How Life Works

The short answer is that how our lives unfold depends on our outlook, motivations, intentions, and how we treat others. The effect of these factors on the quality and prevailing course of a person’s life is governed by two interrelated natural or spiritual laws.

The Law of Cause and Effect

This law embodies the biblical saying “You reap what you sow.” It is also related to the popular concept of karma which says that we create our own futures (in this life or the next) by our actions and how we treat others. If we do not stop our wrongdoing and change how we live our lives for the better, then we can expect an ongoing chain of negative effects on us and those around us. However, cause and effect provides the opportunity to break free from past bad behaviors and attitudes, and change our future.

Even as our karma plays out, we can decide what direction our life will take. Will we choose a fulfilling and happy life of goodness, love, and compassion, or a life of bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, greed, and hate devoid of any redeeming factors? Will we surrender to the darkness we have brought upon ourselves, or will we refuse to give up and instead emerge from the muck and blaze a new path toward spiritual awareness?

The Law of Compensation and Retribution

The Law of Compensation and Retribution is inherent in, and a natural consequence of, the Law of Cause and Effect. You will be rewarded for striving to live a life of goodness, and for helping others any way you can. Unselfish acts of loving kindness can compensate for past wrongdoing and transgressions of spiritual laws. However, wrongdoing in the absence of compensatory acts will result in retribution that leads to a life of suffering, unhappiness, and regret.

Thus, through free will and cause and effect, each of us determines the course of our own lives. The outcome cannot be attributed to anyone or anything other than ourselves.

This is a critical principle of spiritual law that once understood makes it possible for us to find true happiness and fulfillment. It means that we have the power to change our lives for the better, and through our love and compassion the lives of others. It provides the opportunity to progress spiritually and fulfill our purpose in this life on Earth.

The laws of cause and effect and compensation and retribution, like the Law of Gravity, once set into motion by our creator require no ongoing oversight. The spiritual laws operate automatically and assure accountability and justice concerning all of our thoughts and actions. I hope that everyone can appreciate what a simple and perfect plan this is. We get exactly what we deserve in terms of punishment or reward. It is the ultimate learning tool.

Author’s Note
The natural or spiritual laws discussed here can be found in various books in the Silver Birch series (e.g., The Teachings of Silver Birch).

You might also like to see the following related articles:

A Path From Darkness

How is My Divine Self Revealed

The Divine Virtues

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Buddhism – Spirituality for Everyone Part 2

Path to Enlightenment Photo credit sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com

Path to Enlightenment
Photo credit sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com

In my first article on Buddhism, we examined the Four Immeasurable Minds. These may be best described as highly elevated spiritual states of mind or ways of being. The Noble Eightfold Path discussed here can be thought of as a practical guide for living a noble and virtuous life.

The two are interrelated and interactive. Progress toward one fosters progress in the other. When both are present in an individual, the person is not only truly enlightened, but they serve as a role model for those wishing to achieve the highest levels of spirituality.

Some may worry that the Four Immeasurables may be too much of a paradigm shift to achieve or consistently sustain in a world culture that seems to be diametrically opposed to them. Such a shift in one’s state of mind is indeed challenging, but it is a goal well worth pursuing.

The Noble Eightfold Path gives us practical goals for how we should strive to live our everyday lives in a manner that leads to spiritual awakening and liberation from a mind-set of greed, hatred, violence, duplicity, and self-aggrandizement. It is a path that can transform us spiritually and prepare us for progression to the divine state of the Four Immeasurable Minds.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The word “right” in this context means “in the right and most beneficial or positive way.”

1. Right View or Understanding.

Right view is seeing and understanding things clearly as they truly are. It is also the ability to distinguish between thoughts and actions that are wholesome or unwholesome. Right view requires a flexible, open mind. It leads to an understanding of the law of cause and effect or moral law of karma; namely, that any action will produce results or effects that have the same nature as the action.

2. Right Thinking, Thought, or Intention.

We need to free our minds from bias, prejudice, wrong perceptions, making assumptions, and judging. Through right thought one makes an effort to rid one’s self from what they know to be wrong or immoral. In so doing, we are making a commitment to follow a spiritual path. Right thinking leads to right speech and right action.

3. Right Speech.

Do not lie, bear false witness, use harsh, hateful, or divisive language, gossip, be rude, engage in useless chatter, etc. Always speak truthfully and lovingly in a manner that brings joy, hope, and understanding to others. Our speech should be guided by right view and right thinking.

4. Right Action or Conduct.

Engage in moral, ethical, honorable, and peaceful action. Practice nonviolence and be committed to protecting all life on earth.

5. Right Livelihood.

Choose a profession that is honorable, ethical, and helps and sustains living things rather than one that supports war, killing, disharmony, or harms, cheats, or exploits them. Five types of livelihoods to be avoided are specifically mentioned:

Trade in any kind of weapons.
Any form of trade in human beings.
Breeding and selling of animals for slaughter.
Manufacture or sale of addictive drugs or intoxicating drinks.
Production or trade of any kind of toxic substance or poison designed to harm living things.

6. Right Effort or Diligence. (Paraphrased from Rahula referenced below)

Right diligence is a concerted effort (1) to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind from arising, (2) to rid one’s self from such thoughts that have already arisen (3) to produce good and wholesome states of mind that have not yet arisen, and (4) to develop and bring to perfection the good and wholesome states of mind already present.

7. Right Mindfulness.

Right mindfulness is being diligently aware of activities of the body, our sensations and feelings, and our thoughts (and their nature). It is being mindful of and living in the present moment free from all thoughts or concern about the past or the future. In mindfulness we refrain from judgement or interpretation of what we are experiencing in the moment. When we are mindful, right thinking, right speech, right action, etc. will be expressed.

8. Right Concentration.

Buddha said that when we have a singleness of mind supported by the other seven factors of the Noble Eightfold Path we have achieved right concentration. It is an essential component of effective meditation.

Right concentration is described as a one-pointed mind. That is, the ability to focus or concentrate on one thing. Right concentration encompasses and is facilitated and supported by the other seven elements of the Noble Path. The practice of right concentration allows us to cultivate insight and develop wisdom by examination of the true nature of things through meditation.

It is by striving to follow the Noble Eightfold Path in our everyday life that we develop the basic principles of ethical conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom which are central to Buddhist practice. Buddha gave many discourses on each element of the Path to explain their meaning in great depth. Consequently, my brief explanations are sorely incomplete and do not give a full appreciation of the scope and quality of each element of the Path.

While many components of the Eightfold Path are things for which most people seeking a spiritual way of life would strive, the Path codifies a stepwise process to achieve them. The Noble Eightfold Path encompasses universal elements of a spiritual way of life. Many of them resonate with the teachings of Christianity and other religions.

I would place persons who engage in spiritual practices and thought akin to those of Buddhists among the exalted meek who are said to one day inherit the earth. In a world seemingly filled with murky shadows and darkness, they are a beacon of light and hope.

References

Hanh, Thich Nhat, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation. New York: Harmony Books. 2010. First published 1999.

Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. 2nd ed. enlarg. New York: Grove Press. 1974. First published 1959.

You might like to see the following related articles:

Buddhism – Spirituality for Everyone Part 1

The Law of Cause and Effect

Spiritual Lawlessness

Spiritual Wasteland Source: wallalay.com

Spiritual Wasteland
Source: wallalay.com

The state of much of the world today can be characterized as spiritual lawlessness. What this means in large part is that basic laws of human behavior such as honesty, integrity, morality, and ethics are being ignored—or worse—not being taught or modeled to our children. This type of lawlessness is a sure sign of a declining civilization. It is indicative of a society that has allowed itself to become lost in a spiritual wasteland.

Spiritual lawlessness is a failure to apply the basic principles that underlie living a life of goodness. It also represents a failure to be mindful of the Ten Commandments and spiritual laws such as the laws of cause and effect, and retribution and compensation. It seems that a great many people have lost touch with these time-honored guiding principles.

These natural laws have guided human behavior and interactions for millennia. Are the generations now living going to be the ones who allow the most basic of God’s laws to be ignored and perhaps eventually lost in history?

There are many comparatively trivial societal laws with which almost everyone complies. For example, we all know that a red light means stop. We stop automatically because, if we do not, we believe that we will either get a costly ticket or cause an accident that could be fatal.

Yet, it appears that many who were taught the Ten Commandments as a child have since “forgotten” them even though violating them will bring grievous harm to them spiritually. Some may willfully disregard them because compliance would deprive them of serving their own selfish desires. While others may have lost sight of them due to societal pressure to conform to widespread materialism and pursuit of self interests.

Many of us have fallen prey to sophisticated marketing campaigns and programming that loosened restrictions on the depiction of violence and sexual depravity. As a result, the psyche of people in developed countries around the world was taken down a dark path of spiritual depravation and lawlessness.

It is my hope that those who are not happy about the state of society will take a few minutes to not only read the Ten Commandments, but reflect upon their application in the context of today’s society and the many situations in which we see violations. It is easy to quickly glance over them and assume that you “know” them. However, a more thoughtful and deeper reading would be most beneficial.

I have given a few examples below to help us begin thinking about their practical applications. As an example, let us look at the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.” This is not just about things like shop lifting or burglary. We see many kinds of theft in today’s society. For example, over charging for goods and services by setting very high profit margins, putting forth another person’s work as your own, theft of proprietary systems, processes, and recipes to name a few.

Another commandment is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” It is tempting to shirt past this one because superficially it sounds like something that applies to a courtroom. In the broadest terms, what it says to me is to not spread lies about others. We shouldn’t lie about what we may have seen or heard. We shouldn’t try to shift blame to someone else for something we did.

Thou shalt not covet things that others have is the gist of Commandment 10. I do not see any redeeming quality in being jealous of or longing for what others have. Doing so will likely lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. I believe we should be grateful for what we have and stay within our financial means.

I encourage everyone to do their own analysis of practical situations where each commandment applies to human behavior today. It is an exercise that may be valuable for bringing the Ten Commandments back to the forefront of our minds and automatically signal a red light when we get into situations where they apply. This will give us a chance to carefully consider how to proceed.

Spiritual lawlessness has cast a dark shadow over the world. Let us each do our part to make sure that we do not participate in it by always being mindful of God’s commandments and natural laws. He gives us so much while asking precious little in return.

You might like to see the following related articles:

What Natural or Spiritual Laws Govern Our Lives?
The Law of Cause and Effect
The Law of Retribution and Compensation

The Law of Retribution and Compensation

From WallpaperUp.com

From WallpaperUp.com

If we do not comply with God’s laws and neglect or hurt others, then there will be a price to pay. Punishment may be in the form of pain and suffering, through karmic experience, and/or other forms of which we are unaware. There must be consequences for our thoughts and actions or we would not learn and grow spiritually.

While the foregoing is easily understood, what is not clear is the extent to which we may be able to compensate or offset our wrongdoing with good deeds or by setting things right once again. There may be transgressions that are just too serious to be offset in some way. Further, compensation may only reduce the punishment, rather than totally avoid it.

Nevertheless, it is good to know that the opportunity for compensation exists, and we should always strive to do so. Based on the Law of Cause and Effect, good deeds done with purity of intent will always have a positive effect whether or not they provide compensation for our transgressions.

I hope that all readers will take seriously all of the natural and spiritual laws discussed in this series of short articles. Do not allow their simplicity or familiarity lead you to think them trivial or prevent you from using them as a guide for how you live your life. They have and will continue to govern what your life will be like now and in the future.

Try very hard to love your neighbor as yourself. Be honest and kind, and have compassion for others. Help those in need whenever you can. The extent to which you are able to do so will determine the degree to which you will progress spiritually and whether you will find true happiness in this life.

Author’s Note

Another spiritual law, the Law of Service, was discussed in a previous article (see below).

You might like the following related articles:

What is Salvation?

The Law of Service

The Law of Cause and Effect

Grand Canyon National Park From WallpaperUP

Grand Canyon National Park
From WallpaperUp.com

The notion of cause and effect in a spiritual context is easily understood. For every action there is an effect of the same tenor as the original action. The effect may be immediate or delayed; obvious or subtle.

Simply put, if you do bad things, then you will attract badness (the Law of Attraction), and bad things will happen to you. If you do good things, then you will attract goodness, and good things will happen to you.

Said another way, kindness brings kindness, love brings love, and hate brings hate. We are affected spiritually by the good or wrong that we do. Perhaps if you reflect upon your life, you may begin to see chains of cause and effect that have already operated.

This law embodies the biblical saying “You reap what you sow.” It is also related to the popular concept of karma which says that we create our own futures (in this life or the next) by our actions and how we treat others. For example, if one refuses to acknowledge or help the poor or disenfranchised, then they likely will find themselves poor and disenfranchised in the next life. If someone tortures and kills people, then they can expect to suffer the same fate in this or a future life.

If we do not stop our wrongdoing and change how we live our lives for the better, then we can expect an ongoing chain of negative effects on us and those around us. However, cause and effect provides the opportunity to break free from past bad behaviors and attitudes, and change our future.

Even as our karma plays out, we can decide what direction our life will take. Will we choose a fulfilling and happy life of goodness, love, and compassion, or a life of bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, greed, and hate devoid of any redeeming factors? Will we surrender to the darkness we have brought upon ourselves, or will we refuse to give up and instead emerge from the muck and blaze a new path toward spiritual awareness?

The operation of these laws is automatic and assures accountability and justice concerning all of our thoughts and actions. I hope that you can appreciate what a simple and perfect plan this is. We get exactly what we deserve in terms of punishment or reward. It is the ultimate learning tool.

Author’s Note

The natural or spiritual laws we are discussing can be found in various books in the Silver Birch series (e.g., The Teachings of Silver Birch).

You might like the following related articles:

Wherefrom Comes Happiness?

What is Spiritual Awareness?

Harmony and Health

Credit: WallpaperUp.com

Credit: WallpaperUp.com

I have said many times in my various writings that I believe that our true life is spiritual, not physical. Our spirit gives the body life, but when the body withers away, the spirit remains—eternal.

The spirit-self will never die, and there is nothing in this world that can cause it permanent injury. Only we can cause “injuries” to our spirit by our negative, selfish, and destructive mental attitudes, bad behavior, and neglect of those who need our help.

These are failures of character that prevent harmony between spirit, mind, and body. This can cause an imbalance that makes us susceptible to disease. The disharmony is the cause and illness is the resulting effect. Perhaps it is the widespread focus on materialism, rather than spirituality, that underlies the rise in poor health and disease worldwide.

God will always provide what is necessary for us to fulfill our life plan. With faith in this edict, what need have we for anxiety, worry, stress, or fear? Those who have achieved harmony between spirit, mind, and body are free of these negative states of mind that can contribute to poor health. They are happy and healthy individuals who have chosen a life of spirit over one of materialism.

As Silver Birch has often said, “If the spirit is aright, then the body will be aright.” There likely would be no illness if our spirit, mind, and body were in perfect harmony.

How does one achieve this hard to reach harmony? The anchor, the rock upon which this harmony is built is expression of the spirit. If we are not aware of (or acknowledge) our spirit and its purpose in our physical life, then harmony will remain elusive, and we will have missed the opportunity to have a truly vibrant, healthy, and (spiritually) rewarding life.

Expression of the spirit is one of the main themes of articles published on this web site. Selflessness and a strong desire to help others are the hallmarks of spiritual expression. If we strive to consistently live a life of goodness, virtue, love and compassion, our spirit will begin to express its innate divinity and we will not only achieve harmony between spirit, mind, and body, but also among our fellow human beings.

You may like the following related articles:

Harmony between Spirit, Mind, and Body
The Spiritual Mind