Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Being Beyond Belief
Sundance Burke

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Sundance Burke

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The following is an extract from the book ‘Free Spirit - A Guide to Enlightened Being’.

The experiences and actions that evidence life do not require belief. The wind blows. The birds sing. The sun and the moon rise and set over the horizon. The sky turns color. The tide ebbs and flows. A newborn child turns to its mother and father. None of this requires belief. It just happens. This is not a satisfying interpretation to the egocentric mind, but it is nonetheless true. Life and its actions are inherently intelligent. Life does not require your belief. So what is the effect of belief on life? Belief is an artificial intelligence and it has no effect upon reality.

Belief is a fictional story and as such, it is merely an illustration or interpretation of what is. We make-believe, consciously and unconsciously. For example, we are all familiar with a mirage of water in the desert. There is no water in the mirage. There is only an image of water and nothing more. This is imagination, a sensory deception. At best, the mirage is a representation of water or a pointer to water, but not the fact of water. A mirage is not a belief in and of itself. A mirage is just an appearance in mind, a visualized image. An additional element is required to form "belief".

When who I am becomes identified through the images I perceive, then belief is created…something true in relation to "me." Belief is a creature of what I think I am. All thoughts are capable of being referenced to "me" and thereby made into "my belief." Thoughts that are merely witnessed, without being referenced to an objective identity, are beyond belief. When we are not conscious of our thoughts as NOT SELF, we are living under the influence of belief. As such, we are in ignorance to who we are in the absence of our beliefs. This is the meaning of the expression, "we cannot see the forest for the trees." It is through the force of belief that we appear to lose feeling contact with our pure Being and its free awareness.

You may remember the scene in the classic movie, The Wizard of OZ, where Dorothy and her friends entered the palace to meet the great wizard. In the midst of a loud and fiery mechanical display by the so-called wizard at the far end of the throne room, Dorothy's dog, Toto, pulled back the curtain on a nearby cubicle. Therein, it is revealed that a mere man is pulling and pushing the mechanical levers that operate the all-powerful and fearsome wizard. The man, realizing that his deception is being exposed, speaks into the microphone serving as the voice of the wizard, and anxiously says, "Ignore that little man behind the curtain." Like this story, we have been under the false impression that the mind is the almighty wizard. Our witnessing consciousness, Toto the dog, has pulled back the curtain and we can see for ourselves that the mind is nothing more than thoughts, parading as absolute truth and reality.

All personal beliefs are like a façade that may crumble without any disturbance to the inner reality. For instance, the presence or absence of a mirage has no effect upon the desert as it is. So, the question, "Can human chaos be resolved?" is a belief-based question. The very perception of chaos is a belief. Experience is shaped by belief. Your experience may be chaos. But what is experience?

It can be observed that experience is just the reflection of what you hold as belief. Two different people in similar life circumstances can have very different experiences of the same event. Yet, life is what it is, regardless of what we might think about it. So ultimately, our chaos cannot be resolved when we think as we do, because we believe in chaos. By believing in our fearful concept of self, we support the experience of our suffering. The world merely reflects the form and feeling of our convictions.

So, what is the real nature of an identity founded in belief? Such an identity is merely a concept, a thought-formed creation or fantasy. It cannot be real, because this self-image disappears in the absence of thought. It needs the activity of thinking to exist in any manner. An identity gleaned from thought does not possess an independent existence outside the realm of mind. It's true, you can think about yourself. But who is that? You, as you truly are, or simply a thought.

If your mental images of self are not true, then neither are the desires and fears that arise from those images. All images support the dream, including the image of the dreamer. Thus, if "I desire to be happy" and the "I" is misperceived, then the desire is also a mistake. The effect of this irreconcilable marriage is: I am desire and desire is I. If, we let go of the imaginative attribute of desire in this equation, I am I is all that remains. As this purity of presence, we are awake to all experience, as its witness. While the witnessed is relative to the shape of manifest conditions, witnessing is ever free.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012