Monday, November 17, 2014

What IS universal love?

 Having been disillusioned with the Buddhist paths I tried in Japan when I was young, I joined the Quaker meeting in the town I lived in in the late 1980s. Although I still believed, theoretically, that those paths led to enlightenment – and had in fact had a couple of spiritual awakenings on one of those paths – in the end, they just seemed too hard – and too foreign. I wanted a way to the Infinite that relied on my own Western spiritual tradition, but at the same time didn't discount the realizations of deeper truth I had had through the Eastern way. I was also looking for something less hierarchical and sexist – and the fact that there are no paid clergy in Quakerism – that everyone is, in fact, a teacher to everyone else – appealed to me. All around, Quakerism seemed a good “Middle Way.”

I was active in the Meeting until I moved away in 2000. Shortly after I re-located, I found Adyashanti – and he undid my world. Undid and remade and everything else that there are no words for. So Adyashanti's teachings became my new “Middle Way.” I call it this because Adya never studied Zen in Japan – and neither did his teacher – but he did come from a Zen lineage. As a third generation teacher, though, he felt free to innovate – and he did. In the beginning, he called the talks he gave “Zen-Satsang” because the content was often Zen-like, but the format was in the Nondual tradition of India – and specifically of Advaita Vedanta: a talk and then questions from students. This worked for me: no arduous practices – no need to do anything but just sit and let the energy wash over me.

Through all of those years, I wondered if I could still call myself a Quaker – or whether I should resign from the Meeting which I was, in any case, no longer close enough to geographically to attend except very occasionally. When I did get there, it had been so long that many people didn't recognize me anymore. Still, I have kept my membership, and so I get the monthly newsletter.

In the November 2014 newsletter I just received, there is a quotation from John Woolman, a well-known 19th century Quaker: “To turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of Universal Love becomes the business of our lives.” When I read this, I thought, “This is why I'm still a Quaker – this is a tradition that really does still speak to me.”

After years of Adyashanti, I no longer feel the need of him in the way I once did – which is fortunate because he rarely comes around to my town anymore. But there's one area where I've still felt like something was missing. It is said that there is a Universal Love that one comes to manifest when spiritually awake. I kept waiting: where was it? Last year, I was at a five-day retreat of another teacher, Pamela Wilson, and when I emerged, the love was so palpable – I went to the grocery store and loved everyone I saw there! (I probably wrote about that here if anyone wants to go back and look at the summer 2013 posts.) But it quickly faded.

Now, recently, I've become part of a leaderless nondual spiritual group which I initiated. It's the fulfillment of my dream of a non-hierarchical spiritual path. After a bumpy start finding our way, the group has turned into a fount of love. But it doesn't feel like I always expected love to look, and I think that's why I've been missing it all along. So, I've been asking myself how it is different and the answer I'm coming up with is that it isn't self-conscious. We usually think, “I love him (or her, or everyone)” But what if that secondary thought is absent? What if thought is absent from the experience entirely? Then love is something else. Certainly not sentimental, certainly not self-absorbed.

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