Donkey Consciousness

Seeing The Good-Ford Smith

  “The single biggest factor that turned me towards spirituality," says a meditation teacher, "was a nightmare vision of ego that developed in me in the late sixties. I saw ego everywhere.” 

 He shuddered to see only self-regard and self-importance everywhere he looked.

 It was unbearable to regard himself and the world in such a grim way. "I saw that all my actions seemed motivated by selfishness or self-concern, and I also saw the same was true of others, all others. 

 He describes this experience, however, as "an awakening of sorts, but an awakening to hell.”  (Swami Shankarananda, Consciousness is Everything, p. 30) 

 He was perhaps like the traveller who, upon approaching a certain town, came across someone who had just left it, and asked: 'What are the people like there?' 

 The man replied: 'Well, what were the people like where you just were?

 'Oh, well, they were all scumbags and creeps.' 

 'Well then, alas, you’ll find the same thing again where you’re going. You're about to see more scumbags and creeps.

 Thus on one level, this was a true awakening - a true awakening to the power and presence of evil in the world. 

 For there is no denying it that ego is in fact everywhere. Indeed, evil is everywhere. Delusion is everywhere. Depravity is everywhere.

 On display are restless, agitated minds, minds so severely soiled and clogged that there remains little or no room for something admirable to develop. 

 More than evident are countless numbers of unexamined, programmed minds. The drama unfolding is the plight of numerous bound souls, needing deliverance.

 But our bondage, Shankarananda, is at pains to stress, does not exist because of anything external done to us.

 No, we have done it to ourselves. Our limited, knotted, contracted condition is not because of "the government or a political system, but we are in bondage to certain limiting tendencies in our own minds, within our own spirits.” (Shankarananda) 

 In this way or that, we are no different from the the enchained ghost of Marley who described himself in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: "I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link and yard by yard."

 "I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

 Marley wanted Scrooge to understand: 'Nobody did it to me. I did it to myself.'

 "Is its pattern strange to you, Ebenezer?” That is, 'Are you going to pretend you don’t realize that you are living now just the way I lived? You’re a fool, Ebenezer. Break the pattern before it’s too late!'

  We, like Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge, forge our own kind of chains to be bound by. We then carry the chains with us wherever we go.

 Some shock - perhaps a dream in the night - may be required to break the pattern.

 Some shock may be need to be delivered, lickety-split, to launch us into another dimension - into another world of truth, beauty and goodness.

 This was the experience of Whittaker Chambers, whose entry into spiritual life was prompted, like Shankarananda’s, when he had become most acutely aware of the reality and power of evil.

 For years he had plotted a communist revolution until, that is, the lies he’d been living in, became too many, and the whole thing collapsed.

 It’s simply one of the best stories of the twentieth century - of a prominent leftist who finally woke up to exclaim: "What I had been fell from me like dirty rags. What fell was the whole web of the materialistic modern mind - which had been like a shroud, or covering, spun over my spirit, paralyzing in the name of rationalism, the instinct of my soul for God.” (I’ve paraphrased Chambers)

 Illuminated, he testified: “Time and the world stood still,” as he felt himself enveloped by a greater reality, a sense of God, "holding me in silent assurance and untroubled peace.”

 Which again affirms what I wrote in a recent article, that you cannot have the transformation of Romans chapter eight without the bombshell revelation of Romans chapter seven: ‘Wretched man that I am.' 

 We have, in other words, to become aware of the narrative of lies that we’ve been living in.

 We have to realize, to put it another way, what donkeys we’ve been. 

 As the tale is told in India of the lion cub, who "strayed from his family and got lost in the woods. He was adopted by donkeys.

 In those days, the washermen used their donkeys to carry the washing. The older donkeys taught the lion cub how to do that, and how to bray.

 Well, the lion cub made a horrible donkey.

 His donkey family thought there was something essentially wrong with him.

 He needed some balancing, some therapy, because he couldn’t bray well. He wasn’t good at doing any of the donkey things.

 He felt that too, and had tearing thoughts, such as, 'I’m a bad donkey. I’m a loser.'

 He took all the courses and workshops and tried earnestly to improve himself, but nothing worked.

 Then one day a great lion came upon the scene. He saw all those donkeys in a row, carrying the wash, too.

 And he was offended. He thought, 'What is he doing there?' and roared.

 They all ran away, except the lion cub who was too naive. 

 When he saw the lion he said, ‘Don’t eat me! Don’t eat me!'

 But the great lion said, ‘No, no, no, come here with me’, and took him to the river.

 He said: 'Look at our reflections in the river, what do you see?

 The donkey-lion said, ‘Oh we look alike! Are you a donkey?

 And the lion said, ‘No, you fool, you are a lion!’” (Shankarananda)

 The lion, of course, represents a greater, higher, deeper, truer identity. The donkey represents the bound, programmed, ego self.

 My father-in-law used to say: "The donkeys are always with us.” But I’d prefer not to be counted among them. I’d prefer not to practice donkey consciousness.

 Thus what is being affirmed here is that a higher consciousness is possible.

 To get in touch with that, with that inner realm - described often in the literature as like a brilliant gem - will open up a world of wonder. Magical things will start to happen. 

 A few weeks ago, I was meditating and emerged from the practice with a surprisingly intense longing to meet Sam.

 I woke my wife up at 4:00 in the morning to exclaim that 'I have to meet Sam.’ And she didn’t get angry!

 Well, Samantha is twelve years old, the daughter of one of the best friends I have ever made. She lives in Calgary where I lived with my family for almost thirty years. 

 For twelve years, I’ve been hearing about Sam, but have never met her, although we’ve had several exchanges through Google Plus. 

 A day later, my wife and I were, after a nine year absence, back in Calgary, an eleven hour drive away, through the Rocky Mountains.

 Upon arriving, I sat with another great friend and his wife: He asked: "You’ve come to Calgary, Al, to meet a twelve year old girl?

 “Yes, to meet Sam.” I could hardly say the words and got all choked up.  

 Then a while later, my wife and I arrived at Sam’s home, where I was delighted to find that there was to be no small talk whatsoever. 

 As the sign on the door read: No small talk allowed. 

 So we were not asked questions like: 'How was your trip through the Rocky mountains? Any deer on the road? Did you see any mountain goats? Did you feel tired? Where did you stop to eat? Did you notice that the Humpty’s restaurant has closed in Golden? I wonder what happened? I thought it was doing so well.'

 No! None of that at all. No small talk. Only big talk. Meaningful talk.

 Only a minute had passed and out came a book. Sam’s mother now took her turn to choke up as she opened a favourite book called Falling Angels, by the genius writer and artist, Colin Thompson. 

 Since Sam’s Mom, incapacitated by emotion, couldn't read the book, Sam took over. 

 Its theme is the contrast between two ways of seeing. You can see with your  eyes, or with your heart

 In Colin Thompson words: “Some people see the world with their eyes.” Some people see the world with their hearts."

 The message is that we can fly. "All you have to do,” writes Thompson, “is to keep your dreams."

 "If you keep flying, you could spend all your life in daytime." (Colin Thompson, Falling Angels.) 

 So it’s a book about waking up out of donkey consciousness.

 Sam’s Mom put it like this later that, if you see with only your physical eyes, it is like "seeing in shadows, seeing closed doors, short circuiting the potential behind the image in the frame of the eye. It is shallow."

 Seeing with the heart, in contrast, is "flying in the light. It is seeing closed doors as portals of opportunity, reaching out and in, for that potentiality, a longing without limit, and recognizing the depth of deepness in apparently shallow waters.” 

 Which all sounds like the Sam’s Mom that I know.

 Well, on that special day in a Calgary living room, we all flew together through a blessed encounter with Sam and her family.

 I will not be letting go of the meditation practice any time soon.

 The theme of this article is therefore to take off, to fly, with all of your mind, heart and soul into higher realms. The way is through prayer and meditation, which includes meditating on the meaning of a book called Falling Angels.

 To live otherwise is to live in a donkey world of depletion and limitation. It’s to live all bound up, or chained up, like Marley, with all kinds of "acquired knots and contractions.” 

 The great Tukaram Maharaj sang: "I’ve built my home in the realm beyond illusion. I live there eternally. Liberated from the snare of this world, I have attained unbreakable union. My ego is vanquished forever.” 

 Tukaram left donkey consciousness behind to live in another realm of magical possibilities. 

 He flew and we can, too. 

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Flying Away, Asha