Friday, July 20, 2012

The Spiritual Significance of 2012

     About ten years ago an American monk friend of mine gave me a book by the spiritual teacher Paul Lowe; and in this book the author states the opinion that around the year 2012, at the time of the end of the Mayan calendar, the consciousness of this earth will shift---that an unimaginable heightening of awareness will take place. He also says that there will probably be a fair amount of upheaval and turmoil as the necessary transitions are made, and that more advanced beings, some in human form and some invisible to us, have been arriving on the scene to participate, to help. One other thing he says is that it will be very unpleasant, to say the least, for those who are unready. (This was the first time I remember learning of the Mayan "end of the world.") Paul has some strange ideas, but he also seems to be much more spiritually advanced, much "wiser," than the average person, so I have been receptive to the possibility that what he says is true. In fact one of the many reasons why I came out of the cave in Burma and came back to America last year is to be where the action is and to participate in this shift of consciousness, just in case it actually happens. Since coming back to Bellingham I've had about as many New Age friends and supporters as Buddhist ones, so I have had considerable exposure to the idea of Big Change in 2012.
     I am well aware that there have been many false alarms in the past, going way, way back into ancient times. One of the biggest false alarms began with the ancient Jews, who began prophesying that the world would be destroyed soon, i.e. in ancient times. These prophesies apparently arose out of chronic frustration, as their own earlier prophesies that the Promised Land would never again be occupied by a foreign army after the Babylonian Captivity, and that a Messiah King would lead Israel (or Judea at least) to be foremost among all nations of the earth, were obviously not happening. The early Christians adopted this belief of the immanent destruction of the world (or of secular civilization at least), and most if not all of the founders of Christianity, apparently including Jesus himself, believed that Judgement Day, Doomsday, would come upon the earth within their generation. "This is the final hour." The very last words of the New Testament, and many more before the end, emphatically assert this idea. One reason why Christianity spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire and elsewhere, thus ushering in a new, more heart- and spirit-oriented approach to life in the West, is that the early Christians were so utterly convinced that the End was Nigh that they worried, convinced, and converted others around them. It has been said that the world not coming to an end was one of the most severe blows Christianity ever suffered.
     Another big false alarm occurred in the middle of the 14th century C.E., when the Black Plague swept through Asia and Europe. Many were convinced that God was exterminating the human race in retribution for their sins, and at least one chronicler declared, "This is the end of the world." About one third of the entire earth's population died of plague within a few years, so it really wasn't a bad guess, but still here we are, apparently---presumably even better off than people were in the early 1300's.
     Unreliable reports of spiritual apocalypses have continued to circulate in modern times. Back in early 1994, I think, an Australian monk in all seriousness lent me a booklet entitled "Will the End of the World Come in the Year 1994?" by a man named Harold Camping. The booklet was a summary of a much larger book on the same subject, and in it the author appealed to a mountain of biblical evidence to demonstrate that the world would end in mid-September of the aforementioned fateful year. He was very convinced:
"By God's mercy there are a few months left. However, if this study is accurate, and I believe with all my heart that it is, there will be no extensions in time. There will be no time for second-guessing. When September 1994 arrives, no one else can become saved. Within a few days or weeks the world will end."
I have been told that the worldwide Rapture that was supposed to occur in May of 2011 was predicted by this same person. The trouble is that he started off assuming the absolute infallibility of the Bible; and if the starting assumptions are unsound the final conclusions, no matter how logically they are derived, are not likely to be reliable. 
     So…it is naturally justifiable to wonder how wise were the ancient Mayans, and just how accurate was their calendar with regard to making such predictions as the end of the world, whether it be the planet earth as a whole or the present spiritually opaque World Order. I know very little about the Mayans. Perhaps most of what I know about them came from watching Mel Gibson's extremely violent movie Apocalypto, which shows the Mayans performing the same sort of human sacrifices atop pyramids that the Incas and Aztecs also performed. If it is true that Mayan priests really were chopping off human heads, cutting out beating hearts, and so on, then it would seem less likely that they were wise enough or sophisticated enough to chart the spiritual evolution of the earth into the distant future. Also, it seems a little odd that other cultures that were presumably just as wise did not come up with the same prediction. And furthermore, it seems convenient that the Mayan calendar would end around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year; it seems a very convenient time to end a calendar anyway, and it had to end sometime.
     HOWEVER, there does seem to be a strange spiritual tension or charge in the air nowadays; important physical changes in the earth are happening; and few people with much knowledge and sense can deny that this world is rapidly heading towards a crisis, possibly towards a whole slew of crises, and that the human race simply cannot continue moving in the direction in which it is currently moving. Our spiritually bankrupt consumer culture, which we are promulgating throughout the world, is running at cruising speed towards a brick wall, or a cliff---and either way the result is essentially the same. It seems that the earth is nearing an inevitable Great Change; and Paul Lowe may be correct when he says that more higher beings than usual are among us now, for the purpose of helping us through this change.
     Even if the ancient Mayans were unsound in their calculating or prophesying, this whole idea of their calendar coming to an end, combined with worldly stress and the desire of more and more people of wisdom to create something better, may serve as a valuable "gimmick," a skillful means, a catalyst, for human consciousness to expand, much as the early Christian idea that the End was Nigh helped to catalyze Western culture, except this time on an even bigger scale. All of it may get enough people motivated to try earnestly to wake up that the scales tilt and a major change for the better will take place. If not, it is much more likely that the change will be decidedly for the worse. But change there must be. If the Mayans, Paul Lowe, and the New Age community are right about earth transcending into the next stage, then so much the better. Either way, this year is a great opportunity, and it's definitely worth a shot.
     But if we do want a spiritual revolution on this earth, then WE must participate in it. Just sitting back and leaving it up to others, or clicking on a thumbs up "I Like" button, won't work. There have to be enough of US to tilt the scale. The more of US who are as awake as possible this year, today, now, the more likely that the prophecy will be true and this world will come to be in a transfigured state. 
     In order for US to make a real difference, there are a few simple ideas to consider. First, if we wish to become enlightened, or at least to live spiritually, then waking up must be the top priority in our lives; we may have other priorities also, but waking up must be more important than money, than our career, than our home, than our possessions, than our friends, than other people's opinions, than our reputation, than our family, even than life itself. Recently a friend told me that she had formerly participated in a kind of Buddhist discussion group, and that the question had arisen: If you were guaranteed of enlightenment after five years of renunciation of the world (say, by living in a meditation center, ashram, or hermitage), would you do it? And amazingly, some of the members of the group said No, they had too much commitment to their family, etc., to renounce the world even if enlightenment were assured as a result. What a mind-blowing bargain they would turn down! It would be well worth it even if the five years were spent in Hell. This kind of lukewarmness is certainly not going to lead to a spiritual renaissance on this planet; rather, we may safely expect materialism to have its way, and to do its worst. I have occasionally considered that if a pill were invented with instantaneous enlightenment guaranteed (say, a red one, like in The Matrix), many people, many Buddhists, even many Buddhist monks would run from it as though it were a rabid, demon-possessed snake. Personally, I might be scared to death, but I would have to take the pill. There could be no choice. I hope that does not sound like bragging. That is what this world needs if it is to avoid disaster. 
     Another consideration is that for those who are intent on waking up now there can be no difference between Dharma practice and existence. Going to a retreat every now and then, meditating when one has the time, and reading spiritual books is good, but not enough for enlightenment. What is required is constant self-observation and a willingness to take the initially uncomfortable and scary plunge into stark truth---which generally requires listening to and considering what one doesn't like to hear, and maybe sometimes saying what one doesn't like to say…because it is true. Really, Dharma practice IS existence, but most of us don't notice.
     Another consideration is the idea that anything is possible. It is possible to wake up NOW, with or without "impurities" or "defilements" or "imperfections." But if you insist that you can't do it, then almost certainly you will get your way on the matter. Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours.
     If there are going to be enough spirits who are waking up to form a seed crystal, so to speak, to catalyze this world into the next stage, i.e. the adulthood of the human race, then the old-fashioned way of spirituality---gradually evolving, gradually eliminating defilements year after year or even lifetime after lifetime---may no longer be appropriate. We simply may not have time for that. Besides, the spiritual intensity in the atmosphere nowadays is such that it may not be necessary. Change is happening more easily now. Gradually working out issues from the past, to give an example, is pretty risky anyhow, since if it isn't done very skillfully it can merely reinforce the issue by the person dwelling on it again and again. What is more important now is letting go to what is, knocking down Pink Floyd's wall and letting the world flow through our chest without resistance. The approach is reminiscent of  the advice given by the reluctant Messiah in Richard Bach's lovely book Illusions: "If you really want to remove a cloud from your life, you do not make a big production out of it, you just relax and remove it from your thinking. That's all there is to it." It is a simple matter of letting go, and it IS possible, at any time. If you can't do it for your own sake, do it out of sacred duty, or love of God, or love for the Buddha, or love and compassion for the world, or even love and compassion for your mate. It doesn't matter why you do it, just do it. The world needs you, and besides, waking up is the very end of suffering and delusion, and thus the very best thing you can possibly do anyway (if relaxing and letting go can be called doing something). 
     Since coming back to America a year ago I would guess that the number of people I have met who are really intent on waking up at any cost is maybe three. I know you are out there. There are lots of you out there, although you may feel all alone. The time is NOW. It depends largely upon you, on US. Do the best you can, and that will certainly be good enough. 
     My blessings are upon you, and the blessings of many much greater than the likes of me.

(An old Mayan depiction of a sacrifice)

1 comment:

  1. So, let's say one wanted to jump on the train, make waking up a first priority, and become enlightened.  This sentence seems to describe what you feel is our most important activity:

    What is more important now is letting go to what is, knocking down Pink Floyd's wall and letting the world flow through our chest without resistance. 

    But, with so many other life activities, there seems to be a goal, something to reward us for that activity.  For example, building a career, parenting, digging wells in Africa. In the west, we expect to see positive results from our efforts.  But, with simply 'letting go' there doesn't seem to be a reward for our activity, nothing to show for it.... 

    It just seems odd that not striving for your goal will accomplish it.  Wasn't the Buddha goal-oriented?