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The Silent Seed
by Robert Rabbin

We are farmers, you and I, even if we never touch a shovel or pitchfork, or sit in the sloping rugged seat of a tractor, or pray that the frost will not come, not now anyway, not now; even if we don’t know what wheat, barley, or rye looks like when still standing in the dirt naked to the waist, even if we don’t get up at 3:30 in the morning to pull on muddy boots. Wherever we work, we are farmers: we plant seeds every day. Our thoughts are seeds, our words are seeds, our actions are seeds. Our crop is harvested in our lives, not seasonally, but daily. The world is our harvest. Preparing, planting, and nurturing these seeds must become a precise and inspirational art. We must take great care to plant seeds worthy of the abundant future we imagine.

One group of farsighted farmers gets up early each morning to toil in hundreds of "business" fields, planting and tending rare seeds of possibility. They are summoning a great force of conscience to liberate the human spirit at work, and that liberated spirit will create enchanting workplaces never yet seen or experienced. They are working hard and long to infuse spirit, creativity, compassion, morality and ethical conduct into the very structures, processes, and purposes of business organizations. These farmers are motivated by glimpses into the sacred mystery of life, and dedicate themselves to making business environments hospitable to spiritual unfoldment, to clarity and wisdom, to caring, compassion, and friendliness to people and nature.

These farmers are planting seeds of spiritual liberation. The liberation of the human spirit is crucial, for it is that elevated spiritual awareness that helps us to see more clearly and honestly what we are doing and how we are doing it. It causes us to evaluate the effects of our work within a larger context than mere profitability and return to investors. It reminds us that all of life has spiritual origins and thus all life is sacred, significant, and meaningful. It teaches us that we must care for life, not exploit it; we must serve peace, not discord; we must invest in decency, not deception.

These spiritual farmers and their crops of spiritual awareness feed us with wisdom. We are learning that money alone is not the bottom line, that we cannot justify all our behavior in terms of mere profitability. We are beginning to seriously consider how the processes and by-products of business may corrupt the sacred ecosystem of the world habitat. Spiritual values inform a growing number of corporate vision and mission statements, and spiritual insights translate into new guiding principles like social responsibility, sustainable development, ethical conduct, intuitive decision making. Certainly, we are on the way to establishing a new order of business in which the wisdom of the heart and clarity of the soul will be acknowledged and respected. We can even expect business leaders to become shamans who will sow seeds of inspiration and beneficence and evoke the full spectrum of human consciousness, even as they continue to create dynamic and productive businesses.

I am delighted at this burgeoning of spirituality in business organizations. It is self-evident that the international business community represents one of the strongest forces in the world today, able to shape and determine the course of social and national agendas and priorities. The proliferation of spiritual awareness within the business community will have a radically salutary impact on the course of world events. Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, said "the only real hope of people today is probably a renewal of our certainty that we are rooted in the Earth and, at the same time, in the cosmos. This awareness endows us with the capacity for self-transcendence."

This reference to self-transcendence reminded me of an interview I once read with philosopher Jacob Needleman, in which he made the distinction between the exoteric and esoteric fields of spirituality. It is an important distinction.

The exoteric field, or path, of spirituality—always the more popular and comprehensible—deals with external order and propriety. Exoteric creeds contain prescriptions and prohibitions, rules and regulations, practices and techniques, and moral and ethical codes of conduct. Exoteric spirituality seeks to create harmony, understanding, and conformity within an imposed structure of virtuous behavior. It promises the great realization as a reward.

The esoteric field of spirituality deals with direct experience of reality. It begins where the exoteric path ends. The people who work in this field are slightly mad: they seek to shed the hallucination of separate existence and to disappear into the effulgent visions of poets and sages. The esoteric path is one of self-transcendence, the only real hope for humanity. It does not promise a reward: it is the reward. Its path is short, steep, and altogether stunning.

The exoteric path deals with establishing conditions and outcomes: it does not penetrate the mystery of life directly, it is not the precipice from which one can only fall into the unknowable mulch-mound of ecstatic silence and loving. The esoteric path is that precipice and the inevitable fall into grace. It is the very recognition of that seed-essence from which the crop of the universe has grown. The esoteric path dissolves delusion, nothing more and nothing less. The esoteric path penetrates the mystery of life directly, and dangerously, through self-transcendence. The sage Nisargadatta Maharaj said, "If you are still concerned with outcomes, then self-realization is not for you."

I mention this because I feel that the spirituality-in-business movement is, so far, primarily exoteric, concerned with creating a new world order based on emerging scriptures of spiritualized corporate vision, mission, and values statements. It is a good and useful path. Much needs to be changed in the world of business, and an engaged form of spirituality has much to offer this change effort.

Even so, something in me is not satisfied; I am still restless and hungry. I am not fully fed by the exoteric pronouncements. The poet Rumi said, "Reality is a rapture that takes you out of form, not a feeling that makes you more fascinated with forms." I want to live in the freedom of self-transcendence, not just new and improved conditions. A renegade who lives within me seeks the rapture of freedom from imposed conditions and structures and principles; he wants to be torn apart and slaughtered by an intuited life beyond all forms, structure, and conditions.

If I lived in a prison cell, I would welcome new paint and furniture, reading material, and a window to the outside world. I would welcome all manner of comfort and convenience. The renegade within me does not want a refurbished cell, but freedom.

Of course we want decent workplaces and businesses run with conscience, but I am not content with that. I do not want to lose my soul a second time in the furor of a change agenda driven by a single experience, a single glimpse of the vast mystery, or a conviction based on theories, principles, or doctrines. We should not forget that continuous immersion in self-transcendence is the only real hope for humanity. If we remain working only in the exoteric, external field, we run the risk of establishing other churches, other means of regulating and controlling behavior and, ultimately, repressing the very spirit we intend to liberate. It’s easy to become righteous without the softening touch of self-transcendence. Even the best of intentions can become instruments of repression.

I don’t hear very much about the esoteric path within the spirituality-in-business movement. Perhaps we are still too entranced with subtle control and particular outcomes. It has always seemed odd to me that we speak of "spirituality in business," rather than wondering what business might become if it were set somewhere like a small stone marker within an endless corn field of scintillating consciousness. Something troubles me about conditioning spirituality by the pre-existing concept of "business" as though we need that concept’s permission and validation to introduce truth and reality into our lives. I would rather have business conditioned by self-transcendence, which is the rapture that takes us out of forms.

We are still overly concerned with success, profit, market share, growth, reward, performance—all the standards of the business-mind we are trying to spiritualize. The forms and structures and purposes of business and commerce are not immutable facts, but are a projection of our ideas, of our own mind. How did business become something separate from us anyway? There is only one life. Awakening to the universal sound within self-transcendence is the same wherever we are. We can stare at our own image in the mirror for a time until it dissolves; I wonder what might happen if we stare at our creation of business with the eye of self-transcendence. We should not turn a single glimpse of reality into a petrified memory, but continue to explore the silence of self-transcendence. From this huge eye, what do the ideas of business, commerce—even the notion of livelihood—look like? I heard a sage say we should only work for our living two days a week, and the rest of the time we should sleep in beauty and make love to silence. Who will suggest this to a board of directors?

We must continue the good work of creating a bright external world, but we must also not become entranced by our own agenda for change. Let’s not forget our inner work of meeting the maker of all things directly, face to face. Let’s not forget to speak of this glory of self-transcendence, that rarefied atmosphere into which we disappear and then mysteriously reappear as the only true hope for humanity.

We should always remember to speak of the power behind the seed, that mystery which exists before there is any seed to plant. We should always be willing to place our plans and efforts on the altar of the silent seed from which the universe grows in myriad and mystical ways.

©1999/Robert Rabbin/All Rights Reserved

Robert Rabbin has had a lifelong interest in the true nature of Self and reality. In 1969, he began researching mystic traditions and practicing meditation and self-inquiry. In 1973, Robert trekked overland to India where he met meditation master Swami Muktananda, with whom he studied for the next ten years.

Since 1985, Robert has been leading self-inquiry seminars, designing spirit-based corporate retreats, serving as an executive advisor to visionary leaders of numerous organizations, and speaking with business, spiritual, and academic audiences.

Robert is the author of several books. His newest, "Echoes of Silence: Awakening the Meditative Spirit," will be released in the Fall of 2000.

For additional information, please visit Robert’s web site: www.robrabbin.com.

Some of Robert's Books:

The Sacred Hub: Living in Your Real Self

Invisible Leadership: Igniting the Soul at Work 

Silence Of The Heart 


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