Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Circle of Life: Part 2

Sunday Service Discussion Notes for April 15, 2012

Last week we concluded our discussion of The Circle of Life. Click here to read the summary of the previous week's discussion on this topic.  

Whirling Dervishes
There is a circular pattern in life. Our facilitator, Lara, gave us an example of a spiritual and artistic embodiment of this pattern by describing the tradition of Sufi Whirling, performed by dancers commonly known as Whirling Dervishes.  A quote from the linked article illustrates:
"While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God's beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The dervish conveys God's spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the ceremony. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the dervish embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love."

It was brought up that when we die, we do not really die. That death is an illusion; merely a curtain covering a doorway into a new state of being. If we understand that the life of our spirit continues after it passes out of our physical body, we would perhaps not have so much fear of death.

It was asked whether we have evidence of a spiritual life after this physical one. We gathered a variety of responses to this from our participants:
One person noted that many people who undergo near-death experiences typically state that they wanted to remain in their new state, going "into the light" as we often hear this described, and that they were reluctant to come back to their bodies. This point was used to contend that whatever afterlife there may be, that it seems to be a good place, if people who almost die experience a taste of it and do not want to leave.

Another participant offered that "knowing" about the afterlife is a deep, undeniable feeling that you experience, rather than a set of empirical proofs.

As in the prior week's discussion, the famous Einstein quote was repeated, "Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another," and this was also suggested as evidence that our spirits (which many of us agreed are a form of energy, perhaps one that we simply do not have the technology to measure and quantify) do not merely disappear or cease to exist when our physical body finishes functioning.

Many of us recalled accounts of communication from spirits who have passed over, and have many personal stories that included recognition of the personalities of those spirits whom we knew to be familiar to us, and common knowledge between these spirits and ourselves and that lead us to believe that they are the same people we knew during their life incarnate.

Why don't we know what the next phase of life is, exactly?  We theorized that this knowledge might influence the actions that we take and our behaviors in this life, and that perhaps if we all retained complete knowledge of all phases of life, we might delay in working on whatever personal growth we are trying to achieve in order to get to the next phase of our spiritual evolution. Perhaps we might say to ourselves, "This is too hard, and I know I will have to come back in another lifetime, so I will just work on it then." 

Depiction of Buddha attaining Parinirvana
The teachings of Buddha were acknowledged in regard to the continual cycle of death and rebirth on the path to complete enlightenment; the achievement of a final state of spiritual awakening. His teachings guide us to the state of Parinirvana, wherein a spirit has achieved complete awaking and once it passes from its body, it is no longer required to be reborn into the flesh to repeat the cycle. We noted that each person's spiritual journey is individual, and that what one person needs for their evolution is not the same thing that someone else needs.

A reference was made to the movie, Defending Your Life in which a recently deceased man awaits judgment in a fictional afterlife "waiting room" where it would be decided if he had learned the necessary spiritual lessons to allow him to move on to the next phase, or if he would be required to return and begin a new life in order to try to complete his learning. We wondered if this was a case of art imitating life, insofar as how close to reality this cinematic concept of the afterlife really was? Do we need to accomplish a predetermined level of learning before we move on to the next phase?

Another way of looking at this topic is that our personal Circle of Life expands and contracts. If you want to be closed off, making your life very focused, constrained, and quiet , your circle closes in. You may cut yourself off from an extremely active social life in order to focus on personal issues. If you want to be open, your circle opens up. You seek to expand the realm of things encompassed in your daily life, like friends, family, and groups of which you are a part.

We raised the question, "Why do some people live a long time and some only a very short time?"  This seemed like a good launching place for an entirely new discussion, and we chose this point to close the Circle of Life topic for now, and to reflect on the many points that were brought up during this discussion.

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