A ‘Sermon on the Mount’ for today

In terms of church attendance, America is far ahead of England and Western Europe, but I wonder if this has … Continued

In terms of church attendance, America is far ahead of England and Western Europe, but I wonder if this has had any practical effect. Everyone prays at some point in their lives, if not regularly, but most people don’t expect their prayers to work –not with the predictability of turning on a light switch or picking up the phone. We find ourselves in the position of saying “Is anybody there?” as if into a dead phone line. Yet, a great opportunity has been missed. Maybe prayers aren’t dependable for a reason, and if they’re not, then reason must be in ourselves.

Spirituality is the most practical way to meet life’s challenges. There has to be a reason why Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount tells us to leave everything to Providence: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” I wanted to take this as a serious question; clearly Jesus didn’t mean it merely as a rhetorical one. He implied a way of dealing with the material world through a means other than working, saving, and storing up for a rainy day. If God loves us, all our needs are taken care of, through grace alone.

Where’s the catch?

Religion took a wrong turn when it held that the catch was sin, lack of faith, an angry God or fallen mankind.

I believe that the spiritual solution to life’s challenges lies in your own consciousness. We get distracted by all the things that fill our minds. In our modern world, an unending stream of demands are made upon the brain –and we have carved little time for the mind to look into itself. Once you make the time, it’s natural to discover that awareness, when emptied of thoughts and sensations, is open to itself. Any possibility that is going to come true will first manifest in the mind. This means, according to the world’s wisdom traditions, that the silent mind is far from empty. It is the source of reality, putting you and me in the position of being creators of reality.

We are meant to be the authors of our own lives. Most people accept this as a kind of truism. They believe in working for what you get, for example. The Buddhists don’t mean that, however, when they say that the question questions itself and the answer answers itself. They mean that problems contain solutions, by design and without fail. What breaks them apart, making it very hard for questions to find answers? Our state of awareness, which is filled with conflict, confusion, doubt, and lack of insight. Higher consciousness, then, isn’t a path to God so much as a path to clarity first. We deal with life from one level of attention – raising a family, going to work, getting and spending – while a deeper attention is ignored. This second attention detaches from everyday events, taking the soul’s perspective, as it were.

Or if the soul is a dubious term, second attention sees how to connect problems with solutions, questions with answers. We employ it when we follow our gut feelings or have an “aha” moment. It exists in the domain of intuition, insight, and our innate sense of truth. First attention can lead to great success in the world; second attention opens the door to grace. When William Blake advised us to “cleanse the doors of perception,” I think he meant the subtle perception that our senses don’t deliver. First see with the eyes of the body, then the eyes of the mind, and finally the eyes of the soul.

When it comes to spiritual solutions, the most basic premise is for me is still the most profound one. The level of the solution is never found at the level of the problem. Countless people struggle because they keep doing more of what didn’t work in the first place. They are stuck at the level of the problem. Hence the spectacle of bad marriages that repeat the same arguments over and over, countries afflicted with the same social discord, foreign wars that never end –all because people try to deal with conflict by adding more conflict. Warfare, whether inner or outer, never truly ends until you rise above the level of conflict.

One can substitute other words in place of conflict: worry, struggle, helplessness, victimization. The more these things continue, the worse they ensnare you. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was specially addressing the struggle for survival, which must have been urgent for most of his listeners. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” It was a message of poetic beauty that defied common sense, and still does.

The secret of a life that works by grace rather than toil remains hidden. Yet there is no mystery more worth pursuing. Something here rings with truth; a silent voice speaks inside us. It would be high irony if it took a skeptical age to finally unriddle how higher consciousness can be made practical, but the time may have come. We live in a society that has little use for God, but it is also filled with faith. We might wind up putting God to work anyway.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Author Deepak Chopra gestures as he makes a point during an interview in New York.

Deepak Chopra is author, most recently, of “Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life’s Greatest Challenges.”

Written by

  • SODDI

    Typical Chopra-esque New Age pap.

  • ccnl1

    Deepak,

    If you have not already done so, please watch Julia Sweeney’s monologue “Letting Go of God”. You are one of the “stars” in the show.

    (Ex-Catholic, now atheist) Julia Sweeney’s monologue “Letting Go Of God” will be the final nail in the coffin of religious belief/faith and is and will continue to be more effective than any money-generating book or blog on the historical Jesus, your “Ultimate Happiness Prescription”, atheism or secularism.

    Buy the DVD or watch it on Showtime. Check your cable listings.
    from http://www.amazon.com

    “Letting Go of God ~ Julia Sweeney (DVD – 2008)

    Five Star Rating

    To wit:

    “I was so intrigued with this quantum mechanics that Deepak refers to over and over and over again in his books, that I decided to take a class in it.

    And what I found is-Deepak Chopra is full of sh__!”

  • Secular1

    As usual Chopra is boat-load of warm urine. I am watching this idiot on Morning Joe, thanks to my wife. He is rambling on on and on web of existence. Looks like this moron’s word of the week is “web”. Gone is the garbage of “quantum”. Next time he gets into an altercation with Dawkins, he will teach him the meaning of “web”, then he will stop using that word. What a 3 $ bill, he is.

  • edbyronadams

    Chopra hits familiar themes from Buddhism but misses others. The biggest error is not tying his assertions to the long history of Buddhist thought. That way he ties people to himself instead of a traditional philosophy. Only ego and arrogance can account for that error, certainly not the epitome of the self reflection necessary for self transformation.

    On a practical political level, we have been practicing an attempt to rise above national tribalism in this country. The free trade policies have resulted in jobs going offshore, raising our own unemployment level but alleviating grinding poverty elsewhere but that policy is under attack and demonstrates the tension between self interest and the interests of non tribe members.

  • PhilyJimi

    Typical new age crap, all the answers are in my series of books and DVDs.

  • ashleywb

    I’m….I’m….I’m receiving a vision. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’m sensing a person….someone who wants something….something to do with words. No, not words, is it paper? Books! Something to do with books! It’s a man, this person. He wants to give me a book! NO! He’s shouting! He doesn’t want to GIVE! Oh, he wants to sell! He wants to sell me a book! No, not me….somebody else? EVERYBODY else? He wants to sell books to all of us!

    Oh, damn. It’s just Chopra again. Every time I read his nonsense I involuntarily dissociate. I think my mind is shielding itself from the stupid.