Artwork by Sam Brown
Take the matter of consecrating life actions. What I mean by the word consecration is bringing into consciousness the nature of the act in a cosmic plan. For example, in the old days people would say grace. Grace was a thing you waited for before you ate the turkey. Norman Rockwell characterizes the kid reaching across while everybody’s head is bowed. It’s that time, “Let’s say grace.” Now, when I bless food, the statement I say, when I say grace, is an old Sanskrit one. It means “This offering of this little ritual I’m performing, this is part of it all, part of Brahma, part of that which is eternally all. He who is making the offering means, that which is being offered is part of it all. The hunger to which you are feeding . . . the fire which you are feeding, that’s all part of it all. Whoever you are offering it to is part of it all, too. He who realizes that all of it is interrelated, all of it is one, becomes one with it.”
There is a very lovely short story by J. D. Salinger called Teddy, in which Teddy is a very … he’s like an old lama who’s taken a reincarnation in a kind of middle class western family by some quirk of cosmic design. He is about 10 years old and on a ship with his sister and his mother and father. He’s out on deck and he’s meeting this man who has begun to see that this little boy isn’t quite like a little boy, and he says to him, “When did you first realize that you knew how it was?” And Teddy says, “Well, I was 6 years old. I was in the kitchen and I was watching my little sister in her highchair drink milk. I suddenly saw, that it was sort of like God pouring God into God, if you know what I mean.” Well, that’s exactly the same thing as that Sanskrit mantra. You’re pouring energy into energy for a matter of energy in honoring energy. So big deal, so nothing’s happened. Certainly knocks a hole in orality to start to see the universe that way. What are we doing? Nothing. How could you ever do anything, it’s all here? Are we all here? Sure. So in learning how to consecrate and so on it is helpful to have people around.
It is part of my karma to be visiting my father who is a 73 year old Republican from Boston, a conservative man, and a very successful man in the society. When we sit down to the table, he starts to eat and then he looks over and he sees that I’m doing this “thing” which I do quietly, I’m not coming on about it. I’m just sort of sitting quietly . . . and he’ll hold his spoon in mid-air and he’ll go, “Pht”… It’s almost an involuntary thing that comes out. It’s like, O.K., I’ll wait for the kid . . . it’s his meshuggeneh thing.
Now that’s not satsang, that is, that is not the community of monks on the path. And that “pht,” whether that helps me or hinders me is a function of where I’m at, really. In other words, if I am into what I’m doing strongly enough, all that that “pht” does is arouse a feeling of poignancy about our predicament, but it doesn’t in any way deter from the amount of the living, vibrant quality I can invest in the thing I’m doing.
I go to church now and then around the United States and we sing hymns that are mind-blowers. They are all hymns that get you “high.” They were written by people in ecstatic states and you read them … everybody’s singing them like they’re reading the shopping list. There’s no spirit, the spirit isn’t invested in any way in the singing and yet whoever wrote it invested the spirit. We say, “Well, they were naive.” What we mean is that we are turned off. When Christ says, “Look, I am making all things new,” it’s the same as when you’re really living here and now and every moment is all fresh and that hymn . . . it’s like the first time you ever heard it and you really go out on it. Otherwise, what did you go to church for?
– Ram Dass, 1970
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