All posts by Robert Rabbin

Radical Sages

By Robert Rabbin | May 30, 2005 | Leave a comment

I have always been one of those people who believe they are in this world for a particular purpose. The poet Rumi said something along these lines: There is one thing that we all must do. If we do everything else but that one thing, we will be lost. And if we do nothing else but that one thing, we will have lived a glorious life. I feel as if these words were encoded in my DNA. I never cared if that one thing would be world-changing, such as discovering penicillin or leading people to freedom like Mahatma Gandhi. It could be modest, even invisible to others. I just wanted to find that one thing which I knew would make all the atoms of my being spin like whirling dervishes entering ecstasy. My whole life has been a treasure hunt whose chest of gold was this one thing.

The exquisite poet Mary Oliver wrote, “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began.” At 54 years of age, I finally knew what I had come here to do, and I have begun. Here is the genesis, the creation story, of Radical Sages, which is what I found in my treasure chest.

Up the Mountain

It is important to say from the outset that I am a lifelong mystic, a person who is intensely interested in “the worthful aspects of reality–its values, meaning, and purpose…” to borrow Huston Smith’s phrase. Mysticism is concerned with the nature of mind, self, and reality; with issues of identity and transconceptual truth; it refers to an individual’s struggle to attain a clear vision of reality and the transformation of consciousness that accompanies such a vision. I write in my essay “If Not Me, Who? If Not Now, When?”:

“When I was 11 years old, I had one of those epiphanies that shape one’s life in unexpected ways. In my case, I developed a restless soul that longed for missing pieces in the puzzle of living: Who am I? What is my purpose? How shall I live? A few years later I took to the road on a spiritual quest, traveling around the world in search of answers to my questions about life and living, reality and truth, meaning and purpose. I spent the next 25 years immersed in various non-dual wisdom traditions, including ten years of study with Swami Muktananda. During those years, I experienced awakenings, realizations, epiphanies, and transcendent bliss beyond the scope of words. One day, my search for existential clarity and wholeness came to an end atop a summit of eternal silence and pure being.”

Radical Sages was conceived during these years of mountain climbing and summit living. My current perspective and opinions are the offspring of this search and rescue mission for my soul, as is my motivation for social renewal and political transformation.

I know that “eternal silence and pure being” sounds ethereal, even vague. Perhaps I can ground it a bit by saying I directly experienced my oneness with all of life and intuitively understood that love best describes the meaning and value of existence. If you stop and think about it, this is a common, maybe the most common, human experience. I will go so far as to say that this experience of unity in love with all things is the prerequisite for authentic human being. It connects us to others and to all of life. It bestows wisdom and humility, love and compassion, tolerance and understanding. From this full heart and mind and overflowing spirit, we behave in ways that are truthful and transparent, in service to all. I have travelled around the world and lived in many countries and cultures. I have not yet met a person who, after some discussion, could not reveal some similar epiphany.

In these same travels, I have come to see how diverse and varied are the ways in which people express this fundamental truth about our unity in love with all existence. In scores of religions and spiritual traditions–large and small, well-known and obscure–people have invented wildly and beautifully different theologies and cosmologies, scriptures and sacred songs, beliefs and commandments, rituals and prayers. They are meant as means to overcome self-centredness and limiting identities and perspectives, to uplift our moral and ethical character, to develop a feeling of unity with others, to realize one’s truest self and role in the great mystery of life.

Each, in its highest expression, will agree that the glittering centrepiece of spiritual achievement is the cultivation and embodiment of love and kindness. And yet, what should be blessings of diversity and tolerance are often tragedies of violence and oppression in which we use the emblems of our unity as weapons to separate, divide, and conquer. We have allowed the “three poisons” described by the Buddha–greed, hatred, and delusion–to overwhelm and obscure our innate unity in love with all things. We have deceived ourselves by darkening the refracted colours of the one light, turning them into harsh distinctions and angry differences. We have forgotten who we are, beneath the beliefs of separation and difference.

The core purpose of Radical Sages is to bring light to this darkness and remembrance to this forgetfulness, and to call forth the highest expression of our common humanity–unity in love with all things–as the medicine for healing our troubled world.

Down the Mountain

Exploring the nature of mind, self, and reality often takes us into higher and subtler planes of existence, where we can lose touch with the physical world and the dramas of everyday life. Many religions and spiritual traditions place spiritual above material, creating a false hierarchy and pitting Soul against World in a struggle for supremacy. This misconception has helped to create the common stereotype of a mystic or sage as an aloof witness to the world. In fact, I was a poster boy for this image for 25 years.

But I have learned the greater purpose of inner spiritual work: to unite spiritual wisdom with committed action, to be passionate advocates for peace, freedom, and social justice–in the world.

In Little Gidding, T. S. Eliot writes, “The end is where we start from.” I came to one end, only to find myself at another, wholly unexpected, beginning. I started a new life in which another restless spirit began moving through my fullness and wholeness. I experienced a new passion and deep hunger to fully engage the world around me, the world I had neglected during years of inward-focused meditation. This world, from which I had sought to escape, had become beautiful, enchanting, and compelling. This wondrous world–full of complexity, chaos, and contradiction–is all the proof one needs of transcendent spirit and mystery. I’ve discovered this world is my world; I belong to it and it belongs to me. This world is my body, and my body is this world.

This awakening to the practical implications of “oneness” was a long time coming for me. I was addicted to self-transcendence, to a kind of medicated meditative lifestyle in which I allowed my feeling for the world–my caring and passion and enthusiasm for life and for living–to be numbed by too much witnessing and watching, and not enough acting. Not enough loving.

In a series of experiences, which I won’t recount here, I came to a true unity with life, a unity in which dissociative tendencies and emotional neutrality disappeared. I realized I had never been separate or estranged from the source of life and consciousness. It seemed then, as it does now, that the greatest truth and the highest expression of our common humanity is to embody and consciously demonstrate our unity in love. It took me a long time to understand Dr. Smith’s pithy pronouncement, “The goal is not altered states, but altered traits.”

In the Valley

Shortly after my teacher, with whom I had studied for 10 years, died in 1982, I began to make my own way in the world, trying to live as a mystic in a materialistic world. Through a series of seeming serendipitous events, I became a leadership coach and consultant. My clients were mainly senior executives in corporations. My role as a “clarity coach” was to enhance their awareness of themselves and their relationships, and to improve their leadership and communication skills. I enjoyed my work, and yet I felt a malaise within my true heart. Something was out of kilter with either the what or the how of my work, because I was leaking life force. I was becoming spiritually depressed. I did what I always do when feeling blocked, conflicted, or out of alignment: I went inward. I went on a week-long vision quest in Mexico to meet with silence, my word for that inner knowing about which Mahatma Gandhi said, “The only tyrant I accept in the world is the still small voice within me.”

On the fourth day of meditation, the unmistakable voice of silence spoke wordlessly and unequivocally: Teach the mysticism you know to leaders. My initial reaction was terror; 15 years ago words like “spirit” and “soul” had barely found their way into the business lexicon, let alone a word like mysticism! I felt this would be too hard and that I would die of ridicule and starvation. Do it, said the voice, and you will be guided. It is your path. Teach the essence of hamsa to world leaders. Don’t worry.

Hamsa is a Sanskrit word which means “supreme transcendent wisdom.” Hamsa is a mantra that signifies our unity with that consciousness which pervades every atom of this universe and connects all living beings. I was supposed to talk in corporate boardrooms about this? I knew that I would be required to encounter my every fear, insecurity, doubt, and pretense.

Returning from Mexico, I founded the Hamsa Institute. A few weeks later, I delivered a talk, agreed upon before my trip, to the legal affairs department of a billion dollar pharmaceutical company. As I was unpacking my briefcase, the head of the department asked for my card. Returning to his seat, he looked at it, now with the word hamsa on it, and asked, “What the hell does hamsa mean?”

This is it, I thought. They’re going to throw me out on my ass. I actually began putting my notes back in my briefcase. “Hamsa,” I said, “means supreme, transcendent wisdom.” The attorney’s face tensed and his head fell forward into his hands. He shook his head from side to side. I closed my briefcase and prepared to leave. He looked up.

“My God,” he sighed, “do we ever need some of that around here.” Thus encouraged, I spent the next decade instigating conversations about spirit, soul, and wisdom with corporate clients.

Then came the shattering morning of 9/11/01. It was as if the planes had crashed into my soul, leaving it wrecked, sad, and sorrowful. In response, I wrote “A Call for Peace,” giving voice to my grief and my hope for a response from our government that would not precipitate more violence and destruction. A deeper awareness of the connection between spiritual awareness and social events opened within me. I began writing more articles of a “political” nature. I was dismayed at the militaristic responses of America, saddened that the wise legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi went unheeded. During our bombardment of Baghdad, I felt as if the missiles were exploding in my own body. Suddenly, my every cell awoke to the true meaning of what I had first learned decades ago in India: tat tvam asi, Thou Art That–all of existence is connected. Every spasm of violence, each shattered life and moments of horror were happening inside me. It was not something I could hide from or ignore. My being, my body, had grown as big as the world.

I was taken by an urgency to heal the pain “out there: in the same way I had, years before, sought to heal inner, personal pain.

I began to write and speak about engaged spirituality, about taking responsibility for the condition of our world and carrying spiritual wisdom from the meditation halls into the world. I realized that we risk a kind of social apathy in our search for personal enlightenment. It can be quite hip in spiritual circles to seem to be the lotus rising above the mud, even though the lotus needs the muddy water in order to live!

My new beginning is summed up in these words from Kabbalah: “First we receive the light, then we impart it. Thus we repair the world.” Imparting the light requires great things of us: authenticity, honesty, courage, determination, empathy, personal responsibility, and commitment. Repairing the world requires that we add responsibility to realization, caring to love, and action to insight.

I wrote an article in 2003 that received worldwide distribution through the internet, “Mr. Bush: I’m Coming for You.” I received hundreds of emails in support, but one in particular touched my core. He wrote: What are you going to do?

A few months later, I had my answer: TruthForPresident.org, a newswire whose purpose was to elevate the political dialogue and consciousness in this country. I wanted to influence the coverage of the national media, to inspire the American public, to spotlight people, policies, and events that would help renew our world through principles of universal wisdom. I distributed dozens of under-reported stories and editorials to the national news media, political policy makers, and cultural thought leaders. That project morphed to include an online spiritual activism resource, whose purpose was to inspire and mobilize yoga, meditation, and spiritual communities to participate in the electoral process.

I thought TruthForPresident would last seven months, from its March 2004 launch through the presidential election. I was wrong. The task of renewing society to reflect the heart of wisdom is not an election year project: it is a lifelong project.

We need nothing less than a gargantuan, spirit-based, wisdom-infused holy mass of activist leaders to elevate the social and political dialogue and consciousness in America, and to influence all aspects of cultural life and public policy legislation.

Which brings us knocking on the front door of Radical Sages…an evolution of spiritual action.

The Problem

I cannot more succinctly define the cause of personal, interpersonal, and planetary confusion, sadness, and mayhem than the 15th century Indian mystic and poet, Kabir:

“We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves birds and animals and the ants–perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in your mother’s womb. Is it logical you would be walking around entirely orphaned now? The truth is you turned away yourself, and decided to go into the dark alone. You have forgotten what you once knew, and that’s why everything you do has some weird failure in it.”

Weird failures are proliferating at a fearsome rate. The philosopher J. Krishnamurti once said, “The crisis is not out there in the world; it is in our own consciousness.” It is self-evident that the outer, cultural world in which we live is a direct manifestation of our inner world of beliefs, attitudes, and values–all of which determine and drive our actions. Consider this astounding information from Dr. Helen Caldicott, in her 2002 book, The New Nuclear Danger:

“Globally, the annual military expenditure stands at 780 billion dollars. The total amount required to provide global health care, eliminate starvation and malnutrition, provide clean water and shelter for all, remove land mines, eliminate nuclear weapons, stop deforestation, prevent global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain, retire the paralyzing debt of developing nations, prevent soil erosion, produce safe, clean energy, stop overpopulation, and eliminate illiteracy is only one third that amount–237.5 billion dollars.”

Is this not a weird failure? Is this not a horrific indictment of our collective consciousness? Albert Einstein tells us, “We cannot solve the problems of the world from the same level of consciousness that created them.”

We are now and urgently called by our past actions to raise our consciousness, to expand our awareness, to elevate our humanity–one by one and all together. We have no choice but to remember what we once knew: to remember our essential unity in love with each other and with all of creation. We have no choice but to rainmake a monsoon of wisdom and love to flood the world.

The Solution

The crux of wisdom is the experience of Oneness. It is the most salient fact of the mystical experience and it is universally true. We each exist as expressions of the same fundamental reality. We are each unique expressions, yes, but of the same essence. We all belong to the same family. My blood is the same as yours, my heart is the same as yours, my body is the same as yours. We seem to stand apart from each other, but our essence is one. We seem to be different, but we are all parts of a whole. The one truth that the wisdom-keepers of the world teach is that the entire universe is a living manifestation of love. They mean that this visible, physical world is a flower whose invisible roots of love reach all the way to the center of the universe, and back again, winding around and through everything, a moving, flowing root system–like a current–warm and alive, nourishing all that lives. However much the sages of the world may disagree on certain matters, whatever their various names and descriptions for God, in spite of their contrasting stories and myths of creation–on this point they all agree: The highest knowledge, the greatest enlightenment, the supreme achievement of the human spirit is contained in this one truth: Love. Love is the very soul of existence. To know this, to speak this, to live this is to embody universal truth.

Naturally, whatever any one part does touches and affects the whole. We are wrong to think that we do not affect the whole. Every thought, every word, every slight touch of our hand sends energetic impulses racing outward on the trillions of strands of connective tissue that enfolds us all in the One. Whatever we do to ourselves, we do to each other as each action is a stone thrown into the pond of our common existence. Within minutes, or hours, or days we will feel the ripples of our actions wash over everything. This is why we cannot war our way to peace, because the killing keeps coming back. We have to wage peace, not war. And then peace will keep coming back.

The purpose of life is to realize, consciously, that we are the embodiments of love. We all know this. Though we may have forgotten or ignored it, what we once knew can be known again, right now. We have only to enter our heart to remember who we are.

I entered my heart, and I remembered what I once knew. I saw the light and felt the peace of each thing. And love, such love, the kind of love that dissolves all fear and separation and anger poured in from some invisible place. The kind of love that fills us with forgiveness and peace and compassion. The kind of love that turns us into lovers of the beauty and mystery of life, worshipers of the indomitable light and presence of the creative source of the universe.

Every human being wants to touch and taste the same happiness, the same goodness. And so we are all joined together, we are all as one in our desire for happiness and wholeness and love. This is ours, from the beginning. This is what I remember, this is what I know, this is what my heart teaches me: all things are sacred; do not harm or kill others; do not pollute natural beauty.

Love created this universe and it is the nourishing nectar of all creation. Love is heart and pulse, yes; but love is tendon, too, in that it binds all existence together into one body. All of creation comes from love, is sustained by love, and returns to love.

As the embodiments of love, how shall we live? What shall we do and what shall we not do? How shall we demonstrate what we know, deep in our heart? How are we to make visible in this world what moves silently within us all?

The Work

There is pain in the world. There is violence and war, despair and hopelessness, poverty and hunger, oppression and fear, pollution and degradation. Things are very unstable. We have to work together to make this situation better. We have to stabilize and beautify the world. It is the work we are meant to do.

The world is begging to be healed of violence, brutality, and greed. Let this be our project. We cannot use our spirituality as a shield from social life and responsibility, nor be afraid to put our spiritual hands into the earth of committed action for social change. We cannot let national identities, religious dogma, or political ideology corrupt the higher knowing of our heart. Can we rise above the self-created tyrannies of our times–nationalism, racism, militarism, sexism, corporatism–to establish just societies in which all people, indeed all living creatures and the Earth herself, may live in harmony and peace?

Let us come together as one and work with our whole being, with all our power, beauty, and tenderness; with all our heart, strength, and resolve. Let us start now, right now, this very minute, to heal our world.

Radical Sages

Radical Sages see inner spiritual work and transformational social action as inseparable. We understand that wisdom is both insight and action. We know that just as a flower is not separate from its fragrance, the inner and outer worlds are not separate. We cannot have inner freedom if there is no freedom in the world. We cannot have inner peace if there is no peace in the world. We cannot have inner love if there is no love in the world.

  • Radical Sages consciously actualize their inner knowing and most sacred values in real and telling ways.
  • Radical Sages participate wholeheartedly in social and political life: they embody wisdom and compassion while acting with strength, purpose, and resolve.
  • Radical Sages express universal wisdom as passionate advocates for peace, freedom, and social justice–for all people. Our philosophy of universal wisdom is rooted in the awareness that all life is sacred and shares a common essence; and that all people desire and are entitled to a life of freedom and dignity, peace and well-being, social justice and generosity, love and kindness.
  • Radical Sages’ vision of social and political renewal is a natural expression of experiencing our unity in love with all of creation.

What we do now, individually and collectively, will lead our world down one path or another. Our every thought, word, and action holds the power to create or destroy. In the simplest of terms, our choices are between the paths of war and peace, between violence and nonviolence, between hatred and understanding, between fear and love, between retribution and reconciliation, between aggression and restraint. We must aspire to greatness. The stakes have never been higher, and we have no margin for error. Let us remember that this world belongs to us, the people, not to governments, corporations, or special interest groups; and we must exercise our full right of ownership with our very best self and highest wisdom.

The French novelist Emile Zola once said, “If you ask me why I came to this Earth, I’ll tell you: I came to live out loud.” So, it turns out, have I.

I urge you to shout at the top of your lungs the pure truth of your heart, to let the highest expression of your human being roar throughout the land and reverberate throughout the world. “Every community,” said civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, “needs a group of angelic troublemakers.” I invite you to participate in this global evolution of spiritual action.

I invite you to be a Radical Sage.

Robert Rabbin is a San Francisco-based writer and speaker. He is the author of numerous books and articles, and the founder of Radical Sages, an online hub of global spiritual activism. For more more information, please visit www.radicalsages.com.
© Robert Rabbin/All Rights Reserved/2005


Soul at Work

By Robert Rabbin | January 20, 2005 | Leave a comment

We all want to enhance our experience of work and enrich our work environments with meaning and purpose, vision and values, creativity and inspiration, joy and deep human connection. How do we do this? Let’s look inside our own self, into our own soul, for guidance.

If we’re going to use the word soul in a business context, we’d better define it, we’d better understand it’s meaning clearly. Otherwise, this single word–so often thought of as abstract, esoteric, and impractical–will probably create much confusion, doubt, and maybe even cynicism. Let me tell you what I mean by soul, and how I think it relates to our work lives in very practical and useful ways.

There are many definitions of soul, some more precise than others, according to various religious, spiritual, and metaphysical belief systems, varying from culture to culture. I use the words spirit and soul in the same way and to mean the vital principle or animating force within living beings.

I use the word soul poetically and metaphorically, to evoke a dimension of living which opens before us from time to time with such compelling force that we fall to our knees in silence and awe and gratitude. Soul refers to those gorgeous moments of self-transcendence, of love, of joy, of communion with the whole of existence in which we find ourselves intimately connected to everything and everyone.

When these disruptions to our conventional way of living occur, the mask of appearances falls away, and we see something profound about life. We experience something that is timeless. It’s beyond words, and the mind hardly grasps it. In these moments, a new perspective appears.

Let’s go into this a bit deeper and see what this soul perspective implies for us. Take a moment to please remember a time when you experienced an awakening to the fuller and deeper meaning of being alive. Try to remember a time in which you were lifted by the hand of grace into a feeling of unconditional joy, abundance, and generosity. In this remembrance and from this perspective, what does soulful living mean in the context of our work? What are the implications of soul?

The soul implies a real and living connection to others. Recognizing this connection with others means that we must treat others with respect, kindness, compassion, and dignity. Who would not like to be treated in this manner?

Soul implies beauty. This means that our actions must preserve the natural beauty of life in all its manifestations. Recognizing the natural beauty of life, we will not destroy, pollute, defile, or degrade anything. This is certainly a sound principle to guide us in our business strategies and decisions, isn’t it?

Soul implies truth. This means we must speak the truth, we must be accountable for our actions, and we must be straightforward in our dealings with each other and with the communities of which we are a part. Recognizing this, we are bound to be honest and transparent in our actions and intentions. This is how business organizations can claim an honourable place in society.

Soul implies balance and harmony. This means we must keep our priorities in order and give equal time to our own personal growth, to our families, to our communities–to those pursuits and activities that enrich our whole life. Recognizing the need for balance, we will not be compulsive or greedy, we will not sacrifice the integrity of this moment for a future promise. This will keep us sane and healthy.

Soul implies universality. This means that we are all shareholders in certain basic values. What do we all want? We all want to be appreciated, to be accepted, to make a positive contribution to others. We want to feel that our lives and our labours make a positive difference. We want to give, to serve, to be the reason for someone else’s happiness and well-being. A popular bumper sticker reminds us to serve others in these words: Practice random acts of kindness.

Soul implies inspiration and deep passion. This means that we live and work from our hearts, from what we truly love. If we follow our hearts to work, we will not need to be motivated by some cheap management trick to give our best effort. Our heart will always ask us to give our best, for the sake of love and passion. We will not need to be bribed. Enthusiasm, cooperation, and commitment are the hallmarks of a heartfelt life. Is there anything we could not accomplish, together, working from and with our hearts?

Soul implies joy. This means that we work from joy, with joy, and towards joy. This is not a Pollyanna principle, because I think that everything we do in life is for the sake of joy. Let’s be honest about it: no one likes to work in an environment of tedium, depression, and sadness. Let joy be our standard: if joy is present, we are doing things right, and doing things well. If not, we are doing things wrong, and we should stop and figure out how to get back on track. Can you imagine a performance review whose only question was: Please rate the amount of joy you experienced on the job, on a scale of one to 10.

Soul implies going beyond conventional boundaries. This means we should always feel free to risk new ideas, new approaches to old problems. This means we should develop our minds and bodies and spirits so that they shine with creativity and innovation. Recognizing this, we would welcome boldness, diversity, and initiative. We would be open to continuous learning and growth; and not just for the sake of profit, but for the sake of being human beings. I hope that we are all growing in self-awareness each day.

Soul implies clarity and awareness This means that we speak and act mindfully. Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of our true motives and intentions. It is a balanced alignment among thought, word, and action. Mindfulness means to be deeply in touch with our thoughts and emotions every moment. Mindfulness means that we are able to see what is actually happening around us, and to not be confused or misled by our own projected fantasies and ideas of what is happening. Being mindful implies a commitment to an ongoing process of self-inquiry, of discovery, of illuminating the unlit aspects of our subconscious that often drive us without our knowing it.

These are some of the things I mean by soul, and some of the implications of soul in the workplace. I do not presume to be the authority in this; I do not want you to think I am laying down an exact formula. But if we continue this line of inquiry in our respective work places, I believe we will open up great and wonderful possibilities. I believe any organization that encourages such a dialogue will stand at the very forefront of meaningful change and progress. I believe that such organizations will be known as much for what they do as how they do it; such organizations will be known as much for their products and services as for their ethics, values, and principles.

Liberating and nourishing the human soul within the workplace is a gift the world sorely needs at this time. Please be generous in your giving.

I’d like to leave you with a few questions to ponder, perhaps to discuss with others: What is your definition of “soul”? Is this definition based on what others have told you, on what you have read, or from your own direct experience? Does your awareness of soul guide your choices and decisions in life? Have you ever had a conversation about soul with colleagues in the workplace? How do you feel when you are required by your job to say or do something that runs counter to the knowing of your soul? How do you reconcile this? What fears come up when you consider being truly authentic and congruent with your soul’s wisdom? How do you deal with them?

Robert Rabbin is a San Francisco-based writer and speaker. He is the author of numerous books and articles, and the founder of Radical Sages, an online hub of global spiritual activism. For more more information, please visit www.radicalsages.com.

©Robert Rabbin/All Rights Reserved/2004


Six Principles of Authentic Living

By Robert Rabbin | November 17, 2004 | 1 comment

A few years ago, I was invited to give a commencement speech to a group of students at a California high school. That honour remains one of my favourite speaking experiences. I believe what I said then and there is pertinent to all of us, even today. As we set sail from 2004 to 2005, I’d like to offer it as my Holiday and New Year blessing of good wishes.

Mahatma Gandhi was approached one day by a woman and her young son. She asked, “Mahatma, can you please tell my son to stop eating sugar. It’s not good for him, and he won’t listen to me. He respects you, and I know he will listen to you.”

The Mahatma said, “Fine. Come back in a week.”

A week later, the woman and her son came back. The Mahatma said, “I’m not quite ready. Please come back in another week.”

Another week went by, and the woman came back with her son. The Mahatma was ready, and he said, “Son, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for you.”

The woman was pleased, but also a bit confused. She said, “Why did it take you so long to say such a simple thing.”

The Mahatma replied, “When you first came to me, I had not stopped eating sugar myself.”

The moral of the story is clear: Don’t tell people to do things you haven’t done yourself. So, I don’t want to write about things I haven’t tried and tested myself, and I don’t want to tell you a bunch of nonsense I don’t believe in.

What I can do, though, is to share what I’ve learned about life, in the hope I will say something that will be useful to you. I’m going to write briefly about six principles that represent what I’ve learned over the past thirty years since I graduated high school, based purely on my own experiments in living. I try to practice these six principles every day, and I like to think these principles are a tree whose fruits are an honourable life, which is what I wish for you.

The first principle is: Live your own life. It would be a shame to get to the end of your life–and who knows when that time will come–only to discover in the last moment that you did not live your life, but the life that someone else wanted you to live. It takes a lot of strength and courage to live your own life, because so many people want you to live their idea of what your life should be.

But they are not you, and their values and goals and dreams are theirs, not yours. Only you are you, so find out who you are and how you want to live and what you want to do. Take as much time as you need to do this. Don’t be afraid of changing your mind or of making mistakes, because these are part of the journey of living your own life. Explore different paths, keep learning and growing, and don’t be afraid of wandering off into the unknown, because that wilderness is where great people are born.

My older brother and I took different paths after high school. He went to college, got married, had two kids, went to law school and became a lawyer. Following my heart, I traveled around the world and lived in Europe, the Middle East, and India. I had a lot of adventures, most of which were X- rated, while he had a lot of adventures that were more PG-rated. To this day, I am not a lawyer and I am not married and I don’t have two kids. I don’t even have a dog. Come to think of it, I don’t even have a house plant. Never mind: different strokes for different folks.

However, my brother and I are friends, and we share what we have each learned and thus we enrich each other’s lives. My brother was not wrong, and neither was I. We each followed the true path of our own life. Though our paths and lives are different, we enjoy and share the same passion for authentic living. In a word, we are each happy, which is what I hope you will be.

And remember: houses, cars, boats, and big bank accounts are not who you are, they are just things you own. Who you are has more to do with character and integrity, and how you treat people, and whether or not you love what you do.

The second principle is: Be persistent. Don’t give up. Keep building your dream, whatever it is. Imagine how many difficulties Noah must have had when he started to build his ark. I’m sure he maxed out his credit cards and borrowed even more money from anyone who would lend him some. He had to work weekends, and vacations were definitely out. People laughed and thought he was crazy. Still, he stuck with it, and history tells us that Noah had the last laugh.

Thomas Edison racked up over 10,000 failed experiments before he invented the light bulb. Be persistent, but also be flexible. Flexibility allows us to learn from our mistakes, and to learn from others.

Persistence means to just keep at it, and flexibility means to embrace change when necessary.

The third principle is: Respect other people, especially those people you don’t like or who are so different from you that you are sure they come from another galaxy. A Buddhist version of this principle might be: do no harm. The Buddha used to say this all the time: do no harm. Instead of saying “Hi” or “How are you?” he would say “Do no harm.”

Respecting other people invites them to respect you. If you do no harm to others, and others do no harm to you, can you imagine what a lovely planet this would be?

The fourth principle is: Express gratitude and appreciation to everyone every day. This is a hard one for me, because I tend to be self-absorbed, and I forget to acknowledge other people. But for anyone reading this who has experienced the sudden loss of a loved one, you know what I mean. The first thing that comes to our mind is: “I never said ‘I love you.’”

Expressing gratitude and appreciation is a form of saying “I love you,” which is a form of respect. It only takes a moment, but it makes all the difference in the world. This is how we create heaven on earth.

For example, around you are the teachers who have given their very best effort, day after day, year after year, to help you, to teach you, to care for you. You may never see them again. Wouldn’t it be fun to go to each one and say, “Thank you for all you have done and tried to do to make me a better person. I love you.” I know you would have friends for life, and you would feel great.

You could also say this to your parents as you leave home for college, or wherever else you may be heading. I know they would be deeply appreciative.

The fifth principle is: Now is the only time there is. Make now count. It’s fine to plan ahead, to set goals, and to wonder about where you want to be in five or ten years. But life is unpredictable, and in five years you might be worm food. I hope not, but you never know. Even as you look ahead and plan ahead, make sure your feet, head, and heart are planted firmly in now, this minute, because that is all we have. There are no guarantees about tomorrow.

This moment is where we live our unique life, where we demonstrate who we are. Be your very best in this moment. Face your fears in this moment. Speak the truth of your heart in this moment. Live from the depths of your soul in this moment. If you do, tomorrow and the day after will exceed your wildest dreams.

The sixth, and final, principle is: Don’t become cynical and selfish. I know there are a lot of things wrong in our world, and that we all face an uncertain future. It may seem that we can’t change things, or that the world is not our business. But the world is our business, and we can change things. Don’t cop out, stay involved, be heard. Stand up for righteousness and justice for all.

Take care of yourself and your families, but also make a contribution to others. Find a way to be of service to your community, and to the world in which we live. We should all pitch in and make this Earth a better place for our children, and for their children, and for theirs. Keep a positive outlook, be optimistic, and help those less fortunate than you. And, of course, always, always be kind to children.

So, that’s it. I’ve just given you my best pitch. I know you will develop your own principles of living as the years roll by, but maybe something I’ve said will help you along your way. You should be very proud of yourselves. You have worked hard and you have achieved much. I sincerely applaud each and every one of you, and I wish that you all have magnificent and honorable lives.

Thank you, and good luck.

Robert Rabbin is a San Francisco-based writer and speaker. Robert is the author of numerous books and articles and the founder of Radical Sages: an evolution of spiritual action. For more more information, please visit www.radicalsages.com.

©Robert Rabbin, All Rights Reserved, 2004


Being Peace

By Robert Rabbin | October 15, 2004 | Leave a comment

“In the hearts of people today there is a deep longing for peace. When the true spirit of peace is thoroughly dominant, it becomes an inner experience with unlimited possibilities. Only when this really happens, when the spirit of peace awakens and takes possession of men’s hearts, can humanity be saved from perishing.”
Albert Schweitzer

“Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”
–Jawaharlal Nehru

The greatest weapon of mass destruction is the attitude of militarism within the human mind. The missiles and bombs from this arsenal are more lethal than anything we could find in trailers and bunkers and silos. However many weapons might be found, however many might be destroyed, ten more will appear for every one that disappears. We will not be safe until the attitude of militarism is dismantled; we will not be safe until the attitude of true peace is created as the rule of law for persons and nations alike.

The human race has come to this precise point in its brief history: change, or perish. There is no middle ground. Weapons of mass destruction are proliferating like toxic clouds within the minds of so many people whose power threatens civilization throughout the world. Change, or perish. Let us change. We already know about militarism; we already know about this barbarism. We do not yet know about peace. So let us learn, and then change.

There is no more urgent question than this: How can I make peace real? How are we to meet violence with nonviolence, to meet war with peace, to meet fear with love, to meet hatred with compassion? How are we to dismantle the attitude of militarism and install the attitude of peace, within our own minds and within the very structure of society? It is, first and foremost, a choice, a decision, a commitment, a stand. In this moment in which the world is trembling and reeling with angry passions and violent convictions, we must call for peace, stand for peace, and act for peace. We must accept only peace. But first, we must become peace itself, not an idea or image of peace, not the rhetoric of peace, but actual peace, the peace in which violence cannot arise, the peace in which the attitude of militarism cannot survive.

We must seek that peace, know that peace, and become that peace. How do we do this? We can do this through understanding, and through reflection, and through empathy. We must understand that we already are peace. It is called the soul, and it is given to all in equal measure as a flame of the Creator’s fire, full of love and joy–this is the soul, and this is peace. Regardless of what our mind may say, regardless of what today’s headlines may say, regardless of what society may say, peace is the essential nature of all human beings. This is the savage irony of our times and of the human condition: within each of us is the loving and peaceful flame of the Creator, and yet we continue to accept violence and war as though they were as natural as sunlight. They are not. They are an aberration, a disease; and the medicine is experiencing the reality of the soul. We cannot kill our way to peace. We cannot bomb our way to safety. We must understand that within the soul of all human beings is peace.

How do we find our way to the soul? How do we live from the soul? We have to reflect deeply on the nature of the mind, we have to reflect deeply on the nature of thoughts and beliefs. Even if this seems unrealistic, we must do this. We must come to know that Silence which waits for us just beneath the ragged surface of the mind. We must sit together in Silence. We must join with others in Silence. We must let Silence illuminate and transform the hateful delusions of demagoguery. This is how we enter the soul. We must learn to be Silent, and from within this Silence we wash ourselves clean of anger, fear, and hatred. And we must question our beliefs about self and other, we must inquire into the origin and nature of anger and retribution, of fear and hostility. We must, in a word, become wise, in the way towering trees are wise, and glaciers, and tides. We must become wise, like deserts and mountains: Silent, profound, majestic.

Entering this Silence is discovering our soul, and from within the infinite beauty of our soul, we know peace, we become peace. We must do this now, today, and tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our lives: for our own sake, and for the sake of our families, our communities, our world.

But do not be fooled: Silence is not passive. Silence is not weak. Silence is not mute. The Silence of which I speak is the mind and heart of the universal soul: it is active, strong, and loud. And it is peaceful. And it is unconquerable. When we become truly peaceful within, we will create peace without.

This is the work that we must all take up, now and for the rest of our days. There is no greater work than this. There is no greater wealth than this. There is no greater philosophy than this. There is no greater security than this. There is no greater justice than this. There is no greater contribution than this. There is no greater truth than this.

You do not have to take my word for it. You know this for yourself. You know it now, resting in your soul, resting in the depths of your being. Here, we find each other. Here, we find our lost love and compassion. Here, in this depth, we find that truth which is beyond differences, beyond dogmas, beyond justifications. It is the universal soul, and its face shines with beauty, with tenderness, with love, with compassion, with forgiveness. But most of all, it shines the same in all, and we must learn to feel this as a living truth.

Our world risks losing this soul, if we do not find it within ourselves and if we do not then stand and move and speak and act in the world with the full weight and measure and power of this soul found again within our own depth of being where the Creator placed it.

Do not be fooled by the shrill voices that call upon your fears and urge you to war, to violence, to brutality. Do not do this. Turn away from this noise and enter the Silence of your soul. Entering this place, then find new mouths and new words, new hands and new actions, new hearts and new compassion. Let the children waiting in celestial realms be suddenly happy at the prospect of coming to Earth.

Let us now resolve to enter the depths of Silence every day, let us resolve to purify our mind and heart in these still waters, let us resolve to wash away all anger and hatred and fear in these still waters, that we may find the peace, the love, the joy that is within us and that we share these soul-treasures freely with one another in friendship and mutual respect.

Let us affirm that we are peace, and knowing that we are peace, let us also affirm that we will stand for peace, speak for peace, and create peace in each hour of each day.

Though there is a great army of those who prefer violence, we must create an even greater army of people who choose peace. Once we find our way into the spiritual heart, into the silence of the soul, into the very mind of God and then into Oneness with all of life — we have no choice but to live in peace.

But we can be strong and active in our love. We can be mighty in our peaceful ways. We can work long and hard to eradicate the true cause of violence, which is poverty of spirit. We must work to enrich our own understanding, to unfurl the flag of peace within our own heart. We must find strength and solace in our own inner light and peace, and then we must spread this light and peace throughout the world in real and telling ways, even dramatic ways.

Robert Rabbin is a writer, speaker, and spiritual activist. He is the author of numerous books and articles, and the creator of TruthForPresident.org, an online spiritual activism center. For contact information, please visit www.robrabbin.com or www.truthforpresident.org.

© 2004/Robert Rabbin/All rights reserved


We Can’t Separate the Inseparable

By Robert Rabbin | October 2, 2004 | Leave a comment

I am a spiritual activist, a person who feels that spiritual practice, study, and wisdom are inseparable from the minutiae of day-to-day living. The German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said, “God is in the details.” This is a wonderful slogan for a spiritual activist. The demonstration of our spiritual work must find expression in our every word, choice, and action. We cannot separate yoga, meditation, and deep spiritual work from living: they are inseparable. We cannot separate the spiritual from the worldly. These are language-based distinctions we use to appreciate various aspects of the great Mystery of existence. It is a tragic conceit to think that yoga, meditation, and spiritual wisdom exist outside daily life. They don’t. A flower and its fragrance cannot be separated, because they are innately inseparable.

Along these lines, I’d like to share an excerpt from a recent email I received, and my response.

“I was initially attracted to you and your mailing list because of, for lack of a better word, spirituality — your clarity and accuracy in issues of the Holy, or God, or the Great Mystery. Recently, however, it seems that everything coming from your direction has been your political and anti-war sentiments.

“While I respect your opinion and your right to speak and email whatever you wish, I would just like to let you know that the more you wander into political territory and away from spirituality, the more you alienate me, and perhaps others, as a ‘fan’ of your work. The more you speak about politics, the more my respect for you evaporates.

“My point in writing this is primarily to say that I have seen other spiritual figures whom I respect and admire look foolish and lose respect when they wander away from their true area of expertise, and begin to think that they are experts not only in matters of the spirit, but in everything else as well.”

As I travel around the country talking with many people, and corresponding with many more, I frequently encounter this point of view. I have been rebuked by some yoga and meditation teachers for circulating “An Open Letter of Conscience and Choice,” for “mixing spirituality and political choice.” I understand this, because I was at one time a poster-boy for this perspective. Perhaps that is why I was so attracted to this letter: it showed me the distance I have traveled in my life and consciousness, from that first step long ago when my kundalini opened like an exploding sun.

I do not believe in such things as “spiritual” and “political” as though they were shoes and beer-bottles. They are just notions in the mind and have life and force only to the extent we empower them. The naming of things is a feature of the mind: its nature is to name and separate one thing from another. Beyond the mind, in the realm of Silence, all things are expressions of one Consciousness and have the same name.

I have never felt that I had any “expertise in matters of spirit.” If anything, 35 years of spiritual practice and study have made me acutely aware of all that I don’t know. I must admit, however, that I have encountered the infinite majesty of the Great Mystery and can confirm that it is aptly named. I also confess to knowing that I am a portion of the Great Mystery and to feeling within my blood the murmurs of a universal heart. In this heart I live as a song of Silence. In this song there are no verses of murder and the mayhem of war. I am not an expert in spiritual or political matters; but I constantly hear the murmur of the universal heart within my blood, telling me that I must pour my heart into this world, that I must live in this world as a strong emblem of love and peace.

My Merriam-Webster dictionary defines politics as “the totality of relationships between people living in society, especially involving power, authority, and influence ” To say that one should refrain from politics is like saying that one should refrain from breathing. It is not possible. From cradle to grave, we exist in relationship. Our very life comes from others. Our food comes from others. Our clothes come from others. We are affected by others, as they are by us. Think of your life: it is nothing but relationship, and each relationship includes negotiations and transactions of power, authority, and influence.

How are we to live in these relationships? To me, this question is of equal weight and importance to “Who am I?” This latter question is often regarded as spiritual, while the former is termed worldly. Nonsense.

During the last few years in America, we seen the growth and popularization of ancient nondual wisdom traditions like Vedanta, Kashmir Shaivism, and Dzogchen. This is good news. However, with popularization comes the danger of distortion. One such distortion lies in thinking that the answer/resolution to the question “Who am I?” represents the summit of Self-Realization. It does not.

“Who am I?” is but half of the true question; the other half is “How shall I live?” The answer/resolution to this true question is the gateway to realized Self-expression.

If one only asks “Who am I?” then one has but one leg, one hand, one eye, and half a heart. I want to be whole, for I am whole. So I also ask, “How shall I live?” Asking this gives me my second leg, second hand, second eye, and whole heart.

“Who am I? How Shall I live?” is really one question, one breath, one path, one realization. Insight and action are one movement; realization and expression are one movement. One cannot separate nondual perception and knowledge from its behavioral corollary. Pure consciousness and the world are not different. Each exists as reflections of the other. Therefore, knowledge and action arise together, just as form and formlessness arise together. The perception of self, other, and world as vibrations of pure consciousness is only the foothills, not the high mountains.

“Who am I?” is the easier part of the koan: I am that which is beyond thought and concept; I am that eternal Silent presence which pervades the entire cosmos and which lives in and as all things.

Okay. Now what? Now comes the hard part: “How shall I live?” Taking up this question with sincerity and commitment is the true beginning of realized Self-expression, the true beginning of spiritual maturity and wisdom. What, in fact, does a life of Oneness look like? How shall I live? From whom and from where shall I receive money? To whom and to what shall I give my money? For whom shall I vote? What car shall I drive? What is my civic responsibility to my community, country, and the world? How much responsibility do I take for the condition of the world, the world of which I am a part?

These are just a few of the questions that one must ask and answer every day. There are many more. What are they? Please spend some time with these questions, let the asking and the listening for answers affect how you live your life. As with “Who am I?” do not be content with first answers. Dig deep. Challenge your beliefs. Challenge what your teachers have told you. Challenge your complacency.

Asking “Who am I?” alone leads only to self-absorption and spiritual narcissism; it does not lead to wisdom or to freedom. In your spiritual practice, if you do not already do so, please begin asking the true and correct question: “Who am I? How shall I live?”

Robert Rabbin is a writer, speaker, and spiritual activist. He is the author of numerous books and articles, and the creator of TruthForPresident.org, an online spiritual activism center. For contact information, please visit www.robrabbin.com or www.truthforpresident.org.

© 2004/Robert Rabbin/All rights reserved