This is an excerpt from the book “Imperience: Understanding the Heart of Consciousness,” by Erik Knud-Hansen.
Living spiritually is the only way to know true peace, love, and compassion—whether or not doing so includes practicing a religion. Spiritual living embraces a vision more profound than mundane concerns and includes the intention to awaken conscious awareness and intuitive wisdom. This is not about our beliefs. It is about the quality of our hearts. Although our daily lives exist in the relative world, they are never separate from the absolute. For our way to be spiritual, we must make the effort to live in harmony with divine consciousness.
Nurturing a spiritual life in a busy world entails a specific kind of effort that has to do with the attitude of heart with which we engage the world. It is not so much about an agenda of rules and procedures but the willingness to see for ourselves what clouds the mind and what clarifies it. Rules and precepts can be useful as guidelines, but there is a huge difference between following outside authorities, and being conscientious and compassionate in our daily lives.
Personal consciousness is the aspect of who we are that communicates directly with divine consciousness. Our destinies as living human beings go beyond the material world of appearances that constantly arise and pass away. Our lives are our journeys. The relative self is a necessary vehicle for us in the mundane world, but it doesn’t know where it’s going or how to find its spiritual home without the moral compass of divine consciousness.
This vehicle was born to be impermanent and it would not be wise for us to spend our whole lives tinkering with its physical appearance and chasing the aimless desires of a distracted driver. We can aspire to a spiritual life beyond just adopting convenient dogmas from secondhand sources. Spiritual maturation requires more from us than just agreeing with someone else’s beliefs and doing their rituals. We hold onto religious views like these for psychological security on journeys we don’t understand. If they actually worked, all would already be well.
Our conditioned minds are inherently confused about what our vehicles are and where they are going. We delight in the fun parts of the journey and contract when we suffer. Either way, events in this plane of existence do not include our spiritual destiny unless we consciously make them so. Whether we realize it or not, personal consciousness has only one true desire: to dissolve in the absolute peace and brilliance of divine love, which is our spiritual home. To understand this intuitively in our heart—beyond the mind’s capacity to hold views and opinions about it—is the task of the spiritual journey.
Our personal consciousness is always as close to divine consciousness as a wave is to the ocean. Imperience—conscious awareness—is our umbilical link to the absolute. Whether we are lost and tangled up in the world of experience or wholeheartedly in the imperience of the present moment is up to us. Following are some aspects of living wholesomely that strengthen the human capacity to awaken divine consciousness—here and now.
Morality and Ethics
When we listen to our conscience, we imperience the intuitive wisdom to embrace our authenticity and awaken our consciousness.
No principle governs spiritual development more than morality and ethics. Our thoughts, speech, and actions are guided by our intentions and determine the quality of our minds. When our minds are clouded, we cannot see clearly. Purification of the mind enables us to see the truth of life for ourselves. As we are interconnected with all beings, wholesome personal behavior benefits those around us as well and is compassionate by nature. Personal morality is how we take responsibility for our share of life and is in no way selfish or narcissistic.
Morality relates to natural laws of being, and how our behaviors affect the quality of our minds now and in the future. It is much more than just following rules issued by outside authorities, and it does not pertain to judgments about our behaviors by any being (seen or unseen). Precepts and moral guidelines can serve as wholesome intentions when they adhere to spiritual principles and don’t just prescribe behaviors.
Good and bad are relative terms that have all but lost their deeper meanings. In relation to moral behavior, actions can be considered good if they have a wholesome effect and bad if they are unwholesome and harmful (relative to the time and circumstance). Good and bad are not judgments meted out by an absolute authority outside ourselves. What might yield good consequences to one person could be detrimental to another. It is easy to see how extreme actions like killing, harming, stealing, and lying create mental conflict and entanglement, but we spend most of our lives amidst much subtler questions that still have effects.
In the relative world, we are incessantly engaged in thinking and feeling to help us fulfill our needs and desires. Problems arise when we become so focused in doing that we lose touch with being. When we are distracted and lost in busyness, we can be less conscious of the quality of our heart as we do things. We are more likely to act in self-interest and this can even corrupt good intentions. For instance, we might not notice the difference between giving “from the heart” with kindness, compassion, and no strings attached, and giving because we think we must or to get something in return.
In a spiritual life, our own needs and those of others are very much the same; we can’t separate one from the other. When we hold our personal needs and desires to be the only important things, our behaviors become selfish rather than selfless. Likewise, if we hold the needs of others to be the only important thing because of low self-esteem or a desired self-image, that separation also prevents us from being authentic and true. We benefit from deepening our understanding of morality and natural laws pertaining to wholesomeness.
Practicing morality focuses our intentions and allows our connection to the divine to be the ultimate aim and arbiter. Maintaining wholesome intentions weakens delusion no matter what we do. When we weaken delusion, we also weaken the force of desires and aversions conditioned by feelings that do not represent true moral authority. To be conscientious is to follow our heart.
For more information, visit http://www.erikknudhansen.com.
Imperience: Understanding the Heart of Consciousness
By Erik Knud-Hansen
Available in hardcover, softcover and e-book
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Balboa Press
About the author
Erik Knud-Hansen became devoted to spiritual practice in 1972, beginning years of intensive meditation, monastic training and helping to establish several retreat centers in the U.S. He has met and studied with many eminent masters representing each of the major schools of Buddhism and other traditions of spiritual wisdom. Erik’s primary interest lies in sharing ways of awakening reflecting the primary traditions in which he trained—namely Buddhism, Taoism and Advaita Vedanta. He is currently writing a memoir relating to the more personal side of spiritual practice, ”The Dharma, the Tao, the Here and Now.”