Thursday, September 7, 2017

Some earlier life's memories

Recently, on his Facebook page, D.R. Butler (Ram) has been sharing some memories from his earlier life.  What follows is the first 4 posts of memories.  We'll share more in the comments as the month goes on:

I grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi and I loved it there. In my teens, I thought it was the greatest place on earth. I liked my friends, and we had fun during those years. Somehow I came upon yoga and meditation there, which, looking back, is a great mystery to me. It seems like if I was to go in that direction so early, I should have grown up in California or something.
 
I went to Millsaps College in Jackson, which at the time was the liberal stronghold of Mississippi. We had the first ever mixed marriage in the state in our chapel when I was there. I majored in English Literature and Philosophy. Somehow, I also became the manager and agent of a very good rock band, all college students, and on weekends we traveled all over the South. This paid my living expenses while in Jackson. I graduated from college and was just hanging around, going on gigs with the band and writing. I sold my first short story when I was 20, and sold a couple more before I left the state.
 
Three members of the band, after graduating themselves, were going to New York City, for different reasons. I was still with the band, which was now mostly replacements, and it wasn't the same. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. Then out of the blue, a fellow from Vicksburg who had recently graduated from Harvard called me and told me his roommate was leaving and if I wanted to move to New York to be there within a week. This was totally unexpected. I don't know what prompted him to do that, and talking about it with him in later years, he had no idea either why he called me.
 
I left the Jackson airport and flew to New York for the first time. In the summer of 1968, it was like going to a different planet. It turned out my new apartment was in a wonderful neighborhood in Greenwich Village, on 12th street between 5th and 6th avenues. And it was bustling. And there were flower children everywhere. The movie The Graduate had just come out, and Dustin Hoffman lived on the same block, and I saw him several times. He always smiled and waved. What an amazing new life I stumbled into.
 
This is getting long, so I am going to jump ahead to 1974 when I met the physical Guru in Manhattan. He was visiting there from India, and I looked forward to meeting him. His reputation was that he was a very powerful man, and that he could spontaneously awaken spiritual energy in people through a process known as Shaktipat. I wasn't disappointed. I sat on the floor in a room with about 20 other people, waiting for him. I heard the door open from behind me, and I turned to see if it was him. Then the palm of his hand hit my shoulder so hard that it knocked me over, somewhat off-balance. He laughed and strode to his chair in the front.
A strange thing began to happen. I started feeling this euphoric energy in my spine, and it went all the way up to my head and out the top. I knew about Kundalini and the chakras, so I knew intellectually what I was experiencing, but it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Then the room filled with white light and disappeared. I could barely make out the forms of the other people sitting there, some of them in chairs, but it was very diaphanous. I could see through the world, and there was a formless homogeneous white light on the other side. The energy running up my spine gave me an ecstatic experience. I remember thinking to myself, "Oh, this is why people have a Guru. He can cause things to happen in me that I cannot cause in myself."
 
We were all allowed to go up to him, one by one, and ask him a question. As I sat in front of him, it seemed to me that no one was in his body, like he was being operated by remote control. When I looked into his eyes, there was no self-consciousness stopping me, like what happens with most people, and it was as though I went all the way through and came out the other side. It felt very strongly as though he and I were the same one in two different bodies. I had no idea what to ask him, and I blurted, "How can I be aware of God every moment of every day?"
I still remember his answer vividly. "Why do you want what you do not already have? If you get something you don't already have, you might lose it. When you see what you always already have, which you can never lose and which can never be taken from you, you will be aware of God every moment of every day."
Unknown to me at the time, this was the beginning of a whole new life, containing experiences I had never before dreamed of.

Being with Baba in Manhattan in 1974 was a wondrous time in my life. All of these new energies and insights stirred from within me, and I intuited that life never 'could' be the same, even if I wanted it to, which I didn't. As interesting as I thought my life was, it was humdrum compared to what I was experiencing now. Baba's energy, or, in Sanskrit, Shakti, awakened a new awareness in me of who I actually am. It was as though the previous 29 years I had suffered an identity crisis, where I had forgotten who I actually am.

I would come up with questions for Baba, and as soon as I had them clearly in mind, I would hear very satisfying answers to them. This happened a few times, so once I told Baba what was going on and asked him if I should consider that the answers I heard in my mind were from him. He liked this and emphatically said, "Yes!"

Before he left Manhattan he told me to open a Meditation Center for him in my home. I asked, "But what if they have questions?" and he said, "You will answer all questions perfectly." This is something I have remembered all my life, as it seems to be my fate for questions to come my way. In the 25 years I traveled and led weekend workshops, people always said that their favorite part was the question and answer sessions.

The primary 'commands' the Guru gave me were to teach people about the Self, or the Truth of Being, and to teach people what a Guru is. Oh yes, he also told me to learn the Course well. He also told me to learn Kashmir Shaivism perfectly. I have to admit that I understand it experientially and practically, although not scholarly.

Later I learned that when an authentic Guru says something, or gives even a hint of a command, he also gives the Shakti to do it, or for it to come true. I do not believe this as a mere concept, for everything he ever said to me eventually came true in my life. He is the one who authorized me to function as a teacher--for many years for him and later for his successor.

Let me say that there are many more false gurus than real ones, for an authentic Guru is rare. A Guru must be Self-Realized and completely free from ego. He must have been trained by his own Guru, and commanded by his own Guru to function as Guru. According to Sanskrit scriptures, the Guru is primarily the grace-bestowing power of God.

In the East, people go to a Guru for four main reasons: For prosperity, for a marriage partner, for children, and for spiritual enlightenment. The first three are the more common reasons people see a Guru. As Sai Baba of Shirdi said, "I give people what they want in the hopes that they will one day want what I have to give."

One of my favorite movies is Elizabethtown, and one of my favorite soundtracks is the one to that movie. I love the feeling in the movie, and the feeling it leaves me with. I guess I mention this because I am listening to that soundtrack as I write this.

A primary reason I began writing the story of my life is to take one last look at it, to see what really happened, rather than what I might have thought happened at the time. At the same time, it feels rather presumptuous to talk about myself at all. I mean, get over yourself. As my daughter Sara once said to me, "You teach meditation don't you? Transcend already."

As a teen, I somehow came across yoga and meditation in Vicksburg. A teacher in the 9th grade gave me some magazines (I guess she saw something in me even then) and through the ads I came across books and courses. I was actually able to find some books in Vicksburg, although I had to send away for Paramahamsa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi.

I learned very quickly that such things were not to be shared with others. I tried talking to one supposedly like-minded friend about it, and he said, "Yoga, that's where you lie on a bed of nails, right?" So in high school I kept it pretty much to myself. The only person who really took a sincere interest in it was my mother. She was always so open to what I was learning outside of school. She understood me in some deep and inexplicable way. Truly, she was my first student.

In college, I took a course in Eastern Philosophy. I was amazed that the students could learn about it and pass tests on it, and that the professor could speak knowledgably about it, and yet none of them saw any point in practicing any of it in their own lives. This, at the time, was one of the strangest things I had encountered. How could people learn about such amazing knowledge, and yet have no interest in actually applying it for practical purposes?

Even today I often wonder how some people can 'know' such pristine knowledge, and yet are unable or unwilling to practice it in their daily lives for practical results. You know that I make almost daily postings here on Facebook, open to the public--anyone in the world--reminders on how to enjoy a happier and more fulfilling life. And I am willing to answer all sincere questions, in any thread, and verbalizing questions is one of the easiest and quickest ways to learn. Even Socrates knew that. (In college, on the basketball team, the guys called me 'So-crates.') Anyway, it is actually painful to me sometimes when someone dear to me is in pain, and yet they have no interest in learning what I have spent my entire life studying, understanding, and finally passing on to those who are open enough to receive it.

Today's post doesn't seem to have progressed the story of my life very far. I guess I am still in the process of seeing and understanding what all it is. In a sense, this is also the 'life story' of Consciousness Itself. If someone were to ask me to describe the nature of our Course in one word, I would say that, in the long run, it is about Consciousness.

Consciousness is forever surveying Itself, exploring Itself and all Its creations and manifestations, and understanding Itself in some way we cannot even fathom. Consciousness is right now surveying and understanding Itself through our own individual lives, as we are all manifestations of Consciousness. It is Consciousness that sees what we see, that knows what we know, and that feels what we feel. Through understanding the true nature of Consciousness, our life starts to feel as though we live in Heaven.

In high school I was very athletic. After being fairly good in high school, I earned a basketball scholarship to college and played there for two years before I hurt my back pretty badly. (It still bothers me today.) This was about the time I became the manager and agent of a rock band. I never dreamed during this time, spending weekends with the band at fraternity or sorority parties or in smoky bars across the South, that I would soon move to New York City and spend the rest of my adult life in the Northeast. I certainly never dreamed I would enter into relationship with an authentic Guru from India.

I might not have left Mississippi at that time if my mother were not killed in a car crash at the age of 43. I had just turned 21, and this was devastating to me, as I was very close to her and emotionally attached. I went for years trying to overcome my grief. At some point the grief subsided, and her early death simply became one of the details of my past. Besides, everything changed when I met Baba.

I supported myself as a free-lance writer those early years in New York, but soon after meeting Baba, I began writing the Course. The first lesson was mailed out in August of 1975.  I quit writing for magazines and devoted my time and attention to the Course. Some might wonder why I capitalize Course. As explained in the lessons of the Course, I capitalize words referring to or leading to the Divine. The process of participating in the Course leads one to his or her own Divinity. This has been my own experience, as well as feedback received from countless others.

The Course eventually moved from New York across the country to Palo Alto. This was after a week-long retreat at Mt Shasta. I loved everything about California. I led workshops in various areas, including San Diego, LA, Carmel, Oakland, and up to Seattle, and eventually to Vancouver. Those were fun days.


Soon my karma took me back across the country again to Sarasota. We lived in a house on Siesta Key between the Gulf and the Bay. It was beautiful there, and we enjoyed long walks on the beach almost every day. I loved Florida, and I thought I would spend the rest of my life there.
 
We spent the summers in the ashram in upstate New York. And some Force greater than my own ideas began drawing me further in, and soon we and the Course moved to the ashram. I spent the next 20 years in the ashram and leading weekend workshops in various cities around the world.
 
It was amazing watching my life change after meeting Baba. Before that, no one really seemed to care very much what I thought about anything. Soon after meeting him, people were coming to me with their innermost questions. I had to remember that he had said I would answer all questions perfectly, and that he always spoke the truth. At least, I have never personally experienced or observed that anything he said did not come true.
 
Oh, my, this had gotten so long, and I haven't even gotten to what I was going to write about. All these details of my life came up, and I am experimenting with what it is like to write the story of my life. I don't like revealing the details of my life. I am a very private person. Yet I feel it is good for me, and hopefully it is good for you, too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Some Thoughts from July 2017

My writings in the Course of Training via email and Facebook present the Truth of the Present Moment as I have come to understand it after 50 years of seeking, studying, training, being whipped into shape by various teachers in various ways, having my ego obliterated over and again by the Guru until I couldn’t be anyone other than who I am, and the experience gained as a teacher, writer, speaker, answerer of innumerable questions, and leader of many classes, workshops, and retreats over the 35 years I functioned in such a role.

The Truth is the one Principle that never changes in a universe where everything else on every level of being constantly changes. The body changes, thoughts change, emotions change, the world around us changes, ‘others’ change, but the Truth of divine Awareness within never varies in the least. It is eternal, all-pervasive, and all-inclusive. Nothing exists outside it. It includes the entire Cosmos of the waking world, the innumerable realms of the dream world, the vast world of deep sleep, and the Turiya state that simultaneously permeates the other three. It is the only Truth there ever is, ever has been, and ever will be. It is without beginning or end. It is an unmodified, undifferentiated, unconditioned, formless Awareness of Being.

My philosophy is to be real, be sincere, be who you truly are, live according to your own heart and your own nature, feel good about yourself as God made you, even manifests as you, just as you are. Drop all pretension. Give up your fake veneer and your hypocrisy even when you think you’re being genuine. Stop playing your phony games that you’ve been playing so long you don’t even remember that they are phony games.

Give up the endless desires to impress anyone or to improve anyone. Please, please stop explaining yourself. There’s nothing worse than someone insisting on explaining something to you and thinking that you’ll understand something about them better after they complete their explanation. We all already get it. Get over yourself.

Rip off your mask of propriety and hurl it into the ethers. Forget everything you’ve ever been taught you should or shouldn’t do. Free yourself from the shackles of conformity. Stop worrying about being good enough for anyone else. You already are all there is. All you lack is this understanding.

Whatever you do, at least don’t feel guilty about it, because the guilt you feel is much worse than whatever you did to feel guilty about. In fact, the secret to truly enjoying a fulfilling life is simply to love every single thing you do during every single moment. Of course, you have to greatly value your own life in order to do this, but then that’s the point, isn’t it?

You are already divine; there’s nothing to become. Don’t do anything to seek the good opinion of others, to make others like you, or to attract others to you. Otherwise you will only lose yourself and fade into oblivion in the objective world of humanity, thinking you exist yet being only a floating reflection of how others see you. This greatly reduces you and in fact dissipates whatever Shakti, whatever inner power you might have gained, by caring how you are perceived by others. Love them, honor them for who and what they are, for whatever function or role they play in your life, and remain in harmony with whatever arises from one moment to the next.

No one needs to see you except yourself. Others need only to see their own Self. No one will ever understand you except yourself. Others have to understand their own Self. When we all do this, when we really get it that we’re the only One here, and that everyone around us is an individualized aspect of the same One, we’ll realize that deep within we share the same Self.

Spirituality is a matter of realization or recognition of the already-existing Truth. Many have the delusion that it’s about becoming something or attaining something we don't already have.

 The Self is already attained. The only reason we do sadhana (spiritual practices) is to purify the mind and ego. Once they are clear and no longer prone to projection, delusion, and false identification, the Truth reveals itself within us naturally and spontaneously.

In a lesson of our Course there is a quote from Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian saint and sage. Let’s end with his words for now, for to me they perfectly sum up everything:
"There is no greater mystery than this: Being Reality ourselves, we seek to gain Reality. We think that there is something hiding Reality and that it must be destroyed before the Truth is gained...A day will dawn when you will laugh at your past efforts. What you realize on the day you laugh is also here and now."

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Self-Interview from Facebook

Little Ado About Much
Curious Person (CP): So, exactly what is it that you do?
This One (TO): For the last 42 years I've written this course on living in the most fulfilling way, based on my studies, observations, and personal experience. It is centered around living in the Truth of the Present Moment.
CP: Living in the present moment? When else can we live? We can't live in the past or the future, except then and there.
TO: Well, mentally and consciously, we are not always present. If we are lost in some thought-dream, we're certainly not in the 'Truth' of the Present Moment. The Truth is not contained in thoughts or emotions or memories. It exists only in Awareness.
CP: Anyone can talk mumbo-jumbo. What does all that have to do with real life? I like to live in practical realities.
TO: If you live your whole life in your head, which you call practical reality, and never touch the Truth of the Present Moment, which is the only time your life actually exists, then it will be one long waking dream from which you never awoke.
CP: Be that as it may. I'm sure it must mean something to someone. What do you do when not writing your course?
TO: Well, I have an active Facebook life.
CP: Oh yeah? Do you post pictures of what you had for lunch? Do you ask for prayers for your sick old aunt? Do you ask for recommendations for Netflix? Do you post pictures of yourself in yogic postures?
TO: Actually I enjoy dialogues with participants of the Course. And I invite all others who are interested to join in the dialogue. It's open to everyone around the world, or at least to whoever is attracted to it. I don't believe that anyone really comes upon it by chance or coincidence.
CP: You dialogue with them? You shoot the breeze?
TO: We discuss topics that we feel are relevant in enjoying a fulfilling life. I invite people to ask questions regarding whatever is up for them. I know, it sounds presumptuous, but my Guru told me to answer people's questions. When the Guru tells you to do something, then the Shakti, the Creative Energy of the Universe, is behind it.
CP: Sounds like you think pretty highly of yourself.
TO: Well, that's something else the Guru told me to do. Before I met him, I tended to think lowly of myself. So it's a pretty big and meaningful transformation. How we feel about ourselves determines how our whole life goes. My life has gone much better since I changed the way I see myself.
CP: So you tell people to think more highly of themselves? And what if that in turn only gives them a big ego?
TO: Most people already have a big ego, only the main function of the ego is that it causes us to think lowly of ourselves and to doubt ourselves. It's mostly a myth that the ego causes us to think highly of ourselves. Thinking highly of ourselves actually goes along with breaking free from the ego. It is a very meaningful process.
CP: I guess I'll just have to think about all this. Although, knowing me, I'll probably forget all about it any second now.

TO: Probably so. At any rate, if anyone reading this has any further questions, today is a good day to post them in the thread below, and I'll be around to respond. Curious Person has warmed me up to the task.

[for some comments and questions that followed this post, please click on the entry title above and scroll down to "comments" below]

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Recent Writings from D. R. Butler (Ram)

It’s been a while since we’ve added a new article to this site.  Today, by popular request, we’re going to be sharing some of the recent Facebook writings of D. R. Butler [to take part in the dialogue on his Facebook page, go to D.R. Butler (Ram)—no space between the D. and the R.—and make a “friend request”]. 

For more than forty years, D. R. Butler has been the author of the Course of Training Living in the Truth of the Present Moment, now available via email.  For more information about the Course and a complementary Lesson 1, please write to drbutler.course@gmail.com

You are also invited to check out the archived articles available elsewhere on this page, which date back to July 2008 and which give a good overview of the writings of this prolific, humorous, and very insightful writer.

If you wish to post a question or a comment regarding this current article, please do so on the most recent thread of the Facebook page, as the “Comments” section that follows the first posting below will be dedicated solely to additional posts by the author as they become available from Facebook throughout the month.

To access the “Comments” section in an easily readable form, simply click on the article title, “Recent Writings from D. R. Butler,” and then scroll to the end of the article.

The first entry is entitled “Who Is a True Teacher?”:  The popularity of the Internet has led to a proliferation of spiritual teachers, each with his or her own little niche or specialty.  We can’t keep up with all of them; we can’t practice/follow/read/hear all of them.  How do we know what is best for us?  How to trust a teacher?  Which one to listen to?

I was fortunate enough at the age of fifteen to come in contact with a Teacher who had spent seventeen years in lamaseries of Nepal and Tibet before being instructed to return to the West to help individuals to rise out of the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the end of his life in 1961.  He gave talks over the radio and wrote a correspondence course that transmitted a clarity of understanding and a palpable experience of the Truth of Being.  He had left his body the year before I discovered his course, so I never had actual physical contact with him, except through his wife, years after his passing.  I was saved from being attached to his physical form, for the training I received from him took place subtly.  Dreams of him took place on a regular basis for many years.  I can still vividly recall certain discussions we had in those dreams, mostly in the form of him responding to my questions.

In one of them, he showed me with one glance how the entire Cosmos is put together and how everything works.  It was something that took no time, but was an instantaneous revelation, as when Krishna first revealed his true form to Arjuna in the Indian epic saga Bhagavad Gita.

If I were to attempt to tell you who he was, or what tradition or lineage he actually represented, you would probably think I was about two french-fries short of a happy meal.  He wasn’t publicly known.  He was careful not to be.  He was cleverly disguised, as many of the Great Ones are.  He emphasized often that the value lies in the teachings themselves, never in the teacher.  Teachers will come and go; teachings of Truth always remain the same.

The well-known and popular teachers that we all know about and discuss on the Internet might never approach the attainment or development of someone whom very few have even heard of, other than the small band who somehow come in contact with him or her and experience what comes through as a subtle transmission.

Such beings avoid becoming ‘public’ at all costs, for they know that public knowledge of them can only bring trouble.  To a true Teacher, public recognition is the worst thing, and he or she will deliberately remain known to only a relative few.  It is the way of the world to take down a saint, to put him in his place, to prove he was never so great in the first place.  Once upon a time there were crucifixions; now there are Internet sites that will happily give us all the dirt they can find or imagine.

Do not assume a teacher can transmit to you something of value simply because he or she is popular or well-known, or might have large followings and circus-like scenes wherever they go.  Having followed the spiritual scene since the early sixties, I can assure you that the great majority of such teachers come and go.  Don’t get attached to bodies, forms, or personalities, for none of these are the source of your true inner connection to your own Being.

Never listen to someone who tries to convince you of something or to win you over, or who acts and speaks so that you will think well of him.  A true teacher is detached from the fruits of his work, and whether someone gains anything from him or not will be according to their own destiny, their own karma.  He has no interest in how another sees him or whether he is liked or appreciated or approved of.  If others are attracted to him, it is because of what comes through him; he does not take it personally.

As the Christ put it, “It is not I that do the works, but the Father within, that same Father that is within you.”

A true Teacher won't go around being your best buddy.  If she is true, she will never appease the ego; she will always keep the ego a little bit uncomfortable.  Otherwise she is not fully functioning as a Teacher; she is only a friend.  A friend is nice; a true Teacher is rare.

Especially don’t pay attention to teachers who 'explain themselves' regarding anything.  The Shakti (spiritual Energy) doesn’t explain Itself; to do so would be contrary to Its nature.  It doesn’t need to cause you to think in any particular way.  How you think is up to you.  A true Teacher will never present a dogmatic system of beliefs.  Rather, she will free you of the limiting beliefs that already hold you down.  Specifically, he or she will free you from the shackles of the mind and ego, and teach you to think for yourself.

The saint can’t help having a human, personal life as long as he or she is incarnated in a physical body.  She won’t have a halo, she won’t walk on water, she’ll only shatter your concepts about who you think you are.  She might lovingly and compassionately smash your ego into pieces.  In the end, she simply reveals the Truth of Being and leaves us established in our own Self, supremely independent and supremely free.

The primary thing regarding a spiritual teacher is your actual inner experience of contact with him or her.  Your own heartfelt experience, and nothing else, tells you whether there is something to be gained or not.  Your mind might think he is ‘off his rocker’.  It doesn’t matter; go by your own inner feeling always.

The greatest Teachers come from the heart, not the head.  The Teacher’s words might not make any sense at first, yet you experience a profound opening in your heart.  You experience something inside yourself—a light, an insight, an exaltation, some sense of new possibility, of pending new life.  Yet you might not even remember what was verbally communicated.  It is not something that happens physically or mentally.  It is a subtle communication, a subtle transmission that transforms us on a very deep level of our Being.

A true Teacher passes on to us a spiritual Energy that gives a palpable ‘boost’ to our inner work (our sadhana) and to our inner state.  If there are only ideas and words to be learned, and especially if they are simply ‘beliefs’, there is nothing of value to be gained.

Never accept another’s words without proving them true in your own life.  Truth is always provable and practically workable.

I love this quote from my first Teacher:
     "He, or she, is great who feeds other minds.  He is great who inspires others to think for themselves.  He is great who tells you the things you already know, but which you did not know you knew until he told you.  He, or she, is great who disturbs you, irritates you, even affronts you, so that you are shaken out of your habitual ways and pulled out of your mental ruts, lifted up above the commonplace.  He may be a teacher, or a speaker, or a writer, a clergyman, or a scientist; or he may be a close friend.  It makes no difference who or what he is, or may be, but it does make a great difference what he means, and can do, to you.
     "The writer, for instance, is great whom you alternately hate and love—whom you cannot easily forget.  In his private, personal life he may be proud, arrogant, crude, coarse, irritable, absurd, or even immoral...I grant all that...and yet be great.  He is not great because of these reprehensible qualities, but in spite of them.  The apparent inconsistencies and inequalities of his nature may contribute in great measure to his power, just as the rocks, boulders, chasms, woods, mountains and valleys make up the grandeur and majesty of the Yosemite, or Yellowstone Park."

A true Teacher, even though our ego may react from time to time, ultimately helps us to feel good about ourselves and to see ourselves in the highest way.  Someone who ultimately makes you feel even worse about yourself can never be considered a true Teacher.

Ultimately no one can tell you who your Teacher is—any more than someone can tell you who to fall in love with.  At some point it becomes obvious.  Since recognizing a Teacher is like falling in love, here’s a tip:  Fall in love with your Self and be your own Teacher.  This is my truest and most sincere advice.

In the end, of course, we will each live in love with our Self and be our own Teacher, for there could be no other conclusion; it is a simple recognition of the way it always is.  The Truth always exists within and never without.  Look within and you will know the Truth without any doubt.  Look outside and you are lost, and doubt will haunt you at every turn.  Remember love.  Love is always the best bet in any case.