Transcribed & edited from a talk given by Bo Lozoff in Costa Mesa CA, in March, 2006
I hope that every time we have a meeting like this, we change ourselves - not just learn more about some subject like prisons. I'm hoping to be a deeper, more inspired and committed person when I leave the room tonight, and I invite you to do the same. We all have subconscious, semiconscious and unconscious metering devices in our heads. For example, if it were the Dalai Lama sitting here, your metering device might be set to change more, and with me sitting here your metering device is set less than with him, but maybe a little more than with somebody you've never heard of. Well, my metering device is hardwired at full tilt, because I want to change as much as possible every time I meet somebody or engage in any kind of activity, experience or exchange, because that's really what it's about - changing. Constantly. Shedding the layers of the onion until we're ripe, deep, compassionate, unafraid, simple people. I have never seen a time in our national life that it's more appropriate or would be more beneficial to do that. There are people in horrendous suffering all around us, all over the world.
There's also a lot of groundswell among religious people and religious clergy to get rid of the mystical, the transcendent, the miraculous. There's an Episcopal bishop who's just about made his whole career out of telling Christians they don't have to believe in "hokey" things like the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection to be a good Christian - he says religion is just about goodness; about human ethics.
Well, no, it's not. The Virgin Birth and Resurrection are child's play to the Holy Force that all religions are about. Nothing difficult about believing that at all. This is not a secular world; this is a mystical world. And it's not like, "Well, if I believe it, it's true for me but if you don't believe it, it's simply not true for you." That's like saying if I believe my heart pumps blood, then that's true for me but if you believe that your heart digests your food, that's true for you. There are certain absolutes that we don't get a choice about. The Transcendent, the Deep, the Real is an absolute. Tens of millions of us, through the ages, have touched that Reality directly and we're called mystics.
What in the East is called the Sanatana Dharma - which roughly means "universal religion" - has merely three principles: One, that there is a Divine Reality whether you call it God, Buddha Mind, the Great Spirit, the Divine Mother; it is real. Like the Dalai Lama told an interviewer a few years ago, "Sir, the Buddha was not just a nice man." We're trying to make Jesus and Buddha and all the mystics and masters into nice men. We're trying to say, "I don't need anything deeper than human ethics to believe in. I don't need a crutch." But it's not a crutch. It's all that's real.
So that's one thing I just want to lay out at the beginning: I'm not secular. My life is about touching a Power and a Force that is absolutely real. I've touched it many times and it's the only thing that makes sense out of all the tough and crazy stuff we go through in the course of our lives. Kabir says, "A moment with the Beloved and the river changes her course." I like to add: "A moment with the Beloved is worth anything that you and I could possibly risk or sacrifice to touch it." I've spent three years in retreat. I've spent over a year in total silence. I've fasted almost to death. I've spent months at a time in total isolation. It's all nothing compared to a single moment of touching what is Real.
So don't settle for the psychological spirituality that's popular these days: "Whatever you're comfortable with is fine." No, it's not. The Absolute is Real. And you know something? Being comfortable is pretty dull. It's really nice to live without fear. It's really nice to stop worrying about your comfort. It's really nice to know what Jesus meant when he said, "Be in the world but not of it." We never think about the second half of that sentence - "but not of it." I've been an activist since the 1960's. I've dedicated my life to working in the world. But what did He mean, "Be in the world but not of it?'" There is something to be of that's so much bigger that we never get burned out on our activism, that we're not just so frustrated and tense. We keep doing this work in the world, but, sweet friends, that's not the world we're of. Thank God.
And the world we're of is not a crutch for those who are unable to face the ugliness of the reality of this world. This world and all its good and evil, all our hopes and dreams, the noblest ideals of how people can live together - it's the size of a pea. And the world we are of is the size of the galaxy. We have unlimited strength to draw on when we know where we are of, in order to work in this really struggling, suffering, challenging world of all the contradictions and evils that we are in.
After Sita and I came back from a meeting with the Dalai Lama in India in 1994, I was on the phone with one of my most intimate elders, an eighty-five year old British Anglican monk, and I said, "You know, Father Murray, His Holiness is so completely in touch with the suffering of his people and the world, he's not in any way detached from anybody's suffering. And yet he's the happiest human being I've ever met in my life. He can hardly say ten words without laughing."
Father Murray's instant response, being a wise man himself, was, "Yes, Bo, and can you imagine how much pain that man has been willing to endure in order to become this happy?" And I got it. There's no Resurrection without the Crucifixion. And so I've just lent myself to that pain. I've shown up time and time again. I'm walking around in a much bigger world than I've ever walked around in. I'm no longer "of this world." It's not just rumors - the things that the wisest, most loving people have handed down to us, like, "Take courage and be of good cheer;" "I'm with you until the end of the world."
It's all literally true. We're so worried that it's going to hurt. Yes, it is. But we're bigger than anything that can possibly kill us, and that's the secret. There's a lot of fear in meeting God. There's a lot of fear in splitting every atom. Every one of the atoms we split within ourselves to open up power - it's a fearful leap. But it's okay. We can do it again and again. After we do it the first few times, then we say, "Yeah, I'm afraid but I really want to know God. So yes I'm afraid, but I don't care. I'm going to keep saying 'yes.' I'm going to keep opening up." We just change our relationship to fear.
Ram Dass used an analogy of skydiving: We're free falling, and you suddenly reach for your ripcord, and you find you don't have a parachute at all. You start freaking out and you call out to someone like me, "I don't have a parachute!", and I call back to you, "It's okay: there's no ground."
That's us - we do have to leap, but we never hit ground. Life flows. Life flows and we flow with it, and it's okay because we're people of faith. What it means to be a person of faith is, Life is Good. There's an ultimate Good, not an ultimate randomness or neutrality or chaos. This enormous explosive power of the universe, what Hindus call Krishna Consciousness, it's not neutral. The Buddhist "Shunyata," the emptiness, is not a void. It is filled with Good. The emptiness is filled with Goodness. The whole flavor of Light is Goodness; it's Holiness beyond our wildest comprehension. It's just so Good.
And the Light is at hand; it's available to all of us and it's only our false self-protection that keeps us small and limited. We have this popular word, "boundaries." Forget about boundaries; boundaries are for volleyball. George Bernard Shaw has a beautiful quote that we put in We're All Doing Time:
This is the true joy in life: Being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
It makes you squirm because it really hits the nail on the head. A "selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." Tonight is the time to do something about it. It always seems like it's not quite yet.
Tonight is the time to decide: "I'm a person of faith; I do believe in this ultimate Good. Self-protection is a lie." And how that looks in your life - living more simply, opening your heart more - that's your adventure every day. But the intention and the commitment are very simple. Applying it may sometimes be complicated. But with daily practice, we strengthen our intention and commitment - they remain forever simple. You say, "I'm a person of faith; I want to give up this self-protection that's keeping me so tiny and afraid. And I'm doing it; this is it. I'm signing up, and I'm gonna sign up every single day of my life."
We can do that. It doesn't ever have to get more sophisticated than that. How does it look as we walk around with the enormous number of decisions we have to make?: What is selfish here? What is unselfish? Does it mean I let everybody take advantage of me? Of course not. So that's your adventure movie. That's going to be different for everybody. The application is a different adventure for everyone, but the commitment is the same. Life is Good. It's going to bring ups and downs, but Life is Good, even when it takes me through poverty or suffering or loss or grief. Life is ultimately good. That is not up for debate.