressed.>>RA: It’s got to come out.>>TK: It needs to come out in order for the
full capacities of the positive energies to function. These are the faculties of grace like love,
compassion, forgiveness, understanding, the inclination to serve, knowing how to listen. All of these capacities buried under the load
of our own feelings of neglect or whatever bothered us begin to thrive. I don’t say negative thoughts and afflictive
emotions are suddenly all taken away. But they won’t blow you away the way they
used to. If you keep doing this practice, you’ll be
attracted to practices for daily life and also perhaps begin to lengthen the time that
you give to this sitting, waiting, listening, total receptivity, alert passivity. All these things are not very congenial in
modern, contemporary, professional lifestyles. So they have to be learned. But the body and the human organism are completely
prepared for this and will revive, and you’ll discover that you have the capacity for the
whole contemplative journey within you. You don’t have to try hard to do it. Let it happen.>>RA: It does you. You mention in your books that centering prayer
is preparation for contemplation, if I got you right. So it sounds like contemplation is a second
stage of something.>>TK: It depends on how you define “contemplation.” If you mean a broad program, then centering
prayer is the first step in a process. Maybe I didn’t make it sufficiently clear
that the actual fruits and gifts of the Spirit in prayer give one the sense of reassurance,
of being loved by God, or that everything is OK. These contemplative dispositions don’t necessarily
arise at once. But as you do the prayer, they begin to become
more frequent�not only in prayer, but in daily life.>>RA: I see what you mean. It’s as though centering prayer opens us up
to a realm of experience that provides a foundation of sorts and that almost spontaneously from
that springs a greater sense of God’s presence, of trust, of acceptance, of the inherent wisdom
in the universe, and so on.>>TK: And a perception of God’s action in
our daily life. You see, he brings people into our lives,
or through a book or a phone call or an event that we need, to see something about ourselves
that had been hidden from us, and that would help our spiritual growth. In other words, we begin to enter into this
psychotherapeutic relationship with God, in which he deals with our unconscious, our temperamental
defects, and our personality disorders in a way that is almost incredible. The divine wisdom knows us through and through,
and still loves us infinitely. We see how God is teaching us with great patience,
tenderness, and consideration, and how he waits for us and chooses just the right moment
to give us a special grace, like on a retreat or some event in our lives that opens us to
a deep place in our emotional life. There’s nothing wrong with the emotions. It’s mostly resisting them that is the problem,
because we’re often afraid of our feeling. Once we accept the fact that we are in God’s
care and in a therapeutic relationship with God, then the inner room of prayer begins
to expand to the whole of our life and everything we do. You can turn to God and say, “Well, what shall
I do about this? What do you want me to do?” In other words, there’s a sense of companionship
or of being lived in. As I say, sometimes God plays his games and
he goes away someplace without telling you, seemingly, just to see what you’d do with
that, or whether you’ll blame him, and how far you’re willing to play the divine games. One game he likes is to play is basketball,
with us as the ball. The harder the ball hits the floor, the higher
it rises. So we have to learn that, sometimes, the bigger
the trial, the greater the transformation that will come from it. We begin to learn the way God works, which
is not according to appearances. Another trick is, when you want to throw a
basket, you have to dribble. So the ball hits the floor: boom, boom, boom. That’s when difficulties pile up, one right
after another. But it’s the only way you get to the basket,
if that’s what you want to do.>>RA: To recapitulate: You’re saying that
centering prayer, twenty minutes or so, twice a day, is not only restful in and of itself,
but it will, over time, help to develop a kind of vision or view of the world that everything
is divinely orchestrated? it’s not arbitrary and capricious. There’s actually a sort of a loving intelligence,
which we could call God, which is helping to bring about our progress and our evolution.>>TK: Yes. In other words, you’re in a relationship with
God. This is the word many theologians today prefer
to “person,” because “person” has a certain context in the East. I found that many Eastern teachers thought
that when we spoke of God as a person, we meant “personality,” which of course would
be a rather childish idea. God may not be a person, but my feeling is
whatever he can be, he is. At least, he treats us in a personal way because
that is the nature of consciousness.>>RA: Some Eastern perspectives have it that
God has both impersonal and personal aspects.>>TK: I would agree with that. He’s impersonal with stones and he is personal
with people, always adjustable. God is so accommodating. That is why the universe works in spite of
all the astronomical catastrophes. Out of that immense chaos emerges the human
consciousness, which is a masterpiece of organization. That is still going on. If we could collaborate with it, we have no
idea of what wonderful things the human race might be capable of in this next millennium.>>RA: If we think of what the human race may
be capable of, perhaps we could get a hint by
seeing what an individual is capable of if that individual really progresses far along
on the spiritual path. Maybe at this phase of the interview, which
is probably going to be the last phase, you could lay out for us what you see as a kind
of road map of spiritual progress from very preliminary stages to the ultimate stage,
if there is an ultimate stage. What does a person go through? What have you gone through over these decades?>>TK: It’s not anything I expected for sure. I’ve been a poor playmate for the wonderful
opportunities that God has given me. But I think that if you put human development
in the context of evolution, you see that there is a certain unity of purpose or organization
or experience. Like in biology, the earlier forms of life
grow by movement or by complexity, the biologists would say. Then, all of a sudden, new levels of consciousness
in the animal comes and then mammals, and then humanoids. There’s a certain progression. As for humans, we don’t know how they started
out. That’s a matter of controversy among the religions. All that we know as of now is that the human
development theories of Jean Piaget (1896�1980) and company recapitulates the whole movement
of evolutionary progress from matter to life, to higher forms of life, more complex and
conscious lives, and lives capable of more and more complex movement. Then there is the human brain, developing
to its present level, which is apparently the largest among the primates. Our spiritual journey and our relationship
with God are going to reflect that context. We start off as children thinking of God as
“Dad” and “Mom” or like the father and mother who are parenting us. Then later on, God becomes a companion or
a friend, or a soul mate? or then he becomes a lover or an engaged person, or our spouse. Then, we can look upon God as fulfilling all
kinds of other relationships. In other words, God is so adaptable? you can
count on him for any relationship. But there’s a certain progression of intimacy
and transformation that takes place in human development that involves a communion with
God that is permanent, that is a stage of consciousness. It is like living in a house that has a certain
atmosphere, a presence that never goes away. Then you find out that the same presence is
outside the house. The spiritual journey seems to be integrating
our turbulent, trivial daily life of floundering, with things to be done, with the fact that
we’re called to the most sublime communion or union that can be conceived of and to become
as much as possible equal to God. Why he chose this plan, you’ll have to ask
him! But it seems to be repeated in outstanding
mystics, contemplatives, sages, and saints. At some point, union, let us say, like John
of the Cross presents, is Christian perfection as a bridal union. We’re celebrating on the feast of Epiphany
that grace of bridal union with God and with Christ. What happens after that? Transforming union introduces one to a whole
new set of circumstances and capabilities and possibilities, which move towards what
is called “nondual consciousness” or “unity consciousness” or the “death of the separate
sense of self.” The last is the ultimate cause, the separation
of all our problems in the first place, even more fundamental than the false self. It’s the idea of being separate from security,
love, or control that causes the developing infant to look for gratification and the exaggeration
of those desires and its relationships that the parents teach you and other folks. The
goal is to move into the realization that our deepest self really is God’s presence
in us, which does not forestall our uniqueness, but which manifests the divine dispositions
in this virtually deprived evolutionary creature who hasn’t evolved from his animal consciousness
enough. We still have the animal brain that you have
to have to survive in this time. The divine and the human in the evolutionary
process have come together and are battling to see whether we’re going to evolve into
divine human beings, manifested by Christ’s example and teaching, or we’re going to keep
regressing to the instinctual responses of our animal nature, which lead to violence
and all the other negative emotions that will hinder us from moving as a community or as
a race into divine union.>>RA: I know you’re a modest man and you may
not want to talk about your own experience, but have you gone through the stages that
you just described in that union with God and then further maturation into nondual unity?>>TK: Well, I’m working on it. It’s not a ski tow that takes you nonstop
to the top of a ski slope. It’s something you’re working on all the time. Having lived to be ninety, I can see there’s
a lot of work yet on my unconscious that God can do in order that all my actions may be
moved by Christ within. Christ is becoming us in order to make us
into what he is, the bosom companion and a manifestation of God. As Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” This is not a numerical assertion, but an
equality of life and consciousness in which everything is more or less saturated with
the divine presence that might be identified as it is in scripture, as the house of God,
or the bosom of God. If you prefer a fleshy image, it could be
imagined as the womb of God, in which we are all getting ready to go through the birth
canal to eternal life.>>RA: When you consider the size of the universe�I’m
sure you’ve studied astronomy, or seen presentations�it’s vast, beyond comprehension. These days, they’re finding planets around
most stars and a good many of them apparently in what they call the Goldilocks zone, which
can be habitable, not too hot and not too cold. Let’s presume that the universe is actually
teeming with life and that a good deal of that life has evolved to at least the level
of our species. How does Christ come in with all that? We think of Christ as this guy who lived two
thousand years ago. Would he be on tour, going to all these inhabited
places? Or does each planet have its own Christ, and
is Christ more of a universal principle that was manifested in Jesus of Nazareth, but that
could also be manifest in billions of other highly evolved souls who are ministering to
their respective planets?>>TK: We don’t know the answers to those questions. But we don’t have to be afraid of them if
you have a Christian perspective, because it’s the Word made flesh in Jesus and also
made flesh in each of us. In a sense, we also are incarnations of God
in a much more limited sense. The Word made flesh possesses the human nature
of Christ. Christ is believed to be a divine person possessing
a human nature. We are going to participate in the same structural
relationship with God as we negotiate our complex journey into nonduality and liberation
from the false self and the ego. The false self and ego have no future. They’re illusions, and so God can’t support
them. But we do need a developed ego to survive
in this world. How you deal with that is precisely the conundrum
or the paradox of everyday life.>>RA: Don’t you find that there is something
multidimensional in your own experience, where you have an ego, which you need functionally
in order to get through the door and go and eat lunch? On the other hand, you know there are dimensions
that are beyond the ego, that are impersonal, and somehow all those strata coexist nicely
together.>>TK: That’s what is called “simplicity” or
“holy simplicity,” when all the levels of which human nature are composed are cared
for, are well developed and integrated one with the other and in a hierarchical fashion. It doesn’t mean that one’s state of life is
necessarily better than another, but it does mean that they’re different? and that the
difference is important to the overall completion of what the Christians call “the mystical
body of Christ,” which is his glorified body after its resurrection. Christ, remember, was at work from the beginning
of time. The man Jesus Christ is a historical figure,
Christians believe, possessed by the Word of God, which is not the same as Christ as
God. Christ as God can continue to have manifestations
of the Word of God on other planets or other places. But it’s basically the same movement that
is expressed in different ways and on different planets. It would not be the historical context that
we’re familiar with on planet Earth. This doesn’t diminish Christ. But it’s going to take some ingenuity to figure
out how to get to these other planets. They’re a long way off. Scientists may figure out a way of going faster
than light, but it may take a little time. We need to be prepared to deal with a new
kind of intelligence. If these people are better than us, how are
we going to get on? We have to grow out of the narrow mindedness
of much of the human race that puts nation or religion ahead of the basic goodness of
being human.>>RA: If we do go there, I think what we’ll
find is that very same presence of God is just as much saturating everything there as
it is right here.>>TK: Absolutely.>>RA: In that sense, we’re already there.>>TK: Teilhard de Chardin says that God is
present in every subatomic particle. That is another way of saying God is omnipresent
or everywhere.>>RA: That’s sort of how we started this discussion.>>TK: There’s another factor we may discover,
which is that time and space may be just constructions of our intellect, part of our way of seeing
the world. There may be planets that have a different
kind of structure. God will be just as present there. Perhaps if you think of yourself as an icon
of God or a unique expression of the Word made flesh, God’s remarkable response to Job
comes into a new focus. If you can recall that story, Job got very
angry with God because he felt mistreated. He’d been a very good man and God allowed
him to be tempted by the devil, according to the text. Job had every kind of problem: loss of family,
reputation, business, his body (he finally got left covered with sores). His friends come to kind of console him with
pious platitudes. His response was, “I didn’t do anything wrong. God is unjust, and I want to bring him to
judgment.” God finally appears, and his presence answers
all Job’s questions. God then restores him to ten times as much
as he had before, as God can always do. But there’s one sentence that is very intriguing. God opens the conversation by
saying, “Where were you when I formed the cosmos and made the stars and fixed the earth?” (Job 38:4) Now was God just sort of ironically
teasing him or was God actually trying to lead him to a new understanding of who Job
was. God seems to be trying to evoke the answer,
“I was there, too!” As if to say, “You were always cocreating
with God and you will be creating everything in the future.” In other words, equality with God is quite
something! I don’t know why people want to become president
of this or that company or nation when you’ve got a gilt-edged invitation to become one
with God, in a relationship that is totally loving and self-giving. In other words, we don’t think big enough
about God. We judge him by our own limitations and negative
feelings.>>RA: Sometimes God wants to play at being
president of a company. If someone could be president of a company,
and yet aware of their oneness with God, we might have better companies.>>TK: We will have to do a little more evolving
to get to that place, but it’s certainly within our range of possibilities. If people would put their minds on becoming
God, too�not in the sense of power but in the sense of serving every living thing as
far as they had the talents to do so�then the world would become the Garden of Eden. We have to make it the Garden of Eden or we
will make it into Hell. The false self not infrequently makes its
own hell.>>RA: Some Christians would hear you say that
and consider it blasphemous, but it bears repeating that you’re not talking about the
individual false self becoming God. You’re talking about realization of that level
of life at which we and God are one.>>TK: Yes and discovering that it’s always
been that way. We just thought it was different because we
didn’t have the symbols that could teach us.>>RA: Yes. Again, centering prayer: we’ll have to end
on a practical note.>>TK: Well, it’s a very humble start of just
shutting up and sitting down and letting God be God.>>RA: That’s a useful tool.>>TK: The bottom line is always love, and
loving God with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength. It’s the vision statement of the Judeo-Christian
religion. To love one another as God has loved us, or
at least as we love ourselves, is our mission. Centering prayer is only designed to help
you do that.>>RA: I’ve really enjoyed this discussion
because you know, personally, although I have never been a religious person, I, over the
years, have gotten more and more appreciative of God, and sometimes discussions in contemporary
spirituality are somewhat dry. They just sort of emphasize the absolute value
without any kind of divine quality to it. And that doesn’t jive with my orientation
or my experience. So it’s been delightful reading your books
and having this conversation with someone for whom that orientation has been very strong
for your entire life.>>TK: I still have lots to do. It’s up to God to decide how long he wants
to work with my limitations. He can take them all away in a nanosecond,
too. If you get shot or bombed, there’s nothing
that can prevent God’s love from happening. If he’s called us, as he says he has, there’s
nothing to be afraid of. Whatever we’re scared of, sit with it and
give it to God. Gratitude and trust in God and self surrender:
those are the transformations of consciousness we are working towards in contemplative prayer
as I understand it. Religion does need to make sure that it is
leading and teaching people to go in this direction. Otherwise, it seems to me, it’s not really
meeting its purpose and getting too involved in externals or rituals or structure. They’re important, but only up to a point? they’re not ends in themselves. God can work independently of religion. He has many ways of bringing people to himself. Some people have been so damaged by religious
misinformation or malformation that they can’t go by that path. They have to at least have a period of freedom. God is sheer freedom, liberation, and this
is the disposition: that we’re invited into total freedom so that you can be God, too,
without pride or attributing it to yourself. But have a sense of immense gratitude to God
for even thinking of you.>>RA: It occurred to me as you said that,
that everything has something to contribute. Religion has something to contribute? science has something to contribute. The nonreligious sort of spirituality that’s
in vogue these days�people say, “I’m spiritual but not religious”�has something to contribute. If all these people could just let their guard
down a little bit and be open to the gifts that each has to give, then there would be
kind of a neutral enrichment that would make everything more vibrant and healthy.>>TK: You’re describing the interspiritual
movement.>>RA: Well, my take on it is that we have reason for optimism. The signs are there as you were saying earlier
on. There is a kind of a mass awakening taking
place, and somehow all these intractable problems and institutions that seem to be so opposed
to human happiness and betterment don’t stand a chance. Everything will either fall away or transform
itself as this invincible upwelling of Spirit takes place, as it seems to be doing with
greater and greater force and speed. There’s a verse in the Hindu scriptures, where
there was this huge rainstorm because Indra got mad at some villagers because they were
worshipping Krishna. So they begged Krishna to protect them and
he came and picked up a mountain and held it over the village to protect them from the
deluge. Then all the villagers thought, “Oh, he can’t
hold up that mountain all by himself, I better take a stick and help him hold it.” So they all grabbed sticks and they were helping
hold up the mountain. Of course, they weren’t doing anything at
all? Krishna was doing it all. So you and I are just holding sticks here.>>TK: That’s a good image. It’s amazing how God makes use of very defective
instruments to bring about amazing results. But we may have to wait. Who knows what God has in mind? All I can say, at least in my experience,
is that however bad the situation is, if you’re on this journey to transformation, God is
working to transform it into a very valuable assistance or part of your spiritual journey. To really be united to God is what gives God
glory. He’ll turn the world upside down to bring
someone who’s willing to ultimate unity consciousness. Thank you for your interest in this�the most important
issue for human beings, whether they want to become God on their own terms or on God’s
terms. They haven’t done too well on their own terms
up till now. So they might try this one. Let God be God.

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