“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
One night I was sitting in the hot tub gazing at the nearly full moon when suddenly I had a very lucid thought about just who and what we truly are. As I was sitting in silence feeling the stillness of the night, the words, “know thy self” came to mind, followed by “love thy self,” and the meaning hit home deeply as I felt a strong sense of compassion for the parts of me that have suffered, and which in turn, became a great teacher.
I have to say, when I had first heard of the idea “love thy self,” I had only an intellectual understanding of what it meant. However, that night while gazing at the sacred moon, I actually FELT compassion for hurt Jeff. Consequently, I now truly get what it means to love thy self. And it is powerful!
“Know thy self.”
One of the main teachings it boils down to is simply living in the eternal now and being of one mind. This differs from the perspective of the split mind, where we have created the identity of “I,” which can be described as the person I want or intend to be vs. “me,” which is the person I want to improve upon. The latter is the one we must develop compassion for, as it is the one who has suffered. And this is the very reason we attempt to improve upon it; because quite simply, we do not want to suffer.
So to know thy self is to discover that, when the mind is quiet, we can more clearly see that which we are not. Once we eliminate all of that which we are not, we discover who we are, which of course is ineffable: it cannot be described with words because words merely point to what we are. When we think we are the idea of ourself we are confusing the pointer with that to which it is pointing.
Similarly, when we gaze at the moon with a quiet mind, we “know” what it is. However, the moment we begin to describe the moon, we are no longer experiencing its whole essence. Instead, we are thinking about the experience of it. In other words, we were in the eternal now as we gazed at the moon with a quiet mind, but the moment the mind started defining and categorizing is the moment we left the now and entered the past, lost in thought about what we WERE experiencing before the mind dialog began.
“Love thy self.”
To “love thy self,” is to have compassion for the parts of us that have suffered from inner pain and stress. When we have compassion for this self, somehow it miraculously causes the merging of I and me: the split mind becomes whole once again, as it was when we were babies before we developed a sense of self.
Indeed, babies do not distinguish themselves as separate from the environment in which they live until they develop, what is described in the psychological literature, as object permanence. However, where do they get this understanding of object permanence? From their adult teachers of course, who provide all the names of the “things” they are experiencing.
What we must remember
In Buddhism it is taught that there is no “thing.” This is often misunderstood. It is not teaching, as is often thought, that the world is an illusion. Instead, it is the idea of a solid, permanent object that is the illusion, for every object is merely vibrating energy. This has been demonstrated to be true over and over again by quantum physics. As physicist Niels Bohr puts it, “If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” Ironically, we had a better understanding of this as babies, before object permanence set in, which is why many ancient teachings speak of “remembering” rather than “learning.” They implore us to remember what we knew before the birth of the ego.
Taking it a step further, this is what Jesus taught when he suggested we have the mind of a small child. In addition, this is also what he meant when he said we needed to be “born again” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is the eternal now, and being “born again” means to go back to the place before the ego was birthed and recognize that we are truly one with our environment.
After all, when I consume food, at what point does it stop being other and start being me? Is it when I am chewing it? When it goes down the throat? When it enters the stomach, small, or large intestine? When it leaves my body does it then become other once again?
Moreover, what is it that the body is actually taking from the food? Is it solid? The answer is absolutely NO, it is not solid, it is energy. Nothing we get from the food is solid, for everything that enters the body is first broken down into smaller and smaller particles until the energy can be extracted and utilized for life processes.
The point is it is all process, and there is never really a clear distinction of when other assimilates with self. In other words, as has been taught for thousands of years, “other” and “self” are one and the same because they are the same process.
We are not the body
How could we be? The body is constantly changing, as cells are being birthed and dying by the millions, perhaps billions, every second of every day. So are we the body that was here a moment ago, or the one we see now? Or, are we the processes occurring in and outside the body, where form is in constant flux between particle and wave, thing and no-thing, energy and object?
Incidentally, what do you believe is the symbolic meaning of the “original sin” of Eve plucking the fruit from the tree of knowledge? Do you believe it was the first physical woman of creation being tempted by the devil and causing all of humanity to miss out on the garden of eden? Might there be another version of the story playing out right now?
Perhaps the plucking of the fruit from the tree of knowledge is an analogy for attempting to look at an isolated event by removing it from everything else and looking at it separately? When we do this we begin to believe, quite mistakenly, that because we can understand the individual piece, we can understand the whole. In reality, we get so fixated on the piece that we can’t see that it is actually inseparable from the whole. This is the reason some say that ego stands for “edge God out.“
Indeed, the ego is what allows us to differentiate between self and other in order to have experience, but when we believe we ARE the ego, which is to say, we are the idea of ourself, we are merely plucking fruit from the tree of knowledge, separating ourselves from the source. We remove ourselves from the garden of eden, the eternal now, which is referred to in Buddhist literature as nirvana.
What I am suggesting here is that, like so many other ancient teachings from around the world, the Bible is teaching us how to live today, in the here and now, rather than merely providing us with a history lesson. What if we were to look at all of these teachings together, rather than singling them out?
The “original sin” — and remember that to sin actually means to miss the mark — is to make the mistake of believing we are separate from source, or “God.” It is identifying with the “me” rather than with the whole, with which we are inseparable. The way to discover this unity is to have a quiet mind and experience the ultimate dimension of reality. rather than the historical dimension, which is to say, to experience reality in the eternal now, rather than in the past/future thinking of the split mind.
So when we seek to discover heaven or nirvana, we must know that it is ineffable and no one can describe it to us, they can merely point us in the right direction. We must discover for ourselves, and to find the right path, we must be here now!