Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tolle and Ram Dass: Mastery of Life

"The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd
wi' me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!"
-- Robert Burns --
("To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with a Plough")
"Mastery of life is not a question of control," observes spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, "but of finding a balance between human and Being."

Our humanity would have us incessantly casting our inner eye backwards and forwards in order to control and tame life, so that our fears and worries are averted and all remorse and bitterness over the past is overcome. Yet, in continual recurrence to this netherworld of past and future ( "I backward cast my e'e. On prospects drear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!") we rob ourselves and others of the larger dimension of our Being. It is for this reason, perhaps, that Robert Burns seems wistful, even envious, of the mouse whose nest he has overturned with the plough. The mouse who lives in the Eternal Present knows a dimension of Being unknown to the ploughman who is merely stuck, held prisoner in his unconscious humanity, somewhere between his past and future.

"To do whatever is required of you in any situation without it becoming a role that you identify with is an essential lesson in the art of living that each of us is here to learn," Tolle points out. "You become most powerful in whatever you do if the action is performed for its own sake rather than as a means to protect, enhance, or conform to your role identity."
[Tolle, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose," pp. 104, 106-107.] 

As Ram Dass observed in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: "Whatever karma it is that brought you to this point, it's now your dharma to work with it." To be present to that dharma is to move beyond time-limited humanity and towards eternal Being. It is to be as present as the mouse and not to be enslaved, like the ploughman, to the woeful past and and a fearful future.

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