Summary of Episode 9: Spiritual leaders have seen reality and eternity by coming to know their True Nature; Death is inevitable-no exceptions; Prince Siddharta ventured out of his luxurious palace to see the 4 sights-an old man, a sick man, a dead person and a happy monk; then he renounced his privileged life and went to find enlightenment. To find our True Nature, we need to face the reality of death and our impermanence. Developed peoples have diverse spiritual and psychological trainings to try to accept this. Indigenous tribes live in constant spiritual awareness and long for the glories of death and so live their lives fulfilling their particular mission so that they can die and move on to the next stage. Humans are a process – no longer animals, but not yet gods. The Djang – the final burial ceremony-the magnificent culmination of their lives.
Goodness is a universal principal, either on its own terms or in contrast to what is not goodness; in other words, human beings need both the positive and the negative so that we can clearly see the universal appeal of goodness and its great truth and strive towards living by its codes. Goodness is and has been the supreme aspiration of most religious and spiritual traditions throughout the history of humanity, so it is not something new.
It could be said that everything and everyone we encounter throughout our lives bears crucial messages for our spiritual progress if only we know how to notice them, interpret them and then choose to apply them. Imagine a comprehensive curriculum devised for your spiritual development throughout the whole of your life, laid out before you. It is a blueprint, and if we follow its dimensions, we have the opportunity to become a strong enlightened being who has transformed human shortcomings, learned from our mistakes and so returned to our original innocence or goodness. It would seem that many of us have lost sight of the flawless loving nature we are endowed with for our term as human beings.
The Church of Love laid down the dimensions of such a blueprint in 1244 in medieval Europe. Its creed is a masterpiece of balance and harmony all resting on the foundation of pure goodness. The Cathars, known as Les Bons (the Good) or Les Parfaits (the Perfect), took absolute refuge in the pure and positive light of God, a spiritual God. Their creed has great relevance to life today, an era beleaguered by social decline, war and natural calamities, and estrangement from the great truth.
To summarise that creed, the participants needed no physical church because understanding was their venue. Membership came down to simply knowing they belonged there. They had no ambition, only an unconditional wish to serve. Boundaries and nationalisms were deemed unloving; no walk of life, no race, colour, creed, religion, or class was a barrier. All teachers of all ages were revered if they had shown the truth of love. The principal practice was to live the truth of love in all their being.
‘Those who are, know.’
This is perhaps the cornerstone of their manifesto. In other words, if they allowed themselves to simply be, they would know everything they needed to know. This was amplified by the Cathar commitment to not teaching or instructing intellectually in order to enrich or edify, but simply allowing a return to a natural flawless state of being.
There were no teachers or hierarchies in the Church of Love because in truth there is equality between all people. There was no discrimination between lay and clergy, member or non-member because they believed that every life constituted the way to return to God.
In the wake of environmental deterioration in today’s world, we modern people have turned to ecology and prevention measures. But 700 years ago, the Cathars were fully aware of their responsibility to the planet Earth, seeing it as an organism of which humans were part, along the lines of the Gaia hypothesis. So, they called for a supreme transmutation, or the conscious change of the self-serving ego, into a reintegration with the whole. In other words, making bonds with the universe, our divine origin.
Cathars recognised each other only by their good deeds, and by their eyes, which were filled with love. They loved everyone and everything in silence while living normally in their communities. There were no rewards to offer in exchange for practice or good works, except the condition of full joy in simply being and loving. They listened to everyone around them and the planet, and never felt fear or shame. Neither did they have any secrets or mysteries. The only initiation was a true understanding of the power of love, and the recognition that if humans changed, then the world would change because humans are the world.
This blueprint is fundamentally overflowing with goodness. There is no doubt at all that the Cathars took refuge in the pure positive light of God or Universe, while immersed in the human world of suffering. They worked tirelessly to extricate those ensnared by the so-called devil’s tricks and delusions, but to do so they each first needed to recognise and unearth their own True Nature and then live by it. They lived in utter truth and so were exterminated because they undermined the arrogant Church of Rome. They staked their own human lives for each soul’s True Nature to shine out.
Almost twenty years ago, I had the great privilege to live for several years in a tiny village in the remote eastern Pyrenees, on the Mediterranean side of this gigantic mountain frontier between France and Spain, in western Europe. This region is known as Languedoc-Roussillon. It was a simple life, mostly sequestered away from the media and other such worldly distractions. I was travelling on the Buddhist raft at the time, but entirely on my own, ironically without either sangha or teacher.
It was a heavenly location, with unhindered views of untouched primaeval forests and stunning peaks. The village was medieval, largely abandoned by young people who had moved to the cities to make a living, and mostly in ruins.
My long days were spent restoring and cultivating a sizable medieval garden to try to provide all the food we needed and making the carcas of an old farmhouse more habitable. Early mornings were spent exercising on the sandy roads once trodden by Les Bons or Les Parfaits (the Cathars), nowadays used as shortcuts by shepherds and their flocks and vineyard workers.
I would go as far as to say that my personal spiritual blueprint had designated that I was transported to these mountains to tread the footsteps of the Cathars as they fled from the relentless hounding of the Church of Rome, or ‘of wolves’ as they saw it. They were pronounced heretics because of their creed and their belief in True Nature and the power of love.
As I reached deeply into the lives of Les Bons (the Good) each of my own days became a triumph of good over evil. The thin veil of my death, which they believed was the sole thing separating beings of flesh from the spiritual world, the visible from the invisible, threatened to blow away at any moment. I found that my life lived in this belief was light and joyful and that indeed I had everything I needed to realize such joy inside me. In other words, my True Nature was polished and shining brightly.
Life is glorious if we have the courage to live out our True Nature. If we can see the True Nature of each being around us glinting beneath the front they project or behind the masks that they wear, then each human does embody the creed of the Church of Love, and they walk graciously on the surface of our foundation, the Planet of Love.
In conclusion, this will lead us to reality and self-knowledge: The embodiment of True Nature and the return to our origins, the sacred; Starting to sing our own song instead of imitating the songs of others; Using every human encounter positively as a grinding wheel to polish our inner diamond; Listening to the sacred beings around us with our totality; Taming of the wild elephant of the intellectual mind with the help of visionaries and the wise, but remembering to leave their support behind so that we can go deeper into our own precious resources; Accepting our impermanence and physical death to reveal our authentic motivation in glorious life; Living in the world of suffering knowing that it is only a dream and a spiritual testing ground to lead us to live altruistically to spread our natural goodness as the Cathars did.
Please join me next for Chapter 1: The gods walked among us.
Images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.