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  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel
  • Sacred journey to peru, mystic travel agency peru, mystic travel

IRECENTLY HAD A SMALL ENCOUNTER with destiny—so small that I could have ignored it entirely. A man came to visit me who had devoted his entire life to spirituality. He told me about his many visits to India and his devotion to its ways. He wore amulets of the kind you can buy at temples and holy sites; he knew many sacred chants, or Bhajans; he had been blessed by many holy men in his travels.
Some had given him mantras as a gift. A mantra can be as short as a syllable or as long as a sentence, but it’s basically a sound. In what way can a sound be a gift? To someone steeped in the Indian tradition, the gift isn’t the mantra itself but the effect it’s meant to bring, such as wealth or a good marriage. There are thousands of mantras and thousands of possible results they bring.
When I asked him what he did for a living, the man waved his hand and said, “Oh, a little healing, a little psychic stuff. You know, mind-reading. I don’t pay much attention to it.”
His careless attitude intrigued me, and I asked if he could show me an example. He shrugged. “Think of somebody and write down a question you want to ask them.” The only person on my mind that day was my wife, who had been visiting family in New Delhi for a while. I reminded myself that I should call to ask her when she was planning to return—we hadn’t set a fixed date since some of the family members were elderly, and my wife’s stay depended on how well they were doing.
I wrote this down and looked at my visitor. He closed his eyes and began to chant a long mantra. After a minute he said, “Tuesday. You’re thinking about your wife, and you want to know when she’s coming home.”
He had got it right, and after he left and I was able to phone my wife, he got the day of her return right, too. I congratulated him, but he smiled and waved his hand with the same careless gesture that said, “It’s nothing. I barely pay attention to it.” An hour later, when I was alone, I began to think about these psychic events, which are no longer a novelty, given how the media play up paranormal phenomena.
Specifically, I wondered about free will and determinism. This man said he could read minds, but my wife’s return on Tuesday wasn’t on my mind. It was an event that could have fallen on any day of the week; I had even supposed that she might continue to stay indefinitely if circumstances dictated.
The question of free will versus determinism is huge, of course. In the one reality, every pair of oppositesis ultimately an illusion. We’ve already blurred the division betweengood and evil and life and death. Is free will going to turn out to be the same as determinism? A lot seems to ride on the answer.


  • Independence
  • Self-determination
  • Choice
  • Control over events
  • Future is open


  • Dependence on an outside will
  • Self determined by fate
  • No control over events
  • Choices made for you
  • Future is closed

These phrases sketch in the common understanding of what’s at stake. Everything in the free-will column sounds attractive. We all want to be independent; we want to make our own decisions; we want to wake up with hope that the future is open and full of endless possibilities. On the other hand, nothing seems attractive in the determination column. If your choices have been made for you, if your self is tied to a plan written before you were born, then the future cannot be open. Emotionally at least, the prospect of free will has already won the argument.
And at a certain level nobody has to delve any deeper. If you and I are marionettes operated by an invisible puppeteer—call him God, fate, or karma—then the strings he’s pulling are also invisible. We have no proof that we aren’t making free choices, except for the occasional spooky moments of the kind I began with, and mind-readers aren’t going to change how we fundamentally behave.
There is a reason to delve deeper, however, and it centers on the wordVasana. In Sanskrit, a Vasana is an unconscious cause. It’s the software of the psyche, the driving force that makes you do something when you think you’re doing it spontaneously. As such, Vasana is very disturbing. Imagine a robot whose every action is driven by a software program inside. From the robot’s point of view, it doesn’t matter that the program exists—until something goes wrong. The illusion of not being a robot collapses if the software breaks down because then, if the robot wants to do something but can’t, we know the reason why.
Vasana is determinism that feels like free will. I’m reminded of my friend Jean, whom I’ve known for almost twenty years. Jean considers himself very spiritual and went so far in the early nineties as to walk way from his job with a newspaper in Denver to live in an ashram in western Massachusetts. But he found the atmosphere choking. “They’re all crypto Hindus,” he complained. “They don’t do anything but pray and chant and meditate.” So Jean decided to move on with his life. He’s fallen in love with a couple of women but has never married. He doesn’t like the notion of settling down and tends to move to a new state every four years or so. (He once told me that he counted up and discovered that he’s lived in forty different houses since he was born.)
One day Jean called me with a story. He was on a date with a woman who had taken a sudden interest in Sufism, and while they were driving home, she told Jean that according to her Sufi teacher, everyone has a prevailing characteristic.

“You mean the thing that is most prominent about them, like being extroverted or introverted?” he asked.

“No, not prominent,” she said. “Your prevailing characteristic is hidden. You act on it without seeing that you’re acting on it.”

The minute he heard this, Jean became excited. “I looked out the car window, and it hit me,” he said. “I sit on the fence. I am only comfortable if I can have both sides of a situation without committing to either.” All at once a great many pieces fell into place. Jean could see why he went into an ashram but didn’t feel like he was one of the group. He saw why he fell in love with women but always saw their faults. Much more came to light. Jean complains about his family yet never misses a Christmas with them.
He considers himself an expert on every subject he’s studied—there have been many—but he doesn’t earn his living pursuing any of them. He is indeed an inveterate fence-sitter. And as his date suggested, Jean had no idea that his Vasana, for that’s what we’re talking about, made him enter into one situation after another without ever falling off the fence.

“Just think,” he said with obvious surprise, “the thing that’s the most me is the thing I never saw.”

If unconscious tendencies kept working in the dark, they wouldn’t be a problem. The genetic software in a penguin or wildebeest guides it to act without any knowledge that it is behaving much like every other penguin or wildebeest. But human beings, unique among all living creatures, want to break down Vasana.
It’s not good enough to be a pawn who thinks he’s a king. We crave the assurance of absolute freedom and its result—a totally open future. Is this reasonable? Is it even possible?
In his classic text, theYoga Sutras, the sage Patanjali informs us that there are three types of Vasana.
The kind that drives pleasant behavior he calls white Vasana; the kind that drives unpleasant behavior he calls dark Vasana; the kind that mixes the two he calls mixed Vasana. I would say Jean had mixed Vasana—he liked fence-sitting but he missed the reward of lasting love for another person, a driving aspiration, or a shared vision that would bond him with a community. He displayed the positives and negatives of someone who must keep every option open. The goal of the spiritual aspirant is to wear down Vasana so that clarity can be achieved. In clarity you know that you are not a puppet—you have released yourself from the unconscious drives that once fooled you into thinking that you were acting spontaneously.
The secret here is that the state of release isn’t free will. Free will is the opposite of determinism, and in the one reality, opposites must ultimately merge into one. In the case of life versus death, we saw that they merged because both are needed to renew the flow of experience. Free will and determinism don’t merge like that. They merge only when a cosmic argument is settled once and for all. Here is the argument in its simplest form.
There are two claims to ultimate reality. One claim comes from the physical world, where events have definite causes and effects. The other claim comes from absolute Being, which has no cause. Only one claimant can be right because there’s no such thing as two ultimate realities. So which is it?
If the physical world is the ultimate reality, then you have no choice but to play out the game of Vasana.
Every tendency has a cause in a prior tendency, and as soon as you wear out one, you will be creating another to replace it. You can’t be a finished product. There is always something waiting to be fixed, attended to, adjusted, polished, cleaned up, or ready to fall apart. (People who can’t face this fact turn into perfectionists, constantly chasing the chimera of a flawless existence. Although they don’t realize it, they are trying to defeat the law of Vasana, which dictates that no cause can disappear; it can only transform itself into a new cause.) The physical world is also called the domain of karma, which has its own cosmic side.Karma, as we know, means “action,” and the question to ask of action is this: Did it have a beginning? Does it ever end? Every person who was ever born found himself thrown into a world of action that was already fully operational. There is no hint that a first action got things started, and no way to tell if a last action might bring everything to a halt. The universe is a given, and despite theories about the Big Bang, the possibility of other universes, or even infinite universes, means that the chain of first events could extend forever.
The ancient sages didn’t bother with telescopes because they saw, in a flash of insight, that the mind is ruled by cause and effect and therefore it doesn’t have the power to look beyond karma. The thought I have right now emerged from the thought I had a second ago. The thought I had a second ago emerged from a thought I had the second before that—and on and on. Big Bang or not, my mind is a prisoner of karma because thinking is all it can do.
There is one alternative, the sages argued. Your mind can be. This is how the second claimant got into court. The ultimate reality could be Being itself. Being doesn’t act; therefore, it is never touched by karma. If Being is the ultimate reality, the game of Vasana is over. Instead of worrying about cause and effect, which is the origin of all tendencies, one can simply saythereisnocauseandeffect.
I said that Vasana gave us a reason to delve deeper into free will. Now we can see why. The person who is content to remain a puppet is no different from the rebel who screams that he must remain free at all costs. Both are subject to karma; their opinions make no difference to the matter. But if you can identify with a state that has no Vasanas, free will and determinism merge; they become mere instructions in the manual of karmic software. In other words, both are tools to be used by Being rather than ends in themselves. Karma, it turns out, loses the argument about being the ultimate reality.
How can I say that the argument is settled? I could say it’s settled by authority because the spiritual record holds countless sages and saints who testify that Being is the ultimate ground of existence. But since we aren’t relying on authority here, the proof has to come from experience. I experience that I am alive, which seems to help the case for karma, since being alive consists of one action after another. But I cannot be alive if the whole universe isn’t alive. This conclusion would seem absurd without building up to it. But we have come far enough to realize that the real absurdity is to be alive in a dead universe. No one before modern times felt that he or she was stranded on a speck of rock and water with nothing but a black void to look out at. I find that image, which underlies the superstition of science, horrifying and untrue. My body and the universe are composed of the same molecules, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t manage to believe that a hydrogen atom is alive inside me but dead the instant it leaves my lungs.
My body and the universe come from the same source, obey the same rhythms, flash with the same storms of electromagnetic activity. My body can’t afford to argue over who created the universe. Every cell would disappear the second it stopped creating itself. So it must be that the universe is living and breathing through me. I am an expression of everything in existence.
At any given moment, the bubbling subatomic activity that keeps the universe going is in flux; every particle winks in and out of existence thousands of times per second. In that interval, I also wink in and out, traveling from existence to annihilation and back again billions of times a day. The universe came up with this lightning-fast rhythm so that it could pause in between and decide what to create next. The same is true of me. Even though my mind works too slowly to see the difference, I’m not the same person after I return from my billion journeys into the void. Every single process in my cells has been rethought, reexamined, reorganized. Creation happens by infinitesimal degrees, and the overall result is eternal genesis.
In a living universe, we do not have to answer any questions about who the creator is. At various times, religions have named a single god, multiple gods and goddesses, an invisible life force, a cosmic mind, and in the current religion of physics, a blind game of chance. Choose any or all of these because what’s far more crucial about genesis is you. Can you see yourself as the point around which everything is now revolving?
Look around and try to view your whole situation. From the viewpoint of a limited self, you cannot be the center of the cosmos. But that’s because you are looking at karma. Your attention is going to bits and pieces of your situation—a current relationship, events at work, finances, perhaps tossing in a vague concern with some political crisis or the state of the stock market. No matter how many of these ingredients you try to comprehend, you aren’t seeing your whole situation. From the perspective of wholeness, the universe is thinkingabout you. Its thoughts are invisible, but they eventually manifest as tendencies—the by now familiar Vasanas—and sometimes your attention feels the larger design at work because every life has inescapable turning points, opportunities, epiphanies, and breakthroughs.
To you, a thought is an image or idea floating through your mind. To the universe—and here we mean the universal intelligence that permeates the swarm of galaxies, black holes, and interstellar dust—a thought is a step in evolution. It’s a creative act. To truly live at the center of the one reality, evolution must become of primary interest to you. The noncritical events in your life already run themselves. Think of your body, which operates with two separate types of nervous system. The involuntary nervous someone goes into a coma, this nervous system continues more or less normally, keeping heartbeat, blood pressure, hormones, electrolytes, and a hundred other functions going in perfect coordination.
The other nervous system is called voluntary because it relates to will, or volition. The voluntary nervous system carries out desires. That is its only purpose, and without it, life would run exactly as it does for someone in a coma, without any motion forward, frozen in a waking death.
The universe reflects the same division. On one level, natural forces need no assistance from us to keep everything regulated so that life can be sustained. Ecology is self-balancing. Plants and animals exist in harmony without knowing that they do. One could imagine a world in which nothing expands beyond basic existence, where instead creatures are reduced to eating, breathing, and sleeping. Such a world doesn’t exist, however. Even one-celled amoebas swim in a particular direction, hunt for food, move toward light, and seek temperatures they prefer. Desire is built into the scheme of life.
So it’s not that incredible to look for the second half of the universe’s nervous system, the half that revolves around desire. When your brain carries out a desire, the universe is carrying it out at the same time. There is no difference between “I want to have a child” and “The universe wants to have a child.”
The embryo that starts to grow in the womb relies on billions of years of intelligence, memory, creativity, and evolution. The individual seamlessly flows into the cosmos when we are talking about fetuses in the womb. Why should this merging stop there? The fact that you experience your desire as individual doesn’t negate the universe from acting through you, just as the fact that you consider your children to be yours doesn’t negate the fact that they are also the children of a vast gene pool. That gene pool has no other parent than the universe.
At this moment, you are seamlessly flowing with the cosmos. There is no difference between your breathing and the breathing of the rain forest, between your bloodstream and the world’s rivers, between your bones and the chalk cliffs of Dover. Every shift in the ecosystem has affected you at the level of your genes. The universe remembers its evolution by leaving a record written in DNA. This means that your genes are the focal point for everything happening in the world. They are your line of communication with nature as a whole, not just with your mother and father.
Set aside what you have read about DNA as a string of sugars and amino acids strung in a double helix.
That model tells us what DNA looks like, but it says almost nothing about what is actually going on in the dynamics of life, just as the wiring diagram of a television tells us nothing about what’s playing on the screen. What’s playing through your DNA at this moment is the evolution of the universe. The next desire you have will be recorded in memory, and either the universe will move forward or it won’t. We tend to think of evolution as a straight-line march from primitive organisms to higher ones. A better image would be of a bubble expanding to take in more and more of life’s potential.

  • As you accessmore intelligence, you are evolving. On the other hand, if you constrict your mind to what you already know or can predict, your evolution will slow down.
  • As you accessmore creativity, you are evolving. On the other hand, if you try to use old solutions to solve new problems, your evolution will slow down.
  • As you accessmore awareness, you are evolving. On the other hand, if you continue to use a fraction of your consciousness, your evolution will slow down.

The universe has a stake in which choices you decide to make, for the overwhelming evidence is that it favors evolution over standing still. In Sanskrit, the evolutionary force is calledDharma, from a root word that means “to uphold.” Without you, Dharma would be confined to three dimensions. Even though you spend almost no time thinking about your relationship to a zebra, a coconut tree, or blue-green algae, each is your intimate in the evolutionary scheme. Human beings extended the evolutionary scheme when life reached a certain limit in physicality—after all, in physical terms, the earth depends on blue-green algae and plankton more than on humans. The universe wanted to have a new perspective, and for this had tocreatecreators like itself.
I once asked a physicist if everyone in his community accepted by now that reality was nonlocal. He conceded that they did. “Isn’t nonlocality the same as omniscience?” I said. “There’s no distance in time, no distance in space. Communication is instantaneous, and every particle is connected to every other.”

“Could be,” he said, not exactly agreeing but letting me go on.

“Then why did the universe bother to become local?” I said. “It already knew everything. It already includes everything, and at the deepest level it already encompasses all events that could possibly happen.”

“I don’t know,” my physicist said. “Maybe the universe just wanted a vacation.”

This isn’t a bad answer. Through us the universe gets to play. Play at what? At giving someone else the controls to see what he or she comes up with. The one thing the universe can’t experience is getting away from itself. So, in a sense, we are its vacation.
The problem with dilemmas like free will and determinism is that they don’t leave enough playtime. This is a recreational universe. It provides us with food, air, water, and a great deal of scenery to explore. All of that comes from the automatic side of cosmic intelligence. It continues on its own, but the side that wants to play is plugged into evolution, and Dharma is its way of telling us how the game works. If you look carefully at the critical turning points in your life, you’ll see how closely you were paying attention to the evolutionary game.


  • You wereready to move forward. The experience of your old reality was worn out and ready for change.
  • You wereready to pay attention. When the opportunity arrived, you noticed it and took the necessary leap.
  • Theenvironment supported you. When you moved forward, events fell into place to ensure that you didn’t backslide.
  • Youfelt more expanded and free in your new place.
  • You saw yourself as in some waya new person.

This set of circumstances, both inner and outer, is what Dharma provides. Which is to say that when you
feel ready to move forward, reality shifts to show you how. And when you aren’t ready to move forward? Then there is the backup system of Vasana, which moves you forward by repeating those tendencies that are embedded in you from the past. When you find yourself stuck and unable to make any progress at all, the following circumstances usually apply:

  1. You aren’t ready to move.The experience of an old reality still fascinates you. You keep enjoying your habitual way of life, or else, if there is more pain than enjoyment, you are addicted to the pain for some reason not yet revealed.
  2. You aren’t paying attention.Your mind is caught up in distractions. This is especially true if there is too much external stimulation. Unless you feel alert inside, you won’t be able to pick up the hints and clues being sent from the one reality.
  3. The environment won’t support you.When you try moving forward, circumstances push you back.
  4. This kind of thwarting means that there is more to learn, or that the timing isn’t yet right. It also can be true that at a deep level you don’t see yourself moving forward; your conscious desire is in conflict with deeper doubt and uncertainty.You feel threatenedby the expansion you would have to make, preferring the safety of a limited self-image. Many people cling to a contracted state, believing that it protects them. In fact, the greatest protection you could ask for comes from evolution, which solves problems by expansion and forward movement. But you must own this knowledge completely; if any part of you wants to hang back in a constricted state, that’s usually enough to block the road ahead.
  5. You keep seeing yourself as the old personwho adapted to an old situation. This is often an unconscious choice. People identify with their past and try to use old perceptions to understand what is happening. Since perception is everything, seeing yourself as too weak, limited, undeserving, or lacking will block any step forward.

The full implication is that Dharma needs you to collaborate. The upholding force is as much in you as it is “out there” in the universe or the realm of the soul.

The single best way to align with the Dharma is to assume that it is listening. Give the universe room to respond to you. Start up a relationship with it as with another person. I have been a doting grandfather for two years now, and I’m astonished that my granddaughter Tara has no problem talking to trees, rocks, the ocean, or the sky. She takes for granted that there is subjectivity everywhere. “See those dragons?” she’ll say, pointing to an empty space in the middle of the living room, naming a blue dragon here and a red one there. I ask Tara if she is afraid of the dragons, but she assures me that they’ve always been friendly.
Children inhabit imaginary worlds, not for the sake of pure fantasy but to test their creative instincts. Tara is a creator in training, and if deprived of her relationship to trees, rocks, and dragons, she would be cut off from a power that needs to grow. At her age Tara’s life is all playtime, and in the role of grandfather I try to immerse her in as much love and pleasure as possible. Her Vasana is going to be white if I can help it. But I also know that the great challenge for her will be to go beyond every tendency, good or bad.
She will have to remain alert to stay in the Dharma, and for those of us who grew up to find that life is a serious business with few time-outs for play, the Dharma awaits our return to sanity.


The eleventh secret is about escaping the bondage of cause and effect. The universe is alive, and imbued with subjectivity. Cause and effect are just the machinery it uses to carry out what it wants to do. And what it wants to do is to live and breathe through you. To find out the truth of this, you need to relate to the universe as if it were alive. Otherwise, how will you ever know that it is? Today, begin to adopt the following habits:

  • Talk to the universe.
  • Listen for its reply.
  • Be on intimate terms with Nature.
  • See the life in everything.
  • Carry yourself like a child of the universe.

The first step, talking to the universe, is the most important. It doesn’t imply that you go around muttering to the stars or that you begin an imaginary cosmic conversation. The habit of looking at the world “out there” as disconnected from you is entrenched; we all share a cultural bias that reserves life only for plants and animals, and that places intelligence exclusively in the brain. You can begin to break down this belief by acknowledging any hint that the inner and outer worlds are connected. Both have the same source; both are organized by the same deep intelligence; both respond to each other.
When I say that you can talk to the universe, I mean you can connect to it. If you feel depressed by a gray and rainy day, for example, see the inner and outer grayness as the same phenomenon with objective and subjective sides. If you are driving home from work and your gaze is caught by a glowing sunset, consider that Nature wanted to catch your attention, not that you and the sunset are having just an accidental encounter. On some intimate level, your existence meshes with the universe, not by chance but by intention.

When you see the life that exists everywhere, acknowledge what you’re seeing. At first, it may seem peculiar to do this, but you are a co-creator, and you have the right to appreciate the patterns of connection that you’ve made. Carrying yourself like a child of the universe isn’t a game of cosmic pretend. At the level of the field, you exist everywhere in spacetime, a scientific fact that we are carrying a step further by saying that this moment in spacetime has a special purpose in your world. It isyour world, and by responding to it that way, you will begin to notice that it responds back:

  • On some days everything goes right.
  • On some days everything goes wrong.
  • At certain moments you feel absorbed into the rhythm of Nature.
  • At some moments you feel as if you disappear into the sky or the ocean.
  • Sometimes you know that you have always been here.

These are general examples, but you can be alert to moments that seem meant just for you. Why do certain moments feel uniquely magical? Only you will know, but you won’t if you don’t first begin to attune yourself to the feeling. The closest parallel I can draw to this kind of privileged relationship is that between lovers, in which ordinary moments are suffused with a presence or specialness that wouldn’t be felt by an outsider. Something totally compelling draws your attention when you are in love; once experienced, it is not easily forgotten. You feel as if you are inside your beloved and your beloved is inside you. The merging of yourself with something vaster than yourself is a blending of two subjectivities.
It’s been called the relationship of “I and thou,” or the sense of being as a wave on the infinite ocean of Being.
Don’t let names and concepts distract you. There’s no defined way for you to relate to the universe. Just relate in your own way. A little child like my granddaughter finds her way in talking to trees and invisible dragons. That’s her privileged relationship. What is yours going to be? Shiver with anticipation and find out.


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