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.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Direct Path

When water is realized, wave and sea vanish. What appeared as two is thus realized as one. Water can be reached straightway from wave by following the direct path. If the way through sea is taken, much more time is needed.

~ Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon, Atma Darshan 1:7-8

Greetings of Peace and thank you for adding me to the group. I have been practicing Islamic Sufism for the last ten years within a tariqah influenced by the school of the philosophia perennis. A friend recommended me to the teachings of the Direct Path and so far I have found its exploration to be tremendously inspiring and eye-opening. It seems to fill in certain central lacunae in our method and has rekindled my longstanding interest in Advaita Vedanta. I look forward to discussing my experience with The Direct Path: A User Guide with others and find it remarkable just how many people are devotedly following and investigating this method of inquiry.

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Greetings of Peace. Provided that there are no objections I would like to share my ongoing impressions reading The Direct Path: A User Guide as I slowly make my way through the book, beginning with the Introduction.

I only recently became introduced to the Direct Path so everything I encounter with regard to it is still fresh and exciting. The text defines TDP as "a set of self-inquiry teachings attributed by Nitya Tripta to Shri Atmananda Krishna Menon and later elaborated upon by Jean Klein, John Levy, Alexander Smit, Phillip Renard, Francis Lucille and Rupert Spira." In the past few weeks I have been able to collect and peruse some of the works of Jean Klein, John Levy, and Rupert Spira (in addition to two of Greg's books) essentially surveying the terrain. Although TDP as it is used here appears to refer to a specific and identifiable lineage, it also seems that the teachings of sages such as Adi Shankaracharya, Ramana Maharshi, and Nisargadatta Majaraj are not inharmonious with the basic perspective and approach and may complement TDP in various ways.

I was pleased to find some historical connections to my own path which has largely been influenced by Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon and their successors. Both Jean Klein and John Levy describe the encounter with the works of Rene Guenon as a turning point in their lives introducing them to structured and penetrating metaphysical insights. John Levy appears to have taken this a step further by pursuing initiation into a branch of the Alawiyyah Tariqah established in Europe by Frithjof Schuon. He eventually left the order and later become critical (but not disparaging) toward Guenon's presentation of Vedanta as outlined in his essay Vedanta and Liberation and the works of René Guénon. At least a portion of Frithjof Schuon's article "Self-Knowledge and the Western Seeker" also appears to have been written in direct response to early correspondence with John Levy while he was still a faqir.

Concerning Schuon's teaching, he repeatedly attested to taking his stand upon the Vedanta as the clearest and most direct expression of metaphysics. He combined the Islamic equivalent of Japa, or dhikrullah, with cosmological and metaphysical meditations as the basis for establishing the realization of the non-dual Self in a manner reminiscent of Shankaracharya's assertion in commenting upon the Mandukya Upanishad, that "As a thing is known through its name, so the highest Brahman is known through Aum alone. Therefore the highest Brahman is verily Aum." Absent from Schuon's methodology, is the kind of systematic presentations and inquiry presented in the DP text.

Regarding the how and the who, I plan to approach the text systematically focusing on the experiments and feel that the second category - feels drawn to know the truth of their being and the nature of the world - seems to resonate most closely with my present aspirations. Although it is too soon to say with certainty, I suspect an implicit fourth category comprised of those who wish to be truly happy.

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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.

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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.

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