People who come to religion desiring an end of suffering or the turmoil of real life do so in vain. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth,” said the Nazarene, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Through the ages the lives of the saints have borne witness to this truth, but even at the heart of faith – Buddhism as well as Christianity or any other religious tradition – there is no peace or rest. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” At the core of faith, in the depths of prayer or meditation, there is a raging oceanic sea of darkest and bitter, violent chaos – and this is scientific. Modern atomic theory asserts the chaos that undergirds and somehow, mysteriously governs the behaviour of all matter in the universe, and, modern as this science is, it is an ancient idea and insight. Kanada, the Hindu sage, intuited this truth of the Anu (‘atom’) two and a half millennia ago. Our deepest mystical explorations; our self-abnegation to ultimate reality, touch upon the thin membrane between our world of intelligibility and the unfathomable chaos which supports all things. At this depth (or height) of mysticism all divisions are obliterated; Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam blend into one cloud of the great unknown.

Most of us, in the course of our lives, blunder into what might be described as fleeting mystical moments – moments of clarity, ecstasies, epiphanies, and graces. These may be the insights of a déjà vu or the physiological-psycho-spiritual explosion at the birth of a child. Most of us will have some understanding of this. Meditation is one instrument we can use for plumbing these depths – of ourselves and of our shared and ultimate reality. Something that has always struck me is that from Ignatius Loyola to Yitzchak Luria, from Ryōkan to Ibn al-‘Arabi there runs a common thread – not so much of enlightenment as of disturbance. The mental environment of meditation or contemplation is peace, a pacificity which becomes the vehicle of inward movement towards insight, and yet all the sages and mystics speak of the disturbances. There are mere distractions which can, with focus, be overcome. Then there are obstacles which may also be overcome with discipline and focus. At the core, however, there are immovable imbecilities; the by-products of our psycho-physical machine, the atoms of our consciousness, the inner chaos – the echoes of our awakening, the white noise of the Big Bang. Upon this quiet rumbling is built everything that our mind can ever be.

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