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Notes from “The Mystic Heart” (2/14/06)

These are my notes from reading a book called The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions. By Wayne Teasdale, forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Preface by Beatrice Bruteau. New World Library. Novato, California: 1999.

I read this in August 2005. I chose to put these notes on the website because I was struggling to rid myself of the notion of mind/body duality, because I know everything is connected. I referred back to these notes to try and refresh my thinking, and perhaps find the source of getting stuck on mind/body duality. Sure enough, I found the culprit: Plato and Aristotle! As revered as these men are for their wisdom and philosophy, even their ideas may pose limitations. One of these is illustrated in the book, and I was sure to take note: the ideas of Plato and Aristotle were incorporated into the early Christian church – which includes ideas of the soul being immortal and trapped inside the body. Hence confusion on the mind and body being separate entities. It’s a very difficult concept…

Nonetheless, I believe this book is an important one to note. It ties together ideas of the world’s major religions and reveals how they are all inevitably connected and influence one another.

You will also find my notes as I tried to sort out what I read. Keep in mind that no beliefs are absolute; they are always dynamic. Most likely, I will read the book again and refine my ideas. My thoughts listed are the ones formulated at the time, and may have changed since then. I tried my best to paraphrase the content in lieu of direct quotations. Excuse my jargon and any lack of info. I use these brackets [ ] to indicate my own thoughts and comments.


The Mystic Heart

(xi-xiii) Dalai Lama’s forward:

He says that all world religions have the potential to make us better human beings, and all of the varieties of belief systems facilitate to make us happy. Urges us to practice compassion everyday; you will contribute to peace + happiness of the world as a whole.


Preface:

(xv) Says we are trying to balance power from the outside through legislation + such, but we also need to balance forces from within. After all, it’s greed, dominion, cruelty + violence that arise from internal feelings of insufficiency + insecure being.

Our goal should be to raise our knowledge of unity. We are part of a global world and share each other’s beliefs more than we know. So why is the world not a better place?

(xvii) “This oneness – freedom from alienation and insecurity – is the sure foundation for a better world.”


(4) The Interspiritual Age:

(5) More + more realizing interconnectedness

(6) All world religions have been influenced by one another (good diagram)

(7) Parliament of the World’s Religions

(10) “Spirituality refers to an individual’s search for discovery of the absolute divine.” [I am spiritual, not religious.] “It involves direct mystical experience of God, or realization of vast awareness, as in Buddhism.” Primarily personal

(11) Mysticism is the source of spirituality + religion. Spirituality is needed for personal growth. It’s not emphasized in the Christian tradition.

(16) “India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, + some indigenous societies . . . are organized to facilitate the inner search.”

“Latin + Mediterranean countries, especially Italy + Spain, are nations in love w/ slowness, cultivation of the intellect, reflection, and quiet.” [Did not know that.]

Americans, on the other hand, are born to materialism + consumerism.

(17) “We fear the intimacy inherent in the interactions of society itself.” Communication, meaningful communication in the family, is lost. [I’ve had a run-in with this myself]

Spirituality – search for meaning, direction, belonging. Committed to growth.

(18) Religious – people depend on institutions

[I think he goes a little far in his view here, saying that religious people depend on institutions to make their decisions, and that they can’t stand on their own two feet. It’s not all like that.]

(21) Theistic mysticism – God is present everywhere (except Buddhism and Jainism.)

Mysticism of love – dominant in Christian + Sufi literature

bridal mysticism – Victorine + Cistercian monks – “Emphasis on learning, withdrawal and contemplation.”

mysticism of knowledge – Buddhism. Awareness of ultimate wisdom + compassion.

mysticism of the soul – eternal nature of self: Atman (Hinduism) + Christian mystics


(22) Mysticism is an experience as well as a practice.

(23) It’s all-knowing and unitive. Direct union with the divine, realization.

(32) There’s a lot of crossing over of religious traditions. And it’s not a bad thing at all.

(37-39) Ma Jaya

Thomas Merton

(45) “When religions and cultures meet in openness and willingness to learn, they change each other.”

(52) Hinduism – unmatched w/ concept of Atman

Vedanta written in 4 mahavakyas

about the Vedas + Upanishads

First mahavakya: Brahman is consciousness,

(53) this was found through meditation

Second mahavakya: Atman is Brahman

found in Mandukya Upanishad. “The deepest center of ourselves is the deepest part of the universe.”

Third mahavakya: /”great utterance,” appears in Chandogya Upanishad

(54) We all contain Atman in our selves

Fourth mahavakya: “I am Brahman.”

from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

we can all arrive at self-knowledge through deep meditation

[I really like this concept of Atman the best from Hinduism. All the other gods/goddesses people worship, who are really just incarnations of Brahman, are for regional worship, more pertinent to culture.]

Later approach to Hinduism emphasizes advaita: “not-two” yet “not-one.”

no distinction b/w divine + human

thanks to Shankara (788-820 c.e.) [NONDUALITY]


(55) Buddhism:

(56) “Enlightenment” = Sanskrit “bodhi” = Japanese “satori” + “kensho”

Aware of nature, being, and that life is essentially emptiness (Sanskrit: “shunyata”)

but this emptiness does not mean no life. Rather, interconnectedness of all beings

***Emptiness means impermanence***

Transient – empty – “shunya”

[Well, I’m glad that was cleared up! Emptiness to me does not inherently equal transient. This is an important distinction.]

“The reality of individual beings is relative and impermanent. They exist only in relationship with everyone and everything else. Individuals are not isolated selves, souls, or egos doing their own thing or following their own projects for happiness. They will, of course, continually attempt them; but the results will be, at best, impermanent and empty, and at worst, frustrating and painful.”

(57) Enlightenment also shows us how our desires + longings are for things not good for us. Thus, we need to strive for the middle way

Nirvana

“decision to abandon desire/selfish craving.”
The key is letting go of “emotion’s flux”

[Here’s the confusing part: ]

“All relative truths are the product of dualistic perceiving and thinking, while all absolute truths are the fruit of nondual perception and thought.”

“The rational mind traps us in relative understanding.”

“Enlightenment, shunyata, and nirvana are absolute truths; they do not change.”

(59) “In Buddhism the personal self, soul, or ego has no real meaning b/c it doesn’t really exist; it is finite and passes away like everything else.”

. . . hence why followers of Buddha “reject a personal self, soul, or ego as the basis of identity.”

(60) This was influenced by Hinduism b/c of the caste system. Selfhood benefit or enslave others.

The only thing that survives impermanence is awareness of the “Buddha-nature.”


Christian tradition, Plato and Aristotle:

No elaboration on human identity in the Western tradition.

[This is the problem. The Westerners, the Europeans, failed to take responsibility for their own spiritual selves, instead depending on a higher source to save them. This is why they depended on institutions. I may be exaggerating, but the idea is there. The problem with institutionalism has reciprocated itself throughout Western culture, and with no sense of self, we expand materialistically, economically, to get away from this truth – that we do not know ourselves. With no sense of identity, we instead expand our borders and invade other cultures, hoping to pick up an idea, a hint, that will satisfy our hunger. We may have come across many brilliant ideas/religions/cultures, but now we are only infatuated with the desire, and any means necessary to quench that desire. Instead of reaching down deep within ourselves, we fill our homes with expensive things that we don’t need. We live for the newest gadget, the next craze, the newest trends. Looking always ahead, but never forward, and heaven forbid the fathers of past, who may have had the answer all along. But Buddha would say, the answer to end desire is to relinquish it altogether.]


(61) To fill in Christian theology, the Fathers of the Church turned to Plato and Aristotle.

Plato – soul immortal, trapped in body

Aristotle – the soul is a substance in the body, but in the form of a body “having potentiality within it.”

[Damn this quote is so confusing.]

(62) But mind always exists

And mind is consciousness

St. Thomas Aquinas said knowing God is the purpose of every soul with intellectual being –

(63) meaning humans and angels

[Funny, he says knowing God in paradise fulfills our desires, while Buddha says the goal is to rid ourselves or our desires. Then again, St. Thomas says our desire should be to know God. Maybe in knowing God, “our desires fulfilled” means Earthly desires go away.]


(Note: I’m a little confused here which are my own thoughts and which are notes. Both kinda blended together)

In the most simple terms, spirit is the essence of everything.

Intelligence (mind?) is the recognition of our selves, our being, as existing, along with everything else.

[Mind is awareness of ourselves. Our spirit.]

[I’ve thought about this for forever yet I never get tired of it.]

“Thomas also emphasized the mind as expressing the essence of soul or selfhood.” Contemplating God brings about love, transcending selfishness. It is the ultimate goal of Buddha, followers of God and all other religions. That’s why love is so beautiful.


“Many of us . . . glimpse this ultimate satisfaction, this blending of the intellect and the heart, in the creative act: a work of art, a poem, a piece of music, or the act of truly understanding something.”

Out of love, we can create beauty in this above-mentioned sense. That should be the goal of human, earthly existence.

Spinoza said, “the highest kind of knowing unites love and knowledge.” They each expand each other.

(65) Everything depends on consciousness. We experience because we are aware.

(66) “Even the fact that we have a brain is mediated to us through our awareness of it.”


(68) Stages of Awareness through life:

Infancy – little self-awareness. Child.

Adolescent – discovering itself, but in a peer group. Then, “the whole inner world opens up as a possibility.”

Adult awareness – “other-centered life/consciousness.” Love for family, friends… confined

(69) Some people reach stages of infinite creativity. This is where the arts pour from. Intuition. “Even states of metaphysical are intuitive forms of knowing.”

Enlightened awareness – partial, complete, + total

partial: enlightened, by not heart. Selfishness may remain. Heart not transformed yet

complete: “expanded integration of mind and heart.”

“wisdom, love, and compassion join together in animating consciousness.”

“Self-interest is transcended in a larger identity beyond ordinary life and perception. Consciousness and will conform to love through surrender. Self-interest is abandoned in the wills surrender to this love and wisdom.”

total: like above, only in encompasses “all sentient beings. It flows from a natural sense of solidarity.” Very sensitive, and

(70) far reaching – “characteristic of Christ, the Buddha, bodhisattvas, mystic sages, and saints.” They are open to everything and can read others’ hearts easily

Transpersonal – goal of Buddhist enlightenment

Angelic – degrees of perfection in their awareness

Divine – totality. Infinite awareness


(71) Encounters with deep experiences change us. But most of us are stuck on the level of regional consciousness. Going farther than that scares us.

We like dreams, though. “They are the doors to higher realms of perception.”

(72) Einstein + the space-time continuum

(73) “Consciousness is the unified field that brings us everything together in itself.”

Quantum mechanics – particles can be in two different places at the same time

(74) Nonlocal communication – shows consciousness is the foundation of everything


Chapter 4: “The Paths are Many But the Goal is the Same:” Discovering the Way


(79) “The heart is a sanctuary at the center of which there is a little space wherin the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye. This is th Eye of the Great Spirit by which He sees all things, and through which we can see Him. If the heart is not pure, the Great Spirit cannot be seen.” – Black Elk

(84) panentheism: God sustains all by being present in everything

(84) heart + lotus flower – symbols

Solitude to tune out distractions to awaken spiritual senses

(87) dualism inherited from Greeks

Jews, Christians, Muslims look outward + to the sky for divine.

(88) Also focus on service

Native Americans -- *nature is a way of cosmic revelation

(89) Christianity – emphasis on the will

(90-91) Hermeticism in Christian tradition to imprint experiences w/ divine in memory

(91) Hinduism: Asramas – 4 stages in life

- student (till ~24 yrs.), householder (hold civic duties), forest dweller (when white/gray-haired, or grandparents), and renunciate

(93) Four Margas – spiritual paths to moksha

- jnana yoga (intellectual, student)

- bhaki yoga (devotional, ritual)

- karma yoga (service, “selfless work”

- raja yoga (more rigorous intellectual, meditation)

(95) Each way is meant to transcend the ego

(107) Without love, we feel rejected, helpless. Leads to feeding ourselves, and the “false self”

(115) *We respond to suffering

This Mystic Character

Actual Moral Capacity
Solidarity w/ All Living Beings
Deep Nonviolence
Humility
Spiritual Practice
Mature Self-Knowledge
Simplicity of Life
Selfless Service + Compassionate Action
The Prophetic Voice


(118) UNESCO – study – violence not innate human behavior + can be changed through education

(120) “We are meant for greater things.”

The spiritual journey is self-directed, takes discipline

(121-122) Spiritual teachers: exhibit wisdom, sensitivity, other-centered, accepting

“We can judge others only if we know the other’s heart totally, and that we love them unconditionally.” Therefore, only God can judge.

(123) Mother Theresa: “I never judge them. I only love them.”

(127) As important as letting go of ego is humility.

(132-133) Centering prayer. 4 stages. Choose word, rest, unload, and evacuate.

(134) Christian Meditation

(135) Christian Zen

(136) Zen – straight posture, rhythmic breathing, + peaceful nondiscursive state of mind

Vipassana: Insight Meditation

walking/sitting for long periods of time

(137) Tibetan Buddhist Meditation

visualization, lucid dreaming, conscious in death

Transcendental Meditation – mantra

(138)Yoga + Martial Arts

Mass, Liturgy + Conventional Prayer

the power of the masses
(140) Devotional Spirituality

Chanting, Singing, Dance

(143) humor is a check against self-deception. Also is pure joy. It’s beautiful

(144) Seven Levels of Transformation

Consciousness, will, emotions, character, imagination, memory, + action/behavior

(151) Ghandi: “The earth has enough for mankind’s needs, but not for its greeds.”

(159-160) Religious communities need to speak out against injustices, exhibit leadership. example: Tibet

(169) “Selfless, humble, simple, nonviolent + other-centered in attitude, motivation + action are also open. Present, listening, rooted in being, real in view of other, and are spontaneous, joyful, and profoundly peaceful.”

(176) Divine presence in everything:

Tao – Chinese

God – Western

Great Spirit – Native American

Brahman – Hinduism


All relate to the same thing


(182) Transcendentalists

(197) [We are the eye of the cosmos. Formed for our consciousness to exist . . .?]

We must understand the primary source of revelation: nature

(201) Pilgrimages are also about entering the beauty of nature

(204) *East realizes the importance of maintaining the body for the spiritual journey.


(211) “The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He (or she) to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wander and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.” --Albert Einstein

(223) [Interesting--] spiritual marriage; the dark night of the soul. Means annhialation of your self to this world

(227) Dreams: the eternal now

(229) “entheogens can play a positive role in spiritual development.”

(230) They’re a tool, but not a substitution

(232) “Mysticism generates inner freedom and outer perspective.”

(236) Universal Communal Spirituality –

is the forefront

[Look to nature + all religions, find beauty in everything around us and how we are all connected.]

(248) Sannyasa, “renunciation.”

“In Hinduism . . . sannyasa makes possible something beyond comprehension of religion.”

 


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