“No man from outside can make you free….”

Writing about the University of Göttingen, a university founded in 1734, in “The Ascent of Man”, the mathematician and historian, Jacob Bronowski makes an observation that applies to all places of Learning. Indeed, it is an approach to Learning that that Teachers, and Learners would do well to keep in mind.

“The University is a Mecca to which students come with something less than perfect faith. It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known but to question it.”

In a Talk on 3rd August 1929, J Krishnamurti shocked the many who saw him as the World Teacher. He disbanded the wealthy organization that had been set up over eighteen years as a vehicle for him to preach to the world. Among other things, he says that “the moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth.”

He goes on to tell the large audience that there is just “one essential thing: to set man free….free him from all cages, from all fears.”

“No man from outside can make you free,” Krishnamurti points out, and urges us not to keep creating gods — “new gods instead of the old, new religions instead of the old, new forms instead of the old.”

He exhorts us “look within yourselves for….enlightenment.”

“No one holds it [the key to the Kingdom of Happiness]. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification….of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity.”

In one of his Talks on Bhakti Yoga (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”, Volume 4), Swamiji Vivekananda takes up this this idea and goes deep. “In this matter it is of supreme importance to think what we ourselves believe. What we have realised, is the question. What Jesus, or Buddha, or Moses did is nothing to us, unless we too do it for ourselves….My ideas are very radical on these points….I believe in thinking independently. I believe in becoming entirely free from the holy teachers; pay all reverence to them, but look at religion as an independent research. I have to find my light, just as they found theirs. Their finding the light will not satisfy us at all. You have to become the Bible, and not to follow it, excepting as paying reverence to it as a light on the way, as a guide-post, a mark: that is all the value it has.”

Peace 😊

“It is impossible for a cloud to die.”

In “At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life”, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that a disciple wanted to build a stupa (containing Thay’s ashes) after his passing. Thay writes:

“He and others want to include a plaque with the words “Here lies my beloved teacher.” I told them not to waste the temple land. “Do not put me in a small pot and put me in there!” I said….It would be better to scatter the ashes outside to help the trees to grow.

I suggested that, if they still insist on building a stupa, they have the plaque say, “I am not in here.” But in case people don’t get it, they could add a second plaque, “I am not out there either.” If people still don’t understand, then you can write on the third and last plaque, “I may be found in your way of breathing and walking.””

The sage then says, “If you think that I am only this body, then you have not truly seen me….Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain. It is impossible for a cloud to die.”

To those who mourn his passing, Thay’s voice speaks from a 2021 LionsRoar essay:

“The universe, the sun, and the stars have contributed many elements to the earth….When we look into our own bodily formation, we are made of the same elements as the planet. It has made us. The earth and the universe are inside of us.

The earth gave birth to us and the earth will receive us again. Nothing is lost. Nothing is born. Nothing dies. We don’t need to wait until after our body has disintegrated to go back to Mother Earth. We are going back to Mother Earth at every moment. Whenever we breathe, whenever we step, we are returning to the earth. Even when we scratch ourselves, skin cells will fall and return to the earth.

Earth includes the life sphere and the atmosphere. So you don’t have to wait until you die to go back to Mother Earth, because you are already in Mother Earth…..I know that earth is my home. I don’t need to die in order to go back to Mother Earth. I am in Mother Earth right now, and Mother Earth is in me.”

These words, it seems to me, are less about what Death is — they offer guidance on how to live Life.

In an October 2012 conversation with the Washington Post, the wise poet Mary Oliver (she was about 77 years old then) says: “To tell you the truth, I believe everything — tigers, trees, stones — are sentient in one way or another. You’d never catch me idly kicking a stone, for example.”

Peace 😊