Sunday, 5 August 2007

Levels of surrender on the spiritual journey

I woke up this morning with an overpowering urge to write something on surrender. The spiritual path is all about surrender. Surrender at different levels. The first level is when we surrender our interest in the external material world to that of the inner spiritual world and begin the spiritual journey. The second is the surrender of the thinking mind, with its views and opinions. To illustrate this level I am going to quote from a book called 'Zen Flesh, Zen Bones' which is compiled by Paul Reps. It makes this level clear in a parable called:-

'A Cup of Tea' Nan-in a Japanese master during the Meiji area (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's' cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. 'It is overfull. No more will go in!'
'Like this cup', Nan-in said, 'you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup'.

This was a very powerful parable for me when I read it many years ago. The parable refers directly to Zen but the meaning has a more general and overarching significance. To let go of the small mind with its own ideas about how things should be and consider the possibility 'I am incorrect in every view and opinion I have' is a necessary level of surrender and is the second level of surrender on the spiritual journey.

The first surrender is that one event which shifts the focus of the mind from the external material world to the internal spiritual world. The surrender of the material to the spiritual which is seen as a choice but is really a surrender.

The second surrender - this letting go of views/opinion is a hard level of surrender. It takes courage to see our views not as the truth but simply as views. They are there because this is how we define ourselves but they are not the truth. Holding onto views and opinions as truth means that a necessary level of surrender cannot happen. I am always struck by the Buddha when he said 'hold fast to nothing at all' (I can't quote the sutra because I don't know it, it is the sentence which has stayed with me) I believe that this is also what he meant. He saw how trapped we get when we cling to our views and opinions and see them as truth. I not saying not to hold a view or opinion, but to recognise that it may not be the truth and when challenged not to feel the need to defend the view to the point whereby it becomes the most important thing to have your view and opinion at least accepted and at best adopted.

On this path it is more important to be happy than to be right. Insisting on being right all the time is not the road to happiness, joy and bliss. When you can truly see that an opinion is not the truth and let it go, then what is possible is another level of joy and contentment. The energy which was being used to run whatever view or opinion was held is now free to enable another level of understanding.

But this giving up is not easy. I am the first to recognise this. Immediately the mind rebels producing thoughts like 'if I give up this view, then what will take it's place' and there is a feeling of panic - at least this is how it was for me. But stay with this momentary panic. I remember starting off with a sentence 'there is something I don't know, the knowing of which can change everything and with that faith, started to watch myself everytime I found myself being forthright with a point of view on something. I would state my point of view, but when it was challenged would work very hard not to get on the defensive and engage in behaviour that would belittle the other. At the beginning this was hard and often I didn't succeed but I found that with the intention to do this and the patience and compassion with myself for those times I failed, I found that gradually I can be comfortable with letting go of my views and opinions and not feel that I am selling myself out my identity. I realize that views and opinions are part of my personality and identity they are not who I really am.

At the beginning of spiritual training whether it is by books or a long-term teacher there is lots of confusion because this is such an individual subjective journey. In the beginning when one begins the first cycle on this journey there are no beacons of light to guide the way. All that's there is one's own inner light which is so weak that sometimes I used to question if it was there at all. But you have to keep progressing by being vigilant over one's own thoughts, emotions, actions, building the higher mind (no-mind, that of the intuition) by reading high level spiritual literature, by giving lots of time over to thinking and pondering. All of this serves to brighten the inner light and gradually the way becomes clearer. After some time (this is the frustrating aspect of the journey, I can't give a definite time for people, it depends on many factors) the person will recognise the third level of surrender. I will speak about this third level in my next entry.

Now it is Monday and that means getting ready for work. I consider myself to be right brain dominant which is why spiritual writing and understandings come easy to me. I work in a left brain environment which is all to do with numbers and spreadsheets and it is a real challenge. But I think this balance is good otherwise I could become mystic-like and lose touch with the world preferring to stay in the comfortable cosy world of the right brain with its realizations and experiences.

I consider myself to be a spiritual scientist in that the shifts of consciousness which have happened to me have happened within my brain. I am in no doubt about that. Some Buddhist monks are taking part in meditation research to see which parts of the brain are activated and which are depressed when they are meditating. This is a great source of information. To be interested in understanding the brain in spirituality is not to reduce the journey to the level of the brain, there is more involved than the brain, but to understand how the spiritual line of development evolves.

Now....I really must get ready for work or else I will be late......

1 comment:

Tony said...

'I am incorrect in every view and opinion I have' In an odd sort of way, I'm fortunate in this respect, as I have always felt that my views and opinions were not worth expressing or defending. The cost of that has been a very depressed life, which I can no longer tolerate. I may have less ego to overcome, but if there is such a thing as an "anti-ego", I got plenty of that to spare. I find tho, Margaret, that for brief moments I am able to reside in the Now, so to speak, and all my thoughts and opinions just dissolve. Such a relief, but far too fleeting. Thoughts come in and mess it all up pretty quick. I was unaware of different levels of surrender, tho I can see in my life that they do exist. Thanks. From Tony