Author Archives: Jeffrey Rothman

A Bumbling Okie’s Brief and Shameless Ramblings On Easter

This theme is so vast and rich that I hope to write a much longer blog post about it soon when I have the time.  Moreover, I will talk about only one aspect of the myth here (the esoteric perspective based on realization) that does not negate the other aspects.  A myth is a myth because of its multifaceted and mysterious nature.  The myth of the resurrection also contains ideas of grace, relationship with the Personal God, and many other themes.  There are many, many sides to this inexhaustible diamond; who in their right mind can claim to grasp its meaning?  That said, here are some shameless ramblings:

In my opinion, whether you literally believe in it or not, the resurrection of Jesus is a powerful symbol that points to our own eternal nature, or Christ Consciousness. Culturally, the archetypal theme of the death and resurrection of the hero goes all the way back to prehistoric shamanic religions, and was present in later pre-Christian cultures all over the world (in the Osiris myth of Egpyt, for instance). The resurrection is ultimately an archetypal and mythological statement about humanity, a “finger pointing to the moon” of our own eternal nature.   Like Jesus, we all must “die” to our ego and transcend death through the “resurrection” of our Deathless Awareness, which is always present yet mysteriously hidden by our own spiritual ignorance. As one of the great myths of mankind, the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t even matter – in fact, thinking about myth overly historically empites it of its power, as the unrivaled mythologist Joseph Campbell was always fond of harping on.

Because the resurrection functions fundamentally as religious mythology, it is ultimately about us all.  Traditional Christianity does the teachings of Jesus a great disservice by misinterpreting that the deeper truths of the New Testament only apply to the historical Jesus. Jesus taught UNIVERSAL truths about the nature of humanity.  As he became an awakened Christ through his deep realization of the Christ-Consciousness, we all have the capacity to become awakened Christs (or Messiahs, Anointed Ones); in the same way, the historical Buddha was a human being who became the Buddha through his own personal awakening experience, and we all have the capacity to become Buddhas, for we all have Buddha Nature. To realize your own Christ-Consciousness (or Buddha Nature, True Nature, Krishna Conscisouness, etc.) through meditation and spiritual practice is the ultimate joy, and goal of life. Truly, spiritual awakening is like being “resurrected” from the “dead” idea that we are only the body and mind. In reality, we are much, much more… Like Jesus, our True Nature is eternal!

Anyone who, through meditation and spiritual practice, realizes their own Christ Consciousness will understand the deeper meaning of the resurrection myth. They will see that, in reality, it has nothing to do with Jesus, for he was only a vessel that the myth expressed itself through. They will realize that Jesus was just a wave on the great Ocean of Spirit, and that you too are a wave on that same Sea! What was true with him is true for you. You are no different in nature; Jesus had merely realized It fully. Unfortunately, most modern churches that teach in his name will ironically persecute you for saying this.  If you say you are “one with Spirit” (a heretical utterance in most churches), you say the same thing Jesus was perecuted by the pharisees for saying about himself 2000 years ago.  History is fully of depressing yet fascinating ironies…

To conclude this shameless rant, we should all take heart in the hope that whatever we go through on this planet is only temporary. In reality, we are One with eternal Bliss Itself (our True Nature is God!), if only we realized this. We all have the capacity to rise above the dualities of the world through deep meditation and ethical living, and to see our Source.  This goal is indeed difficult, and is perhaps the most difficult path a human can walk.  Though it may seem like a “tall order,” the myth of the resurrection of Jesus makes it clear that any human being – through the grace of God and their own spiritual effort – has the capacity to wake up and be free!

May God reveal Itself to you, and may you “resurrect” from the illusory idea that you are your body/mind.  May you become an awakened Christ and a fully realized Buddha by realizing that, in reality, you have been one all along!

With Cosmic Unconditional Love emanating from the Source of all life,

Jeffrey

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Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita: Introduction

krishna and arjuna – Krishna revealing the Bhagavad Gita to His famous devotee Arjuna (Although I have never heard of any scriptural evidence for this, Arjuna is usually depicted with a sweet 1980’s style mustache in most paintings of him).

“All those who take refuge in Me, whatever their birth, race, sex, or caste, will attain the Supreme Goal.”  – Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita

Every now and then, I discover a book that radically changes the way I perceive the world.  For me, the Bhagavad Gita was one of those books.  I remember randomly taking it off the shelf at Borders in 2009, and as I grazed its mysterious pages, my heart leapt with wordless recognitions of its greatness and profound depth.  I have read the Gita many times since then during difficult moments in my life, and it has infallibly been a potent source of inspiration and spiritual insight.

The Gita is many things: an archetypal expression of the human condition, a guide to Self-Realization, a quintessential text on yoga philosophy – some have even called it “the Bible of India.”  It has been a source of inspiration for countless thousands of spiritual seekers and eminent minds, including Gandhi, Emerson, Thorough, and Paramahansa Yoganada, just to name a few.

Including and superseding all these descriptions, the Gita is a powerful poetic expression of the Krishna’s Awakened Mind, the spiritual Muse of the text penned by Vyasa, a sage in his own right.  Any authentic scripture is, at its deepest core, an expression of a spiritual state of mind that the words point to, but do not containTo understand the essence of a scripture is therefore to experience that state of mind yourself, not merely to memorize the words.  In the West, nearly the entire Christian world has unfortunately overemphasized intellectual knowledge of scripture, as if the unfathomable Christ-Mind of the Spiritual Master Jesus could be understood by merely memorizing passages.

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Three Reasons to go on a Meditation Retreat

greatvow – The meditation hall at Great Vow Zen Monastery, where I have lived for 9 months and have participated in 10 sesshins.  I have also done one 10 day Vipassana retreat (as taught by SN Goenka), which I highly recommend.

I returned this week from a 5 day silent meditation retreat that Zen Buddhists call sesshin (sesshin is often translated as “touching the heart-mind”) at Great Vow Zen Monastery.  It was my 11th long retreat, and, as usual, it was a deeply meaningful experience.  It was also utterly outrageous and fascinating; although retreats can be difficult, for me they are like going on spaceship adventures through my own mind/body and discovering new worlds!  In this post I’ll share three reasons why I feel that going on meditation retreats is spiritually useful. This post is mainly about retreats that are 5 days or longer.  There are also shorter 1-2 day retreats that are good introductions to retreat practice, and that can be very powerful experiences.  My discussion in this post is also limited to my experience in the Zen tradition, though I have also done a Vipassana retreat which I strongly recommend as well.   For a more in depth explanation of what meditation retreats are like, and for a fuller explanation of why I think they are important, you can read my book (specifically, the section is entitled “Meditation Retreats”) in the free pdf above.

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Travel Blog 2: Bodhgaya – Circumambulating the Diamond Throne

DSC00361   – Me at the Mahabodhi Temple

Introduction

Nearly 2,500 years ago in India, a wandering monk named Gautama was practicing severe austerities in the forest with five fellow mendicants.  After 6 years, he had nearly starved himself to death and attained almost unimaginable states of single-pointed concentration.  Yet, despite his herculean efforts, he was still dissatisfied with his understanding, for he discovered that even subtle bliss states lasting for days at a time were subject to the law of impermanence.  After controversially accepting a bowl of milk from a maiden named Sugata, enacting with his own body the principal of the “middle way” he would someday propagate to the world, his five friends abandoned him in disgust.

Shortly after this incident, he sat down under the now famous Bodhi Tree, and vowed not to leave the spot until he attained enlightenment.  Traditions differ, but the most popular one says he meditated for a week, observing himself with mindfulness and scrupulously inquiring into the nature of his own experience.  On the 7th day, he saw the morning star and finally experienced his own True Nature.  Then he said something like, “I am awakened together with all beings!”  The monk Gautama had become the Buddha, or the “Awakened One.”

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Travel Blog 1: The Burning Ghats of Varanasi

ganges-varanasi – The Ganges in Varanasi

Introduction

Varanasi!  How can I describe your beauty and your madness, your noble aspirations and your often chaotic reality?  Oh city of Shiva, you remind me of life’s highest goal, and the futility of chasing worldly desires.  You contain terrible poverty, but you posses the wealth of thousands of years of crystalized spiritual knowledge.  You are the victim of global capitalism’s inhumanity, but you testify to the transcendent God that is called by many names and who alone exists.  You are filled with modern pollution, but the fragrance of your devotion to God has blessed the world many times over.

I recently went on an amazing one-month pilgrimage to India, and stayed in the two holy pilgrimage cities of Varanasi and Bodhgaya.  I stayed in Varanasi for 9 days.  Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, is considered the holiest pilgrimage site for most Hindus, and is highly influential to Buddhists as well.  The Buddha gave his first sermon just outside Varanasi in Sarnath nearly 2500 years ago.  Shankara, a great sage who influenced nearly all subsequent branches of yogic thought, is believed to have once lived here.  Tulsidass, Lahiri Mahasaya, Trailingaswami and countless other Yogi-Christ’s have blessed this city with their presence over the centuries.

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Being and Doing

clean window  – A mind stilled by meditation is like a cleaned window that more fully reveals the beauty of the universe.

We are never satisfied by “doing,” by checking off the never ending to-do list, always waiting for an ideal future that never arrives, or musing on a past that is completely over. “If only X occurs, THEN I will be happy….” This part of our mind is never content, and keeps us chained to karma like a hamster on a hamster wheel that never stops and keeps getting faster. Planning and thinking are indeed important in their useful contexts, but we are only truly satisfied by BEING, by stepping off the hamster wheel, being fully present in each moment, and experiencing the beauty of life as it arises.

For me, Zen meditation, which I’ve been doing daily for nearly 7 years, has been a natural medicine for my mind’s addiction to stressful thinking.  In seated Zen meditation, the basic premise of the first stages is simply learning to be present without letting your mind fly off into thoughts of worry, fear, fantasy, or the past or future.  The practice is a natural stress reducer and therefore conducive to basic human happiness.  For only when we are fully present are we truly happy and free of stress (which is simply thought). And, incidentally, the sages of old tell us that the present moment is the gateway into experiencing God or our own ever-present True Nature –  a more ultimate form of happiness.

Yet even if you don’t believe this, learning to still your mind and train it to abide in the present moment without reverting to thought is an inexpressibly wonderful blessing for both religious and non-religious people alike. A mind habitually lost in thought is like a dirty window that stops us from fully expiriceing the beauty of this incredible universe. A stilled mind is like a clean window that enables us to enjoy the beauty around us, and also generally have more peace and less unnecessary stress.

So how is the mind stilled in the first stages of meditation? One breath at a time…By sitting in an upright posture and returning, again and again, to the breath. This type of mindfulness meditation is indeed simple, yet sometimes it can be so mysteriously difficult, for the mind initially craves thinking like an addict (they call it “monkey mind” in Zen for a reason!). Yet learning to still your mind with meditation is a blessing whose value cannot be quantified, and something anyone can learn to do with practice.  The effort is worth it!

May all beings know the peace of a stilled mind, and be free from stress. Have a nice day! :)

A Bumbling Okie’s Brief Thoughts on the Kingdom of Heaven

Experiencing each moment, just as it is, is the “goal” of meditation. Meditation is not the attainment of a temporary blissful state, but the realization that our very life is the Way, is the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus Jesus once spoke that “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Heaven is not a physical place, but a state of mind – a realization – that perceives reality without the obscurations of ignorance. The Kingdom of Heaven is a state of mind that perceives all beings as emantions of the One Spirit, like hairs growing out of the same head or waves on the same Ocean of Love. It is a state of mind that perceives one’s True Nature as the eternal Christ-Consciousness (or Buddha Nature, to use another religious “dialect”), not merely the body/mind. When Jesus realized this he became Jesus Christ. If Cleedus or Beckie realizes this fully, he can become Cleedus Christ, she can become Beckie Christ, etc.

To have this realization for ourselves is the goal of religion which is actual realization. As the Psalms put it, the law is then “written on our hearts.” We then no longer need the outward codes of religion, because we realize they are merely describing our own True Nature. We do not need a physical temple, because we realize our very body is the temple of the Spirit. We do not need to worship a prophet like Jesus or Buddha, because we see they are merely a “finger pointing to the moon” of our own Divine potential. How unspeakably wonderful it is to know that God can be experienced here on Earth as a human being, and that this very world is itself God’s manifestation! To realize this for one’s self is called the Kingdom of Heaven. May all beings see this for themselves! Have a lovely day… :)

Airports, Musing, Hafiz…!

I just got back to India and wrote this in the Amsterdam airport during my 30 hour flight.  I can’t wait to blog more about my experience in India!

Airports…..Oy Vey! How could I be honest and say they do not annoy me… Yet airports and plane flights are an excellent place to practice meditation, patience, and to develop the “fruits of the Spirit,” as Paul the apostle called them. A person of Spirit does not surf on a wave of light above the annoyances of daily life, but simply views daily “problems” with a spiritual mentality. Every temporary hassle is an opportunity to practice kindness and patience. Every time someone gets angry with me is an opportunity to practice unconditional love. If I spiritualize my life I do not think, “How frustrating is this!” or “How annoying is this person!” but rather think, “This is an opportunity to deepen my spiritual practice.” If you free your mind and view everything as meditation, nothing can hinder your peace. The secret of all the great yogi’s and mystics is that they realized that their own mind is the key to peace, not outer circumstance. For is not our own mind the temple of God Himself, who is peace Itself? Now does Hafiz, that poet of poets, have a verse for this very principal? Of course he does…

BECOMING HUMAN

Once a man came to me and spoke for hours about
“His great visions of God” he felt he was having.

He asked me for confirmation, saying,
“Are these wondrous dreams true?”

I replied, “How many goats do you have?”

He looked surprised and said,
“I am speaking of sublime visions
And you ask
About goats!”

And I spoke again saying,
“Yes, brother – how many do you have?”

“Well, Hafiz, I have sixty-two.”

“And how many wives?”
Again he looked surprised, then said,
“Four.”

“How many rose bushes in your garden,
How many children,
Are your parents still alive,
Do you feed the birds in winter?”

And to all he answered.

Then I said,
“You asked me if I thought your visions were true,
I would say that they were if they make you become
More human,

More kind to every creature and plant
That you know.”

-Hafiz, the poet of poets!

Thoughts for Christmas on my Song, The Bridegroom

http://jeffreyrothman.bandcamp.com/track/the-bridegroom

Nearly four years ago, I wrote this song called The Bridegroom (link above).  In it, I attempt to express the indescribable joy I find in God’s unconditional love, which ultimately is one with me and with everything.  In the Bible, the metaphor of the “Bride of Christ” is used to express our inexpressibly intimate, and ultimately inseparable Union with Spirit. Our ego or personal self is the “Bride,” or individualized expression, of the One Spirit or Bridegroom, and true everlasting happiness is found when Union with the Cosmic Bridegroom is experienced in the ecstasy of spiritual realization.

The Perfect Love that is found in God (or our own Higher Self) is incomparable and infinitely greater than any temporary happiness a person, thing, or human destiny can give you. This blissful relationship of devotion and intimacy finally culminates in Union: Love, Lover, and Beloved finally realized as inseparably one! Through his own spiritual effort, Jesus realized this Union with God and became the Christ. If we realize it through effort in meditation and the grace of God, we too become Christs along with him.

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Merry Christmas from Bodhgaya!

I’ll be spending Christmas in the pilgrimage city of Bodhgaya, the auspicious place of Buddha’s Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree nearly 2500 years ago. Shall I call the One Love that miraculously manifests all things Buddha Nature, Christ-Consciousness, One Mind, etc.? Is following Jesus merely believing his words, or realizing their essence in my own experience through meditation? Jesus saw his own True Nature and became the Christ, but his mission is only fulfilled when we realize the same Truth for ourselves and transcend the need for a temporary teacher like Jesus. Jesus was a “finger pointing to the moon” of our own Christ-Consciousness right now seeing out of our eyes.

It is time for the human race to stop bickering over whose religious vocabulary is correct, and to start seeking for ourselves through meditation the Bliss that is the basis of everything and that is called by many names. Jesus and Buddha experienced awakening and then gave humanity a menu through their precious words. Will we be content with the menu, or will we taste the delicious food of enlightenment for ourselves? The Buddha’s mission is only completed when we realize that we too are a Buddha. And the mission of Jesus is only fulfilled when we realize that we are ALL awakened Christs, one with the Father and eternal!

Must I go to a church to celebrate Christ-mas? This whole universe is the “church” of Christ, and every atom expresses Its Infinite Glory that even the universe itself is mere shadow of! In bowing to the Buddha, I bow to Christ, and in bowing to Christ, I bow to the Buddha. Fools cling to names and forms, but the wise see the Essence.

Merry Christmas from India, my friends!