Image Credit: Darrell Hargett
Albert Einstein; the great physicist said, "Time is the fourth Dimension," Vedas say that "Time is the first dimension." In the beginning there was nothing. This concept of "nothing" is beyond the comprehension of ordinary human mind! It is so because before the concept of time there was absolutely nothing which is known as the "Shoonya" or ‘Zero’ or complete silence. Only the yogis who have attained "Nir Vikalpa Samadhi" state can experience this "nothing" and none else can. It is a state beyond time or "timeless state."
Vedas say that from this nothing originated vibration known as the "Pranava" or the sound ‘AUM’. From this sound there emerged five symbolic instruments of creation of universe. These were known as the Five "Tan matras". From the Tan matras came five primordial forces called Space and Time, Atmosphere, Light, Fire, Liquids, and finally the solidification of all. The mixing of these forces resulted in creation of the universes, as we know it now. It is an accepted scientific fact that even the universes are time bound. The theory of relativity; so called because all facts are related to time, speaks of speed in relation to time.
Vedas speak time as the limiting factor for all creation. Every thing is time bound. So the question came as to what is the scale of time? The Vedic seers, who are known as the Rishis, Maha Rishis, Brahma Rishis and Deva Rishis according to their knowledge of time and creation, have equated "Time" in relation to the age of Brahma the agent of creation. His age is 100 years in a special time scale. Note: Brahma is the name of the creative agent which should not be confused with "Brahman" the Timeless primordial force behind all creation.
The Rishis found that as far as the earth and the life in it are concerned the motion around the Sun is enough as a time scale for knowing the changes which would occur with the movement of the earth in relation to the Sun. They also found other celestial bodies like the Moon, Mars, Mercury; Jupiter, Venus and Saturn cast their influence on the earth. The seers also advised that every action must produce a reaction which comes back to the source of its origin in due cycle of time. The word "Karma" means action. Newton’s third law of motion is based on this concept.
The Planets were found to be the best guides as to the type of forthcoming reaction good or bad in the moving time scale. Thus was born the science of Vedic astrology, which is known as "Jyotisha" or ‘illuminator’ in Sanskrit. Vedas are knowledge taught by teacher to disciple through the medium of sound. They cannot be learnt by reading or memorizing. An ordinary example can be cited to illustrate the point. Ordinary "Yes" means I accept. "Yes? Also means what do you want? ‘Yyeess’ means I have my doubts, ‘Yus’ mean’s reluctant acceptance, Yes sir means please tell me and so on.
Astrology is a part of Veda hence it is known as Vedanga (anga means limb). We call it Vedic astrology because it is based on time schedules stipulated in Vedas according to yogic meditational observations of the planets in motion around the sun in relation to the earth and its motions.
Why do odd images suddenly pop into your head for no reason?
You’re walking down the street, just like any other day, when suddenly a memory pops into your head from years ago. It’s about a person you haven’t thought of for years. Just for a moment you’re transported back to a time and place you thought was long forgotten. In a flash, though, the memory has vanished as quickly as it appeared. This experience has been dubbed a ‘mind-pop’ and sometimes it is prompted by nothing your conscious mind is aware of. There is, perhaps, an even weirder type of ‘mind-pop’. This is when all you get is a word or an image which seems to have no connection to anything at all. Like suddenly thinking of the word ‘orange’ or getting the image of a cheese grater. They seem weirder because they feel unconnected to any past experience, place or person—a thought without any autobiographical context.
Not everyone has these experiences, but many do. When psychologists have recorded these involuntary memories, they find that, on average, people have about one a day. They are most likely to occur during routine, habitual activities, like walking down the street, brushing your teeth or getting dressed. They are also more likely to come when your attention is roaming and diffused. Some of these mind-pops can even be traced back to their causes. Here is one psychologist describing some mental detective work "…while throwing a used bag in a dust bin the word “Acapulco” popped up and since she had no idea what it was and where she might have come across the word, she turned to a member of family for help. To her surprise, it was pointed out to her that Acapulco was mentioned on the TV news some 45 minutes ago. This ability to trace a mind-pop back to its source wasn’t an isolated case. When they surveyed people, Kvavilashvili and Mandler found that the words and images that seemed to pop up randomly didn’t actually come from nowhere.
Sometimes it was an associative mind-pop, like being reminded about Christmas and later having the words ‘Jingle Bells’ pop into your head. It could be a sound-a-like, for example having the image of a sandy beach appear after you see a banana (Bahamas sounds like bananas). The fact that many mind-pops could not be traced back to their source is probably the result of how much of our processing is carried out unconsciously. The fascinating thing was that many of these mind-pops occurred weeks or months after exposure to the original trigger. This suggests that these words, images and ideas can lie in wait for a considerable period. Some even think that experiencing mind-pops could be associated with creativity as these apparently random associations can help to solve creative problems.
Mind-pops are another hint that we are recording more information than we know. Fortunately, our minds mostly do a good job of suppressing random thoughts and images, as they can be extremely distracting. So next time you have a mind-pop, remember that, however weird, it has probably been triggered by something you’ve seen, heard or thought about recently, even if you can’t remember what. Of course, why we get these particular ones and not others is still a mystery.
Zazen means “seated meditation.” Zazen is a place of refuge far beneath our everyday involvements, a place where we turn inward for peace, for answers to the deepest questions of life, and for the ability to meet our lives with wisdom, love, and compassion. For twenty-five hundred years the practice of Zen meditation and the essence of Buddhism have been passed from teacher to disciple. The method of this practice is simple and direct. However, like any discipline, knowing of it is not enough; Zazen requires time and effort sitting on the cushion, training the mind, and doing the work that leads to transformation. Zazen brings a state of stable, focused concentration by the act of repeatedly bringing the mind back to the present. Absorption, is the form and method of zazen — the practice of letting go and returning to the present. Cultivating this prevents distraction, but it is not a way to escape or ignore the conditions around us. Zazen happens in and with the world, not apart from it. The result of meditation is an ever deepening experience of openness and serenity in the midst of life.
In Soto Zen, we use the method known as Serene Reflection. The meditation involves staying alert, aware and still, and “just sitting.” It is an objectless method of meditation, simple and straightforward, but radical in its acceptance of conditions. Serene Reflection is profoundly deep when practiced over time. This meditation helps us see our minds clearly, for there is nothing to do but watch how our habit patterns distract us from the present moment. Seeing our mind clearly brings awareness of both the impermanence of everything in the mind — each thought, feeling, pattern, idea — as well as the limitlessness of mind itself, a vast space that lies beneath all the clutter. The practice of Zen is a direct method of finding this place of real truth within ourselves, and learning to function with this wisdom. Within every moment of thought you should see yourself that your fundamental nature is pure. You should cultivate for yourself, practice for yourself, and accomplish for yourself the enlightenment of buddhahood.
Universally recommended instructions for Zazen is the way originally perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent on practice and realization? The true vehicle is self-sufficient. What need is there for special effort? Indeed, the whole body is free from dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice? And yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion. Suppose you are confident in your understanding and rich in enlightenment, gaining the wisdom that knows at a glance, attaining the Way and clarifying the mind, arousing an aspiration to reach for the heavens. You are playing in the entrance way, but you still are short of the vital path of emancipation.
Consider the Buddha, although he was wise at birth, the traces of his six years of upright sitting can yet be seen. As for Bodhidharma, although he had received the mind-seal, his nine years of facing a wall is celebrated still. If even the ancient sages were like this, how can we today dispense with wholehearted practice? Therefore, put aside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest. If you want such a thing, get to work on such a thing immediately.
For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think “good” or “bad.” Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down? At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth and lips together both shut. Always keep your eyes open, and breathe softly through your nose.
Once you have adjusted your posture, take a breath and exhale fully, rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking. Not thinking—what kind of thinking is that? Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen. The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the Dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized, traps and snares can never reach it. If you grasp the point, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains for you must know that the true Dharma appears of itself, so that from the start dullness and distraction are struck aside. When you arise from sitting, move slowly and quietly, calmly and deliberately. Do not rise suddenly or abruptly. In surveying the past, we find that transcendence of both mundane and sacred, and dying while either sitting or standing, have all depended entirely on the power of zazen.
In addition, triggering awakening with a finger, a banner, a needle, or a mallet, and effecting realization with a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout – these cannot be understood by discriminative thinking, much less can they be known through the practice of supernatural power. They must represent conduct beyond seeing and hearing. Are they not a standard prior to knowledge and views? This being the case, intelligence or lack of it is not an issue; make no distinction between the dull and the sharp-witted. If you concentrate your effort single-mindedly, that in itself is wholeheartedly engaging the way. Practice-realization is naturally undefiled. Going forward is, after all, an everyday affair.
In our world and others, in both India and China, all equally hold the buddha-seal. While each lineage expresses its own style, they are all simply devoted to sitting, totally blocked in resolute stability. Although they say that there are ten thousand distinctions and a thousand variations, they just wholeheartedly engage the way in zazen. Why leave behind the seat in your own home to wander in vain through the dusty realms of other lands? If you make one misstep you stumble past what is directly in front of you. You have gained the pivotal opportunity of human form. Do not pass your days and nights in vain. You are taking care of the essential activity of the buddha way. Who would take wasteful delight in the spark from a flint stone? Besides, form and substance are like the dew on the grass, the fortunes of life like a dart of lightning—emptied in an instant, vanished in a flash.
Please, honored followers of Zen, long accustomed to groping for the elephant, do not doubt the true dragon. Devote your energies to the way that points directly to the real thing. Revere the one who has gone beyond learning and is free from effort. Accord with the enlightenment of all the Buddhas; succeed to the samadhi of all the ancestors. Continue to live in such a way, and you will be such a person. The treasure store will open of itself, and you may enjoy it freely.
Throughout my relatively short life – I’m 30– I’ve learned a few fundamental truths that seem to govern our lives. They’re extremely powerful and, to an extent, have changed my life for the better. I can only sit back and ask myself, “What if I learned these things earlier in my life? How amazing would I be now?” They’re that fantastic, and, today, I’m going to share my best life lessons with you.
Be careful who you get close to. I’m not advocating paranoia, but be very careful with who you make your close friends, especially if they have any destructive habits, like addiction. If they’re a control freak, if they have ridiculous mood swings, or if they treat you poorly, do not feel bad about cutting them out of your life entirely. You have to be ruthless in this regard. If you let them get close to you, you’ll get burned – it’s only a matter of time. Be understanding, but when you cut ties with them, do it in an understanding, tactful way and don’t burn bridges if you can. Just distance yourself from them, and don’t have regrets about it – it’s your life, and the company you keep has a tremendous effect on your emotional state.
Your time and energy are finite. Even though I hate to admit it sometimes, I can only do so much. You can too. Choose how you spend your time and energy wisely – if you’re burning out all your energy on something that doesn’t leave much of an impact, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Spend your energy on the necessities and the things that you love the most. That’s it.
Today’s tragedy is tomorrow’s comedy. If you’re going through a rough patch, remind yourself that, at the end of it, you’ll still be alive and nothing totally catastrophic will have happened. Over time, the wounds will heal, and you’ll, at the very least, have an awesome story of survival and perseverance to tell around the proverbial campfire.
Reading is the single best habit you can cultivate. Read everything that interests you – from Wikipedia articles to books. Reading makes you smarter – it helps with your memory, it helps with your writing, and it helps with your speaking skills – all things that are incredibly important. You’ll be exposed to more ideas, and increase the size of your vocabulary. It keeps your brain in great shape. I seriously can’t say enough about it!
Exercise daily. Okay, not really – I’d give yourself one day off per week, but exercising for at least 45 minutes as a general rule per day does wonders for you. You’re not meant to be sitting behind a desk all day – your body is built for movement, and you should use it. Hit the gym. Go for runs. Find some form of exercise that you love and do it as much as you can and, please, don’t give me any excuses about your work schedule – if you want to exercise, you can work it into your schedule. Make it a priority. It makes you feel better, stronger, and more clear-headed. It’s too awesome to ignore.
Keep an open mind and meditate! Just because an idea is foreign or appears ‘wrong’ to you at first glance, don’t dismiss it outright. Sure, you might be right – but you could be wrong too. For example, I initially dismissed meditation as self-delusion, something that kooky yogis sitting in their caves invented as a way to delude the New Agey people who were bowing down to their god, Eckhart Tolle. Not so. As it turns out, I love both Tolle and meditation, after giving them a try at the recommendation of a few people I respect. Meditating is another awesome habit that I make sure to do daily.
Focusing is so powerful. For years, I’ve followed something like this – “Focus + Action = Success.” It’s a pretty great formula. When you focus on what you’re doing fully, instead of multitasking and dividing your attention, you do things much faster and with much better quality. Do what you love. Life‘s too short to sell your soul for money. Don’t do it. Instead, do what makes you feel the most alive and find a way to do it, every single day. If you’re good enough, you might be able to make it into a job. If you can’t, just make it a priority to do it whenever you’re not working.
You have to give in order to receive. If the world isn’t giving you what you want, take a step back and reconsider what you’re adding to the world. If you’re not contributing anything, the world doesn’t owe you anything. Do well, help people out in any way you can, and generate good karma for yourself. If you keep doing it, after a bit, you’ll earn the reward that you’re looking for – but take the time to enjoy the efforts you make to do good.
Have fun with life. It’s too easy to get caught up with work, philosophizing, and money matters. Take a step back and realize that you, quite literally, live for the times when you’re having fun, the times when you’re enjoying yourself. Start making everything fun. Express yourself more often, and, if something amuses you, do it! Don’t hold yourself back from enjoying yourself. To be honest, sometimes, I used to act deliberately unhappy or apathetic because I was afraid of answering people’s questions about why I was in such a good mood. Don’t be like that. Be unabashedly happy.
Be willing to admit when you make a mistake. If you own up to your mistakes and are honest about it, you’ll earn a lot more respect from yourself and the people around you. Admitting that you’ve made a mistake is the first step to getting better, as they say. Along the same lines, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help with something, no matter who they are. If they’re the type of person you want to associate yourself with, they’ll be more than glad to lend you a hand. Realizing that you’re flawed is just a way to realize that you’re human.
Fear holds us back so much, but it is always an illusion crafted by our minds. It makes a very real scenario of failure appear in our heads and replay over and over again, but it’s fake. It’s all in our heads. It doesn’t exist. While the failure that we fear can and does happen some of the time, it doesn’t mean we should obsess over it. Rather, we should let go of the fear and let what will be, be. We can’t let something that’s fake hold us back – press on in spite of fear. Go towards what you fear. This is the single best way to expand your comfort zone and to realize that fear is an illusion. The funny thing is, if you do what you’re scared of enough times, you won’t be scared of it anymore. Do one thing you’re scared of per day if you really want to expand your comfort zone quickly.
Don’t be afraid to stand out. As the saying goes, “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.” Wise words, for sure. Never compromise yourself with the world – be yourself without apology. If people start telling you to stop doing what you’re doing because you’re challenging the status quo, you’re doing something right – keep going. Stop caring about what people think and do what you think is right. Be sovereign and do not let other people stop you from being you. Some people will hate you no matter what; some people will love you for you. If you’re truly being yourself – like full-on authenticity and free expression – you’re going to rub some people the wrong way and you’re going to have haters, wherever you go. It’s a fact of life – you better get used to it now. They just won’t like you, for whatever reason. Like the proverb says, “To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” At the same time, for every person that hates your guts just because you are who you are, there will be ten people not a scientific figure who absolutely adores you for who you are. Surround yourself with the people that love you, but listen to some criticism from time to time to keep you grounded.
Savor the challenges that life gives you. They’re an opportunity for you to enjoy yourself and put your skills – whatever they may be – to use. Don’t shrink from them – welcome them. The fuzzy feeling of fear that you get before you’re met with the challenge is actually adrenaline. Get excited about them rather than trying to avoid it. As they say, what you resist; persists. Make an impact. Focus more on making an impact and doing things that matter instead of useless busywork. You can be busy all day, but not be getting anything of value done. Put your whole heart behind what you’re doing instead of holding yourself back, and remember that your mission, no matter what your job is, is to change lives for the better. That’s what you get paid for, ladies and gents. Remember that, and act accordingly.
Things go in cycles both bad and good. We live cyclical lives. We get rolling on good streaks, then we hit a rough patch, then we break free and turn things around, only to hit bottom again… It goes on and on. The trick is to try and make the good parts last as long as possible while minimizing the bad parts. However, don’t resist the bad. Just try to regroup and bounce back by doing what made you feel and perform so well in the first place.
People make mistakes all the time, and if you show them a bit of forgiveness, people will smile upon you when you make your mistakes. You wouldn’t yell at fire for burning you, would you? Even though mistakes can be avoided, they can’t when they’ve already been committed. Let go of the need to chastise people. Change is a fact of life; you can resist it all you want, but you won’t be doing yourself any good. However, if you adapt, you’ll be much better off than the people who try to go against the flow of nature. You can’t change the change; you can only decide to go with the flow or not. Don’t resist. Let go, and let the change be what it is. It may hurt you for a bit, but you’ll get used to it in time.
You can feel happy all the time, if you choose. Ultimately, your emotional state at any given time is a conscious choice. You can either choose to focus on all the things that get you upset and flush your mood down the emotional toilet, or you can focus on the positives in life and feel happy nearly all the time, for no apparent reason. You can be happy by just being you – but you have to realize that first. Do what makes you happy, say what makes you happy, and think what makes you happy as much as possible, and you’ll soon find that you actually feel happy. It’s all your choice.
Any life lessons I missed? I know I missed a bunch, but these are my favorites…