A report of a Meditative Silent Retreat based on Light On The Path, with Trân Thi Kim-Diêu *
Casal de Pau, 3 to 6 December 2011
Participants gather for a photo
Around sixty people gathered in Casal de Pau, Arbucies for this fourth retreat in Spain where silence in action and silence in speech were practiced. Of course there were practical exercises for stretching, breathing and for walking meditations. More importantly, Kim-Diêu once again shared her reflections, this time on the theme of Light on the Path. Her very practical suggestions for leading an ethical and spiritual life were exchanged in group discussions. She spoke in English and her words were translated into Spanish by Anna Maria Torra and Nilda Venegas.
Here are some striking impressions and remarks.
Knowledge and wisdom are everywhere; it is up to us to remove the obstacles and obscurities to recognize and receive it. As long as we are unable to do this, wisdom will seem to be hidden and we then call it secret, or occult. The booklet Light On The Path (L.O.P.), an absolute treasure, that celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2011, is said to have been inspired by a Master of Wisdom, and was written by Mabel Collins. A Master is capable of “living” this silence in action and in mind. For us this is difficult because we are addicted to excitement and stimuli by our outer actions. It is necessary to find a balance between activity and rest, not only for our physical bodies, but especially for our minds in order to recognize the inspiration that comes from higher levels. What matters is quality, not quantity. It is not important how many activities we employ, but the attitude, attention and power with which we utilize them. We should learn to pause for a minute between each of our daily activities, in order to restore the balance between activity and rest. PAUSE is the first mantram of this retreat.
After a life full of activities, we start asking fundamental questions at around forty years of age: Why are we here? What is our goal? Do we want more money, more possessions, faster cars, better weapons to kill each other? There must be more! What can set humanity free, spiritually? What is the use of all the comfort we have acquired? Isn’t egoism the real root of the problem? We start to understand that there is a price for comfort. We need to share, we need to serve. We experience a “homing instinct”, the “ocean is calling”. Are we brave enough to do away with unnecessary comforts? For only this can lead to independence and freedom. If we cannot let go, we cannot move forward. It is the story of leaving luggage behind in order to cross the river with a boat, of not giving up when there is a storm over the river, of leaving the boat and even more luggage behind. Because there is a long and winding road ahead of us. Negotiation is useless; climbing the mountain requires big sacrifices. NEVER GIVE UP is the second mantram of this retreat. Where do we stand? Do we see spirituality as a kind of amusement, like spice in our food just for the taste of it, because our ordinary life is not exciting and spicy enough? Are we looking for new gurus in each period of our life? No, spirituality is more important than this, and it takes several lifetimes to unfold it.
L.O.P. 17 states: Seek out the way. First there are sixteen rules to be followed, even before reaching the real Path, and it is up to us to live them -- or not. These rules entail obligations, orders, commands and conditions for self-realization.
1. Kill out ambition. Please note: transformation is meant, whenever you encounter the words “kill out”. But I AM not ambitious; OK, only a little bit… Sure, it is legitimate to have a good life, provided it does not harm other sentient beings. Ambition is not only striving for material things, it is also in the mind. Look at ordinary Buddhist monks suddenly claiming to be high lamas. The degree of ambition is important. Stay alert. Reflect on your thoughts and actions, in order not to be caught in this trap of ambition.
2/3. Kill out desire of life/of comfort. We are responsible beings. Every living being wants to be, to exist, even insects. Comfort means that the physical body feels at ease and that is all right, but it becomes unhealthy when one wants more and more comfort. Do not become a victim of commerciality, advertisements and publicity. Enough is enough. We do not need the latest perfect “sleeping comfort”, with bed models changing each year. Only you are the one who chooses the best bed for your body. Stay in command and perfect yourself. More importantly, too much comfort also implies the fear of losing things, and is, in fact, connected with the fear of death. Conquer the fear of death by letting go of the comfort to which you are attached. We need to die continually, by not identifying with the expressions of ourselves, personalities, and leaving behind what we are not.
4. Work as those who are ambitious. Respect life, but kill the desire for life. The greatest bliss is the happiness of being, for instance, the contact with a friend who instantly understands what you mean. There is a great joy in being alone, or with your partner, both as birds freely flying next to each other in the air instead of two birds in a cage singing the same song. Seek in the heart the source of evil. We can be so mean. See it and master it, take over the command. Live neither in the present nor the future, but in the Eternal.
5. Kill out all sense of separateness. I am you and you are me. See and understand mistakes, but do not accuse anyone of making them. Thich Nhat Hanh once said: I am the Sinner, identifying himself with the whole of humanity. We share the same responsibilities. This gives a feeling of solidarity.
6. Kill out desire for sensation. This is linked to the comfort of the physical body, and to our six senses. We all want to see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and think nice things. Thinking as well, it is our sixth sense and it does a lot for us. We experience happy, sad or depressing thoughts when someone calls us a “great person” or an “idiot”.
7. Kill out the hunger for growth. We want to understand more and more, but growth comes by itself when the time is ripe, provided you do the right things to enhance growth. Just act and do what has to be done without desiring anything.
8. Grow as the flower grows, unconsciously, but eagerly anxious to open its soul to the air. If the conditions are right, growth will manifest.
9 /10/11. Desire only that which is within you; which is beyond you; which is unattainable. The little ego will never reach realization. This will be resolved totally as soon as it comes into the light.
12. You will enter the light, but you will never touch the Flame. The Diagram of Meditation of H.P. Blavatsky (H.P.B.) says: Beyond that … (It cannot be said).
17. If you really want a change: Seek out the way. Learning to live is learning to die, this is inevitable. Do we have the courage to release, or will we continue to be attached to our old habits? Do not be an extremist, but an absolutist in this matter.
18/19. Seek the way by retreating within/by advancing boldly without. External actions are determined by thoughts therefore actions are the visible parts of thoughts. Go inside meditatively, make the mind silent. Meditation is the act of focusing on ideas, concepts, and going beyond. Make up your mind.
What do you really want? Retreating within helps to PAUSE. Then go outside, into society, courageously and firmly. Act wholeheartedly. Do not take the lives of humans and animals, one can live with food made of plants and nuts. If people are not able to see the difference between a plant and an animal, sorry for them. Look at the fear of failure, for nothing is sure in life. Be systematically skeptical, because the senses do not reflect reality. Transform the desire for sensations, because as long as we desire we are imprisoned, so Desire the unattainable. We are in command of our thoughts, not the other way around. See the insignificance of desires, and laugh about them. Learn from mistakes, correct actions. These are the ways towards immense freedom.
21. Look for the flower to bloom in the silence that follows the storm. Spiritual matters can only be hinted at allegorically; the spiritual soul will understand. The silence before the storm means the fear of what will come. The silence after the storm is the relief and, also, an aspect of fear. Perception will wake us up. Will we be victorious, experiencing the spiritual soul as part of the universal soul? Will the drop become one with the ocean? Those who ask, not only with their minds, are those who shall receive.
Thou hast reaped, now thou must sow. Act in an ethical way; an ethical economy gives, takes and shares. Things must flow, so give away what is not necessary. This gives happiness on both sides.
1. Stand aside in the coming battle, and though thou fightest, be not thou the warrior. This is the war between spirit and matter, as on the battlefield of Kurukshetra in The Bhagavad Gita. Stand aside. Use your Higher Self as the warrior, because matter always resists spiritualization.
5. Listen to the song of life. Challenged as we are in our deepest miseries, we might recognize the opportunity to pay our karmic debts. Avalokiteshvara is holding the lotus flower of wisdom and the sword of wisdom, to kill ignorance. If a warrior does not know the reason for the fight, the battle cannot be won. In silence there is no thinking, there are no emotions. Here the song of life, the voice of the silence can be heard.
The delightful taste of wisdom can only be experienced by those who are worthy and ready, because there are conditions to fulfill. Someone who is not hungry cannot be made to eat. The whole cosmos is a teaching, but according to the Mahatmas this only consists of “crumbs”. Their main problem in teaching us is that our minds are too full. We need to unlearn, for we have the wrong knowledge, full of prejudices. When the Buddha was asked how we can know that his realization is true, he pointed to the earth; the earth is witness to the non-refutable reality on our level. H.P.B. talked about two levels of truth: relative truth that is knowledgeable, and absolute truth that is beyond the mind. This absolute truth is not knowledgeable but must be experienced.
Lama Anagarika Govinda once said that progress can be seen by the radiance of consciousness that is visible in the serene, happy smile and in the all-embracing love on someone’s face. Happiness is in the absence of the ego and this is the testimony of “progress”. This is bliss, ananda, happiness without a cause. Our ego is our box, our prison. This box is floating in the ocean of consciousness, with the lid firmly screwed upon it. Meditation and mindfulness help us to unscrew the lid and mindfulness leads to real awareness. The water from the ocean can flow into the box now, to blend with the water there and change it. Coming back to daily life, we should not screw the lid on the box again, but practice and plunge into the ocean daily. In the end, when the ego disappears completely, the box will sink entirely to the bottom of the ocean of pure consciousness. Limitless consciousness cannot be explained by the illusory mind as the drop cannot explain the ocean. The Voice of the Silence says: The mind is the great slayer of the real. Let the disciple slay the slayer. First, there are only a few who are able to go outside their boxes. They act as the locomotives of humanity, they are pulling the train. At the end of the train there are those who do not contribute to the movement of the train. In the middle of the train, the majority of humanity is still maturing. In human dimensions, humanity is three-and-one-half years old, according to the Mahatmas Letters. The task of the Theosophical Society is to help enhance the power of discernment, and to share wisdom, fully respecting the freedom of thought. Intellectual discussions and feelings of separateness are aspects of analytical thinking, of lower manas. It is not at all important to agree or disagree.
13. Speech comes only with knowledge. If our thinking is confused, words will make no sense. Empty your cup and speak from knowledge.
15. Inquire of the earth, the air and the water of the secrets they hold for you. We inquire with the holy fire of fohat, which makes the mind whole, because consciousness comes from fohat.
19. Hold fast to that which has neither substance nor existence. This reminds us of Cosmic Evolution in The Secret Doctrine, Stanza I, sloka 2: Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of Duration. We must withdraw into the depths of our being, where there is no separation, no time. Ninety-nine percent of our physical body consists of water that once was contained in space but was brought to our planet Earth by meteorites. We are children of space, imprisoned in time, and we are meant to ask the impossible questions with integrity: Who am I? What am I? Every human being has to discover this for himself. The only way out is self-realization being in the physical body, because after death, we no longer have the availability of physical bodies. Nevertheless, consciousness is still in existence, although incapable of acting. Nothing can be said after crossing the final threshold as the stage of being human is terminated.
Concluding: Our egos need to be shaken. This might sometimes feel like an attack, but the basis is always love. During this retreat Kim-Diêu just shook a part of the sea to show us some waves. Let us all become travelers without luggage, leaving behind our psychological attachments, moving uphill, or, in other words: the ocean is calling. So, 1. PAUSE and reflect after each activity, even if it is only just for one minute, and, 2. don’t refuse, don’t escape, don’t oppose. In difficult situations just take a deep breath, go
on, and NEVER GIVE UP.
*We thank Els Rijneker from Holland.