When we see what’s going on around us in the world and perhaps in the USA in particular, one of the hardest things to grock is how misinformed we all are and how poorly educated the main stream is.
We see it in the lack of institutional memory and in our inability to learn much from even the relative recent past. It should be no stretch of our imagination then, that the face of Gods have been used to give tangible personality to various nearly ineffable qualities or characteristics of our universe.
One of my most influential teachers was a Chinese Indonesian Guru, Suhu Subur Rahardja, who held Chinese, Tibetan, Sumerian and local animistic lineages in the mixing pot currently called Indonesia. Although he was not Hindu, he spoke from time to time of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Although he was not Christian he spoke of God. And although his passport said: “Buddhist” he never claimed to be so having lived in a predominantly Muslim society. But when he spoke of these three so called “Hindu” deities, he spoke in a more metaphysical manner rather than using a devotional or blind faith approach. I would like to share with you what he taught me in this regard as at least one element of it can help lay bare the deeper meaning behind these “Gods”.
In general, Judeo Christian views frown deeply on what they call “Poly Theism” In this view, there is only one God and everything else is an illusory subdivision. But the last time I saw a diamond, I could look at it from many angles seeing several facets without saying, “I lost the diamond for the facets.” As a Buddhist, the language tends to steer us clear from worship of the “Long-Lived Gods” of which category Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva belong to.
Here, I wish to help us find a more resolved view of what these “Gods” actually indicate. The triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is no accident. It is not as if they were three Gods roaming around in the clouds that became friends. They are in fact all methods of understanding how our world is formed on a moment to moment and daily basis. They are the embodied cosmic forces of arising, sustaining, and dissolving respectively.
As soon as we become the slightest bit distracted from non-duality, time and space unfold concurrently with this departure of vast view. We start to see distance and therefore the time it takes to get from one point in space to another. So the birth of phenomenon as a series of separated events is born as an arising of a very subtle dualistic view. This is the seed of the radiance of phenomenon issuing out of the space. This is the true meaning and face of Brahma. We, as humans, are in fact very happy with Brahma because without him we have no human experiment. We can learn nothing and we cannot fulfill the process of becoming. Granted, being born into dualism is the start of much commotion and suffering, but this is an aside for the moment.
Since we have arisings in the primordial soup of mind, we also have the impermanence of that arising. Nothing lasts forever, thank God, and the God in particular we have to thank for that is Shiva the destroyer. He is the principle that illuminates that nothing just stays the same and that everything is in flux or a dance. The Hindu’s call one form of him “Nataraj” the Lord of the Dance.
But until now, only having those two is depressing and a bit unfulfilling. Us beings need to enjoy something for a while. If things dissolved the moment they arose, we would feel duped, or ripped off. If the idea is for God to self-fulfill, then let’s give some time for that fulfillment to be enjoyed. Enter Vishnu the sustainer. Vishnu fulfills our hopes to appreciate something for a while. We can then feel gratitude for the process we call our lives and it then has meaning.
In today’s world, the energy of Vishnu is now much needed. We invent something new every minute. We barely have a day to use our new cell phone before it dies its death of obsolescence the very next day after we buy it. Our habit to have something new all the time leads us to find fault with our spouse and so we swap wives on a TV show and then in reality. We lose our old wife and wonder where she went since after some time she will certainly seem better than the new one in hindsight.
We decide that there is nothing stable enough to live for other than the short term fast buck which enables all the new items to flow into our lives . As a society we decide to kill to make room for the next thing. And so we blow ourselves up bit by bit. Killing others with a flow of the latest designer weapons, we self-immolate, we self-detonate, veritably, we implode. So where is the antidote to all this?
First of all, we need to see our culpability in this cycle and see form where it stems. The popularity of the “mindfulness movement” as it has come to be known, owes itself to the trend of recognizing something is deeply wrong. Whatever we do seems not to bear the fruit that we expected it to. We touch the hot electric burner and we wonder why it hurts. We are forced to take a step back and reconvene.
In the first stages of meditation, we sit there and try to see what is going on within us. We sit there for a long time. We start to notice thoughts arising and after some time of proper practice we start to understand that we are not our thoughts. We see that thoughts come and go like barking dogs and not each bark is in fact a bite, as we had previously believed. We start to see a gap between the arising of the thought and so we watch it stay there a bit and then move on or transform or dissolve. Our bodies start to settle down and relax and our minds release some fixation. Vishnu takes a step up into our lives even though we don’t call it that. Vishnu’s world is expanded by our appreciation of the phenomenon. We can actually participate in or be present and so by presence we can finally “have something” or “be something” We can cherish it for a moment even knowing it is fleeting. Without Vishnu’s energy, we would only become depressed and paranoid, bereft of fulfillment. We would then run further away from the present moment into the past or into the future, both places where nobody has ever lived. Without Vishnu therefore, we die even though we continue to carry our bodies around with us. We identify with Zombies, we become zombies. We make movies about zombies. We do the Zombie walk and we shoot Zombies gladly before they turn us into a Zombie. We start to mistake the living for Zombies. How can we , the walking dead, know what life is? We ban potentially Zombied refugees. We do not want any mirrors around to remind us we have lost our lives.
So the key is to restore our meditation practice. To slow down our CPUs, slow down our CEOs, slow down our Thanksgiving purchases and instead dwell a bit in Vishnu’s way of seeing things. Appreciate your relatives regardless of how insane you may think they are. After all, they are yours to enjoy as they are. Be thankful and have a moment where presence is more significant than presents.
By this offering, may all beings gradually de-escalate our violent minds, circle of friends, town, country, and world. May the outer phenomenon instantly reflect our inner relaxation and may we ultimately recognize who we really are and what we are doing.
-Lama Rangbar Nyima Ozer-