The frantic and sharp cries of the seagulls above the river drew my attention. As I looked to the river on my left, I saw that a seagull had dived down and was desperately trying to release his mate who was entangled between three ropes that connected two rowboats in the middle of the Dartington River, which runs through Totnes down to the sea. I had just got up from a leisurely time spent on the grass reading some of my books, newly purchased here in England. I was enjoying the lovely sunshine after ten successive days of typically wet English weather.
I noticed that the seagull was still alive; it flapped its wings but to no avail and then just hung there - dead still in the slow moving river. The cries of the seagulls in the air was so loud, I could not make myself audible to the English couple who were sitting on a bench watching this poignant scenario. Finally the wife understood me: should I swim across and try to release the trapped bird. She looked really pleased and said that that would be great; that she was an animal lover and couldn’t bear to see the bird suffer like that; she said that they would watch my backpack and clothes. By now the seagull was lying limply as if the life had drained out of him and his friends in the air were slowly retreating and leaving him to his lonely fate. I swiftly took off my shoes, shorts and shirt and in my underclothes dived in. The water was cold but not freezing. I swam, head up, to the bird which was about thirty meters from the shore. I twisted the one rope and his webbed foot was set free. He turned around and looked at me with total surprise in his eyes. I felt completely stunned; it was as if a pair of human eyes looked directly into mine with immense feeling. He turned and, setting his wings free, ascended up in the air to join his flock.
At that moment I felt great relief but also complete unity with this living creature. The gratitude and surprise I saw in the seagull’s eyes are imprinted forever in my mind’s eye - life is still the most precious possession of all living things. I returned to the shore to a flood of grateful thanks from the English lady: I had made her day she said. It was a strange coincidence. I had just spent three lovely days in Fowey, the home of famous mystery writer Daphne du Maurier, where I had run past the beach house situated in a lovely little bay which was the setting for her novel Rebecca. I went by ferry to the really quaint fisher’s harbour of Mevagissey, an hour south from Fowey. The ferryman gave me a waterproof copy of notes on all the famous authors, and their books, who had lived in Fowey. Of course it mentioned the opening scene of the du Maurier short story: The Birds, which the Alfred Hitchcock movie subsequently made world famous. As Fowey lies on a river estuary there are many seagulls there; I used to wake up to their cries in the morning and enjoyed their sounds at night.
I was busily spending my time now filtering through all the talks and great ideas I had got from the 10th Quest Natural Health Show in Newton Abbott a few days ago. My own spiritual path took off five years ago and I am still assimilating all the correspondences and discrepancies in the many ways to enlightenment. At the recent Quest Show I walked out of an 'Angel” meditation after ten minutes. The facilitator had no light in her eyes and I felt there was no spark of warmth present in her New Age approach. If one wants to lead people to the Light, then at least the same light must be visible in ones own being. At my own workshop I had a very timid older woman attending. During the testing and subsequent sharing, it came out that she had a nervous breakdown at the age of forty three brought on from overwork and she had not worked since that time. She admitted to me that she had been on the spiritual path for the last ten years but felt that she was getting nowhere. The young man, who was put with her as a partner for an activity in the workshop, shared her dismay. He said he also felt as if he was going in circles. In the Native Indian view of animals the eagle is placed as our connection with 'The Great Spirit”. In this particular activity the timid lady and her partner were the 'eagle” pair; indicating to me that they must pursue more activities that would bring them closer to the Divine. What they have learnt before, did not succeed in doing so. While the New Age movement brought spirituality more in the open, I am not so sure about the purity of the motives of many of the New Age gurus who are around. I am not sure either about all the ways to 'healing” and 'enlightenment” advocated by this movement. The dismay of my two clients supported this opinion.
I come from a traditional Afrikaner background, so I grew up in a Christian home. For the last few years, however, I have chosen the 'middle path” and have become a Sufi. This movement, founded by Indian Hazrat Inyat Kahn, embraces all religions and says there is only one God and that Nature is the only Holy Script we have. It strives for unity amongst different faiths and aims to create one universal sister/brotherhood. I also feel very much drawn to the way of thinking of Zen master, Thich Nhat Hahn, Vietnamese monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He is a great man of peace and just being in his presence is an enlightening and profound experience. Although he is a Buddhist, he sees Jesus Christ as one of his spiritual ancestors and touches an image of both Jesus and Buddha before he does his evening meditation. All his teachings and writing are filled with love and compassion and complete tolerance.
Seeing the seagull in distress brought home to me the fact that we are all the same, whether human being, animal, insect or bird. We all originate from the one Creator and we will return to this collective consciousness after death. Similarly, whether we chose Judaism or Buddhism or Christianity or Hinduism, we share the same humanness and the same origin. I see no need to be saved by Jesus Christ any more; the one great 'Saviour” expounded by the many Christian and Catholic movements. Jesus might have said 'I am the way” but it is rather his state of Being that leads to 'Salvation”. In the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ (chapter 33) it is clearly said that we experience Heaven on earth when we reach the level of True Love. Verse 6 says: 'When hope and love are back of toil, then all of life is filled with joy and peace, and this is heaven”, verse 8 states that (your) 'heaven is not far away; and it is not a place of metes and bounds, it is not a country to be reached; it is a state of mind” and in verse 9, 'God never made a heaven for men; he never made a hell; we are creators and we make our own”.
God is the state of Love. There is no other way than being Love. Thich Nhat Hahn says living in the present moment means to be blessed with the Holy Spirit. This is when we enjoy and live every moment of life fully. Living the present moment with subjective awareness is a sign of experiencing the wonder of life; it is part of the way that leads to the perfect life. Buddha said: 'There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way”. I saw this statement on a beautiful poster in the register office of Thich Nhat Hahn’s Buddhist retreat center at Plumvillage, Bordeaux in France. When we BE love, we experience happiness and we pave the way to enlightenment. It is not what we do or believe; it is how we are in our essence. Thay (Hahn’s affectionate name) says that the life of Jesus is his most basic teaching; it is the way he WAS.
Dr David Hawkins, probably the foremost protagonist of Enlightenment, has clarified this path by quantifying the 'steps” to reach this state. According to his map of consciousness (see: Power versus Force reference), the level of 600 is the level of peace and at the same time is the start of enlightenment. This consciousness map stretches from 0 – 1000, where 200 is the crucial level of Integrity and Courage and 1000 is the highest level for any human being; masters like Buddha and Jesus Christ calibrate at 1000. The state of Love calibrates at 500; that of Joy (and Unconditional Love) at 540 and these in turn lead to the next level Peace and Enlightenment.
Traditional religion maintains that if one believes in Mother Mary, Mohammed or Jesus Christ, one will escape the fires of hell and go to heaven. I now, in my humble opinion, maintain that it is not necessary to believe; it is more essential to BE. If one can be kind and considerate to all beings; human, beast or insect, one has the way to salvation, one is paving the way to enlightenment. I think our way of living here, and not our beliefs, determines where we will go. One’s level of consciousness will determine the destiny of each respective soul. To reach enlightenment, means we can already escape suffering in this life as well as in the afterlife. Dr Hawkins maintains pain and suffering are two distinctly different things. According to him, suffering is due to resisting pain. If one just surrenders to pain and accepts it, not resisting it, the suffering and also even the pain itself may stop. He supports this surrender by telling that he has had two major surgical operations without anesthesia and has survived by using the technique of not resisting. Native American Indians use the same technique: as part of their initiation rites, young boys of sixteen must run several miles, naked, through forests in the winter time when it is snowing. They are only allowed to wear moccasins. By embracing the cold, by becoming one with the cold and by not resisting it, they survive this ordeal with flying colours.
One must surrender to God. I believe this is also the last step in reaching enlightenment. When we are Love; when we love God, nature, our partner, when we love all that is, this state of being makes us vulnerable and open to the influence and inspiration of the Divine. We will then start living in the higher realms where the Holy Spirit will steer our lives and perfect synchronicities and spontaneous miracles will befall us. Our will must be there to open the door to God’s way for us.
I might have 'saved” the seagull, but I don’t think any belief in whatever deity, dogma or religion is going to lead to the salvation of mankind. That is an outmoded and ancient concept based on fear and stems from the desire for control by established churches (the popular fiction thriller The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown relates quite graphically the atrocities that were perpetrated in the name of the church in the centuries after Christ). It is relinquishing the self and seeking for unification with All that Is that results in a state of being that brings peace and joy and harmony. In being real peace, we are enlightened; we are saved from the fear and suffering of earthy attachments. So no amount of visits to sacred places, new things to follow or imitate, more holy or spiritual things to do are of any avail. In being connected and in love with everything around us, we express love, we ARE LOVE, our essence is that of love. Therefore we are already in heaven; there is nothing to do or to believe in to 'get us there”.
If we BE LOVE, if we be IN LOVE WITH ALL THAT IS, then we are saved, then we are enlightened. Then the heavens above will open up and the Presence of the Divine will be written on each face we meet, each flower we smell, each tree and plant we see and each sweet melody we hear.
Kahn, Hazrat Inyat. The Dance of the Soul.
Hahn, Thich Nhat. 1995. Living Buddha, Living Christ.
Levi. 2003 (eighteenth printing). The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, the Christ.
Hawkins, David. 1995. Power versus Force - Hidden Determinants of Human Behaviour.
Hawkins, David. 2001. Eye of the I: From Which Nothing is Hidden.