Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Direct Path: Conventional Therapies

Greetings of Peace. I read through the next section of the introduction, "The Direct Path and Conventional Therapies," a few times so as to distill my own thoughts as I quickly recognized that I was bringing a lot of personal concepts of my own and superimposing them onto the simplicity of the message being conveyed. In essence, the text states that the goal of the DP, to "come experientially to realize the truth of yourself as awareness", is not in conflict with conventional therapies because they posit different goals. Each may be pursued in concert with each other according to individual needs to most directly accomplish prioritized goals. Two examples given are that if you want to cure a toothache, you go to the dentist and if you want to realize the truth of the self you pursue the DP, not vice versa.

There were three ideas that came up for me while reading this section, specifically, Ramakrishna's Parable of the Elephant God, back pain, and the notion of practicality. Ramakrishna's parable tells of a devotee who, immersed in the realization that all is Brahman, refused to move out of the way of an elephant being driven in his direction on account of the the elephant being God. After being thrashed by the elephant, his teacher admonished him that although the elephant was indeed God, he should also have heeded the warning of the driver of the elephant telling him to move out of the way, who was also God. This story demonstrates for me that realization should not conflict with our ability to fulfill our immediate needs in the the most appropriate manner such as going to a doctor, dentist, or psychiatrist, or simply taking care of our physical needs and social responsibilities.

Three concepts emerged for me during this reflection, the notions of Reality, Illusion, and Relativity. Specifically, does the DP posit the realization of the self as awareness as characterizing "reality" in contrast to an "illusory" world of objects which creates "relative reality" consisting of such practical needs as attending to back pain or moving out of the way of the elephant?

So far, the text has not identified any of these concepts so I am able to recognize that they are part of the collection of ideas (including my religious beliefs) that I am bringing with me to the DP, and that they will eventually need to be interrogated.

The Direct Path: Love

Greetings of Peace. The next section of the Introduction on Love resonates with me very powerfully. Despite its brevity it formulates a promise regarding the pursuit of happiness that I identified in the previous section. The Direct Path is conveyed not as a stale and rigorous intellectual exercise but as a synergy between knowledge and devotion, the union of head and heart. I am reminded of the triplicate characterization of Brahman, the ultimate Reality, as Sat-Chit-Ananda or Being-Consciousness-Bliss and hear an echo of the words spoken by Seyyed Hossein Nasr that initially beckoned me toward my first serious path of inquiry. He stated,

"Knowledge was always combined with ecstasy primordially and remains so with all principial knowledge which unifies the knower and the known ... Knowledge in the beginning was always combined with the ecstasy that comes from the experience of the sacred."

There is a tremendous freedom that is conveyed regarding the object of one's devotion, essentially "anything that represents the goal of your inquiry." This statement gave me occasion for pause, not only due to the flexibility of the suggestion, but also due to my own lack of clarity regarding this point. What exactly is the goal of my inquiry? The object of my devotion and the compelling reason for my entry into Islam, was the Prophet Muhammad - may peace and blessings be upon him -, while from from the vantage point of my total lifetime and the quest that it represents, I have always felt an irresistible attraction to God or more simply, the sacred.

The concluding paragraph also resonates powerfully for me with regard to both of these interrelated objects, or foci of devotion, when it states that through the opening of the heart in inquiry "The object of your love begins to spread out and become everything" and "Your beloved and its sweetness are everywhere you turn." By being constantly immersed in the love of the Prophet for so many years, the man has long ceased to appear as embodied and instead taken on his mysterious form as light, the all pervasive Nur Muhammadiyyah, almost as though within the crucible of my heart he has returned to his origin in God. As testified in the Quran, "To God belong the East and the West. Wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of God. God is All-Encompassing, Knowing.” (2:115)

A powerful introduction, indeed.