Within and beyond


I will tell you my dream:  My dream is that somehow, in the fullness of time, we humans will actually evolve into respect and acceptance of each other; and that the essence of each religion will become, not just a set of outward rules and regulations and old, unexamined habits, but a place in the heart that is like an eternal well where each one of us can let down our little dipper and draw wisdom, and compassion – and yes, even love – to spend freely in our dealings with every other human that comes across our path.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if every one of us could access that place?

This dream lies quietly in the back of my mind, awaiting…what???  I have no idea.  It raises its head every now and again and gives me a gentle poke, and then falls back into dormancy.  Perhaps one day this dream will grow into reality; Albert Einstein apparently thought so.  I reread just now the following quote attributed to him, one that I had completely forgotten:

“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion.  It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology.  Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity.”

So here’s what’s on my mind.  (In my usual roundabout way, I’m snaking my way along a path that feels familiar, but I’m not sure where it’s leading.  Come along with me, and see if this makes any sense.)

Tom CowanTom Cowan is an internationally-known teacher of Celtic spirituality and European mystery traditions.  On the back cover of his book, Yearning for the Wind:  Celtic Reflections on Nature and the Soul, he’s described by a colleague as someone who “knows how to sing the song of the soul.  His lyrical reflections reveal the voice of the true Bard who has broken through to some deeper level of knowing…” [Philip Carr-Gomm].

Yearning for the Wind

I picked up this book the other day to glance at while I was waiting for a friend.   The poetry of Cowan’s simple stories hooked me, and I continued to read it off and on.

One of the first tales in the book concerns the mystical realities of the universe.  The hero of the tale is told, “…Everyone drinks from the five streams.  But only mystics, poets and people with the gift of vision drink from the five streams and the pool itself.”

Cowan goes on to say:

“I have been trying to put this difficult truth about reality into practice for many years.  It is truly revolutionary in terms of the accepted paradigm in our society that says the objects of our senses are just physical objects…..Physical reality is not just physical, it is spiritual; it comes from a place of truth, wisdom and sacred knowledge.

This means that a tree is more than a tree, a rock more than a rock, a drop of rain more than a drop of rain.  Even a pile of garbage, an automobile wreck, the atrocities on the evening news – all of these are not just events in ordinary reality….Everything is a stream of consciousness flowing from non-ordinary reality.  To believe that this other reality is just as real as the one we experience daily through our senses takes faith…it takes mysticism, poetry, and visionary gifts.”new testament kjv

About here, my mind shot off in a couple of different directions, and I had to hurry to catch up.  What was it the Apostle Paul said in the New Testament…. something about seeing through a glass darkly?  I struggled to capture the thought before it disappeared, and Google helped:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  [1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)]

New Seeds of Contemplation


I thought some more; another connection came:  Thomas Merton, who, in New Seeds of Contemplation, describes contemplation as “….life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive.  It is spiritual wonder…. is awareness of the reality…with a certitude that goes beyond reason and beyond simple faith.”   Merton urges us to “cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.”  [Doug Thorpe]

Okay, now I was getting the feeling that a theme was coming together.  Where to find a Buddhist text that explores this same idea?  I turned to Lama Surya Das, whose book Awakening the Buddha Within was one of my first explorations into Buddhist literature.

Lama Surya DasLama Surya speaks there of our innate, ineffable Buddha-nature, which:

“….is not impermanent, is not subject to change.  This inner light is unbounded, untrammelled, and immaculate.  It can be relied on; it can be depended upon.  It is perfect, inherently wise and warm, free and complete from the beginningless beginning.  Actualizing that luminous, formless and intangible core is what awakening is all about.” [Broadway Books, 1997, P. 82]Awakening the Buddha Within

These various authors, with their different points of view, share a single idea:  that beyond what we see, feel, hear with our senses, there is a Mystery to which we can – and surely must – eventually awaken.  Call it heaven, nirvana, the Source; it probably has a thousand names, and there must be hundreds of thousands of texts that try to describe this indescribable Reality.

It may be too soon to judge, given that this little exploration includes only shamanic, Christian and Buddhist areas of thought; but I think it must be there, the same grain of Truth, no matter what the name of the religion or philosophy that has been built around it!

Whew.  It occurs to me that this path could be the beginning of a huge expedition – too much for a Sunday evening, when I have another load of washing to do and clothes to fold before I call it a day!

But…could this possibly be how humankind might evolve?  Could it be that “religion” will give way to a universal spirituality built around a single, all-encompassing Truth?  What if that actually could happen?  How different a place the world would be then!

Well, I’m no genius; I’m just an ordinary dreamer, and it’s time to get that last load of laundry started.

(But…just think….)



For anyone wanting to know a bit more about the cornerstones of Buddhism, this well-described and easy-to-read book outlines the Noble Eightfold Path “from the ground up,” as the author, Lama Surya Das, says.  I consider it recommended reading for anyone wondering about the mind-training philosophy of Buddhism.