It’s new year. Of course, this is completely arbitrary. There is no particular reason why this point in time should be a beginning or, indeed, an end. One time follows another. Each is special in its own way. In a sense, New Year is something completely arbitrary. The planets keep going round, the moon has its phases, things change continuously. But still, we like to have some structure. We like to have a structure for our life. We like to set up end points and beginning points, stages that we can pass through. This enables us to keep some sense of progress, some sense of advancement, achievement, it gives us a possibility of setting goals and achieving them – or failing, as the case may be.

So, in order to be realistic, we have to keep some sense of proportion here. On the one hand, some structure is useful, on the other hand there is always an element about it that is just phantasy.  Take  something like money: money doesn’t really exist. It only exists in the imagination of humans; and then we have pieces of paper or pieces of metal, that represent this non-existent substance, and these become enormously important to us.

The same is true with nationality. A bird flying from France into Germany or Switzerland or Italy or… – it has no idea that it is crossing a frontier, there is nothing there that says: “This is a big change.” Not in nature. Only in the mind of human beings and yet: don’t we make such a fuss about it? And many people have been killed over disputes about where that line actually is. But it’s complete phantasy.

So, human life is like this: much of human life is structured around phantasies, that have become very important to groups of people, and we have to take note of this. It’s no good saying: “Well, I don’t recognize the boundary between this country and another one,” because the immigration officials will still not let you pass. You still have to get your visa and so on. And, in fact, humans have created a huge amount of inconvenience and trouble for themselves by setting up these barriers and boundaries and all these phantasy-structures that rule our social life.

A spiritual person has to take account of the “realities” of this phantasy world. Sometimes, if you are a spiritual person, people come to you and they say: “Yes, but what about the real world?” Well, when you think about what they mean by the “real world” much of it is phantasy. As a spiritual person you have to take account of it but at the same time, you have to be aware that it is just illusion. It might be useful illusion, but it’s still illusion. So, although your social life might be structured in this way or that way, your spirit is not bound to be entrapped by it. And this is just as much the case in a spiritual organisation, a church, a religion, as it is in society at large. Structures are sometimes very useful for enabling good relations, connections and so on; and sometimes they’re just an obstacle. Sometimes more and more people are employed to prevent other people from doing things, but, that’s how human beings are and that’s what we have to live with.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much


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