by Robert Wilkinson
Many on a path to Truth, at least once if not more often, wish they could retire from the world, and seek a life of contemplation and purposeful activity away from the hectic pace of the modern urban existence. Many have planets in key signs or houses showing these kinds of past life karmas, and are caught in an internal dilemma of retreating from the world to do "spiritual practice," or hang out in the world of desires, achievements, and different kinds of relationships that can be either pleasurable, painful, or both. Today we consider a few key points to remember as we dance through initiatives and retreats in our lives.
With Jupiter in Pisces, for many decades I've wrestled with whether to focus on going inward, or on outer accomplishments. It seems like every time I've desired to go inward, the world pulls me to address its needs, and yet when I finally put my whole heart into outer achievements, I am pulled inwardly. It seems like we are always called to find a point of inner equilibrium as we do obvious and subtle dances with the movements from within outward, and from without inward, sometimes both going on at the same time.
I've known many who wish for their own private desert island or retreat center, but probably would find it too boring after a short time. Even trying to create and maintain a "retreat center" of any sort will involve a LOT of activity, very little of which has anything to do with the contemplative life! So while we long for a measure of peace, solitude, and stillness to go inward, we also long to know we're doing a productive activity.
This dilemma of choosing the inner versus the outer is part of an age-old duality all of humanity has sought to resolve for centuries. To use a timeless metaphor to describe this "choice," it could be called the difference between the so-called "Way of the Buddha" versus the "Way of the Bodhisattva." One is inward and transcendent, the other outward and compassionate.
The Way of realizing the ultimate "Buddha-nature" strives for ultimate transcendence of all form and desire, and finally passes away into a state called "Nirvana," or absolute bliss of the beyond of Existence. We are told this Path leads the consciousness never to return to the world of duality and impermanent forms.
The Way of the Bodhisattva, on the other hand, posits that the ultimate state is to behold fulfillment and perfection of understanding, but turn away from the Gate to No-form, and return to this world to teach in order to lessen the suffering of other beings. This state is enlightened, yet remains in the World to demonstrate compassion in many forms to assist those who suffer. One is the Way of Transcendence. One is the Way of Compassion.
We learn these with every experience we go through. It seems fairly easy to see how we walk both of these paths at different times, each playing off the other yet standing on its own as feeding our enlightenment. If we wonder whether we should go into retreat for any long period of time, I believe if we have important questions concerning outer things and how to perfect them, that would imply it's not yet time to go monastic as a life style, though of course a short period of solitude and contemplation is probably useful to sort things out and see it all as an interconnected whole.
For those of us with bills to pay and aspirations to create a better world, both our own and with others, we must continually engage the world. The monastic life doesn't pay much, regardless of its other benefits! That's why I've known that in my own case I needed to create a life with much (blessed) solitude, yet where I could still be highly productive in my chosen fields with many human associations, quite a few of focused spiritual intent.
All of us have a 12th house, showing the energies and times for us to retreat to see things as a whole and retire from old patterns preparing for new experiences. While it is very important to know when to retire from parts of our world, we cannot retire from the world simply to escape into our private world, refusing to contribute to our world's improvement. To paraphrase the wisdom of the I Ching, when we retire it must be for the purpose of realizing the higher aspirations of humanity within us. At some point, the Way of the Bodhisattva will call us to distill our realizations into forms where we can lessen the suffering in our world, however we can accomplish that.
This dance between fulfilling the inward call to Realization and the outer call to Fulfillment helps us learn one of Saturn's binding lessons, that of learning to take responsibility for making correct choices, whether they're easy or hard. We must stand responsible for both knowing and living the wisdom to be found in our experiences, both pleasurable and painful. We will choose many directions throughout life. It is our job to make sure to change direction when appropriate, and hold firm when we must, in order to persevere in fulfilling our Higher Self's potential.
The Way of Transcendence may or may not be a chimera for most of us, since we are bound by Karma in a web of Light/Life with our entire Soul field of loved ones. Even if we think we want it, I believe our Divine Heart would ultimately call to our Divine Mind to pay attention to Love. If Love is the universal binding force, from one point of view even our form of "Transcendence" is but a product of our Higher Love attracting all that we desire about that Way. Thus transcendence itself is dependent on Love, or the Way of Bodhisattva, for its manifestation in any form whatsoever.
There are good reasons to focus on the Way beyond duality and the worlds of manifestation, since these are inherently unreal. By striving for that which is beyond form, beyond measurement, we are told from timeless sources that we can attain a perfectly enlightened point of Absolute Consciousness. However, the Way of Compassion shows there are equally good reasons to pay attention to our Higher Desire for Life itself, that we may bring forth flowers of conscious wisdom and love making our lives and world a more joyous place to do our Being.
The two Ways seem to mirror our breath - we breathe one in, we breathe it out, we take a different breath, we exhale that breath, in an unending sequence of helping our blood to circulate from and to our heart. Perhaps this is our task - to surrender all forms and merge into the Great Mystery, then remember enough of that transcendent Wisdom to bring forth flowers of Love and Intelligent activity in our world, each at the right time, so we long for nothing and do everything for its own sake in its own time.
Who among us can say what "enlightenment" really looks like, except as a function of a Consciousness, a space and time that seem to be "here and now," and that which recognizes the specificity of how the Consciousness manifests? Strive for that which cannot be known by the 5 senses and the mind, but which can be experienced directly, without needing any thing or person to facilitate it. Then do what you have to do.
© Copyright 2008 Robert Wilkinson