I've just finished reading my bajillionth (more or less) spiritual, mystical, religious, or philosophical book. You could call me a slow learner, but today I had a mini-enlightenment.
It dawned on me -- more clearly than ever before -- why every religion and spiritual path is wrong. More precisely, wrong for everybody but one person: the guy or gal who had the initial religious or spiritual experience that led to a claim that it is right for everybody.
A personal experience is just that: one person's experience. End of story.
But if that person shares his or her tale with others, and it ends up getting written down, documented, formed into dogma, systematized, conceptualized, cast into philosophical stone, then a unique perspective on the cosmos can turn into a claim of universal truth.
Science, of course, doesn't work this way.
The laws of nature don't depend upon Newton's, Einstein's, Darwin's, or anybody else's personal experience. Confirmation of a scientific hypothesis is independent of the originator's individual perspective.
It's very different in the world of religion and spirituality. Jesus's supposed sayings are taken on faith as a reflection of divine reality. The Buddha's teachings are much less fundamentalist, but even here many devotees revere the messenger as much as the message.
I've read lots of books where the spiritual teaching is based on the author's questionable assumption: "I did this and that and experienced such and such, so this is how you can do it too."
For example, Ramana, an Indian sage, advised asking "Who is the seer?" So Ramana formed his own teachings around the question, "Who am I?"
Well, that worked for Ramana. But why should it work for anyone else?
Similarly, the founder of another Indian spiritual path, the Radha Soami branch of Sant Mat, is said to have meditated almost continuously in a dark room for seventeen years before supposedly realizing some great mystical truth.
Now, the essence of the Radha Soami meditation system is to do as the founder did: meditate for lengthy periods (two or three hours a day), ignoring the physical world as much as possible.
Since this is Valentine's Day, I'll relate this sort of approach to spirituality with falling in love.
I enjoy hearing stories of how a couple met, got to know each other, and became romantically connected. However, every story necessarily is different. There's no "cookbook" approach to meeting that special someone.
We'd think, that's ridiculous, if someone claimed there's only one way to meet your soul mate, because this is how it happened for him or her. "Go to Joe's Bar on 23rd Street. Sit on the third stool from the end. Order a beer. Turn to your right and look into the eyes of the person you're meant to be with."
Yet I can't tell you how many books I've read, including the holy texts of the world's best known religions, which really are nothing more that a "We met at Joe's Bar" story.
This is why all religions and spiritual paths are wrong: none of them points the way to a demonstrably true reality that can be confirmed to be more than one person's unique experience.
Life, deep down, is a mystery. The cosmos, deep down, is a mystery. Death and any possible afterlife, deep down, is a mystery. Existence, deep down, is a mystery.
Some people claim to have unraveled the mystery, seen through illusion, become enlightened, heard the voice of God, been initiated into divine truths. Well, good for them.
I'm pleased they've experienced something so interesting and appealing. I'm also pleased whenever someone tells me they've fallen in love.
But one person's romantic fulfillment is another person's "What does he/she see in that person?" Similarly, one person's communion with God or ultimate reality is another's "Huh?"
Find your own way. It's good to learn about religious, mystical, and spiritual practices other people find attractive. However, you're you, not them. Roughly similar in some ways, yet different in so many others.
Every love affair is unique. So is each person's connection with whatever it is we call reality. Embrace that uniqueness. Don't march in step with someone's else's drum beat.
nice, tho i fear this piece will enforce the perception that your conversion to the science side of the force is now complete, which is akin to damnable hellfire in the minds of the spiritual community.
one thing you cannot be acused of is not trying these paths, so unlike the scientist who simply dismisses this stuff as hocus pocus mumbo jumbo, you;ve actually spent a large part of your life immersed in these various mystic traditions and given them a full go.
I do get the feeling tho that you did appreciate aspects of RS and your original master? I also get the feeling you are slightly dissapointed that you have not had the sort of mind-expanding experience that these mystic Master's have apparently had. But all kudos to your honesty, since i should imagine there are many followers who are tempted to read into and expand on their experiences to fit in or make out they are 'chosen'.
The religion bit i;ve never understood, why would anyone follow the teachings of someone long dead that cannot be corroborated? Even Moses came down from the mount and one of the teachings was do not worship false idols? So how does one know what is false or not?
The mystic traditions are slightly different in that they say they have a path in which you can see for yourself and corroborate and its a path common to the masters of all the great religions, but they seem to require some such single-minded devotion and concentration to the point that its hardly surprising that visions and experiences are 'had'. I'd be surprised if someone that sat in a cave for 17 years did not start hallucinating.
Perhaps there is something more, i just cannot understand why if we were meant to appreciate and experience this mystery why we were are not automatically equipped to do so rather than have to subjugate one's will and desires to these gurus and their pronouncements. Some come up with contrived theological explanations such as karma that needs to be removed, but thats just more organised religion preaching.
Posted by: George | February 15, 2010 at 12:35 PM
good post bro. But if you must know, Only I have the true path to god. Send me $100 and I will tell you, lol.
Posted by: don | February 15, 2010 at 01:54 PM
George, it isn't so much that I've converted to the "science side," as that I've come to recognize that there are two sides to the coin of reality, and it's better to recognize them as such -- while also keeping in mind that there is one coin, one seamless interconnected reality.
I accept that people have mystical and spiritual experiences. People in every religion have them. Christians feel filled with the love of God, of Jesus. Buddhists with Buddha-nature. Vedantists/Advaitists with That'ness, Such'ness, or whatever we want to call it.
Those experiences are real. For the person having them. My point in this post is that when someone assumes that what they have experienced is applicable, or can be transferred, to someone else, this is a highly questionable assumption.
As I said, it's like someone saying 'I love my girlfriend. You'll love her too." Well, I might not like her at all. But I can understand why someone else does. I don't question the mystery of love, or of spiritual experience. What I question is the assumption that if X happens to you, then X must happen to me.
With science, because we're dealing with objective conditions connected with fundamental properties of the human brain and body, virtually everyone will experience X under the same circumstances. If I jump off a tall bridge, just about the same thing will happen to me as to anybody else. (Death, if it's a really tall bridge with concrete underneath.)
But with spirituality, what used to be called in the good old psychedelic days "set and setting" applies. Mindset and the outside setting affect the "trip" someone has with a drug. The same applies to guru trips, meditation trips, ritual trips, and such.
They all need to come with a label: Your results may, and almost certainly will, vary.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | February 15, 2010 at 02:00 PM
George said: "I do get the feeling tho that you did appreciate aspects of RS and your original master? I also get the feeling you are slightly dissapointed that you have not had the sort of mind-expanding experience that these mystic Master's have apparently had."
-- i would like too point out something. you said "mind-expanding experience that these mystic Master's have apparently had"... but where has it ever been stated that they - "these mystic Master's - have had any such "mind-expanding experience"?? here have they actually clamed to have had these experiences?
none of those so-called mastwer's have claimed to have had these experiences. yes, they talk all about subtle planes and inner regions and sounds and lights and so on and so forth... but as far as i can tell, none of them has ever actually said or claimed that they have expereieced these things first hand.
so that would mean that you are making this assumption blindly.
and even if some one if them had claimed to have experienced that (which i don;t see that they have), there is still no actual proof or any convincing evidence that that is true.
you see, this is the problem with the sant mat mysticism. all of these exotic ideas are put forth in the sant mat literature, but none of these so-called 'masters' have ever claimed that they actually experienced and realized these mystical states and subtle realms. so for all intent and purposes, at this point it is no more than myth and fantasy. some people would like to believe all of this fantastic stuff, but even the masters/gurus themselves have not claimed to experience it. its all just heresay. and so i am simply trying to point this out, so that folks don't continue to assume that these masters have experienced, when in fact they have not said so.
i witnessed someone that i know persoanally who actually asked charan singh point blank if he had ever experienced any of these subtle regions or reached sach khand. his answer was somewhat evasive, but nonetheless he indicated that he had NOT experienced and had not achieved sach khand or god-realization.
Charan also (as ususal) deferred to his own master saying that he (charan) simply trusted and had faith that his master (sawan) had experienced. charan also said the that he was only 'simply following his own master's teachings, and had faith that his master (sawan) would lead him to salvation'.
there were also some other instances where charan indicated (to me persoanlly) that he was unfamiliar with any actual first hand experience of the subtle regions.
i also never read where sawan had claimed to have any experience either. nor jagat singh. shiv dayal singh wrote sar bachan, but he did not claim to have any experience either, as far as i know.
George also said: "i just cannot understand why if we were meant to appreciate and experience this mystery why we were are not automatically equipped to do so rather than have to subjugate one's will and desires to these gurus and their pronouncements."
-- that is a very good point. and i do not believe that we - anyone - must submit to any gurus. rather, i think all have equal opportunity. i think following anyone is a mistake.
Posted by: tAo | February 15, 2010 at 02:37 PM
excellent post Brian. your point is well taken. and actually, i think it is of utmost significance.
every individual's experience is different. no two are ever the same. and especially when it comes to mysticism.
so it think you have hit the nail right on the head here. every person;s so-called 'spiritual' path is unique to them alone. no two are the same, and can never be the same... no matter what believers and followers like to say.
narrow-minded spiritual dogma and religious fundamentalism is a sickness. it is a mental illness. period. no two people or paths are the same, nor do they need to be the same. those who think and say that everyone else should or must adhere and conform to some particular belief or savior/guru or 'one and only way'... well they have a mental illness.
Posted by: tAo | February 15, 2010 at 02:56 PM
fair enough Brian, but when you say these experiences are real for them, do you actually consider these experiences to be real in an objective sense?
do you believe it is possible to have communion with god?
yes my terminology was a bit loose, but i meant to try say that that these gurus or masters have apparently had some glimpse of something most of the rest of us never do, something beyond this immediate world. That is their claim, i am not sure if it is reality or not, i have no doubt its subjective reality, but whether its actually real or a hallucination seems unclear. i mean when on drugs or other induced shamanic states or hypnotised, ppl experience things as being real, but they are not real - they are mere creations of the mind - and its that that i question.
i actually agree with you, and you are quite correct i have assumed that the satguru has traversed these regions otherwise the RS teachings would be even less believeable to me then they are.
I understood that the main difference between a mystic tradition like RS and religion is that the mystics say that if they follow their path you can 'see' for yourself, i.e that you can traverse some of these planes. I dont personally believe in it, but that is what they are saying, in fact i thoughts thats why they call it a science of the soul. Follow the method and you get the results. I dont agree that it is a science by their definition and i a'm very weary of the results.
Posted by: George | February 15, 2010 at 03:14 PM
One big problem of life is the finality of death, and whether there is life after death. I mean this is the context of our discussion. Life after death.
meditation is a process whereby death is faced,
conceptually, imaginatively and in the most ideal scenario, biologically. The problem seems to be the latter premise. If can experience a biological death while in the body, a question as old as plato and aristotle. I''would drop both and choose heraclitus and parminedes without a moments thought. anw
What i guess the guru want is for the disciple to sit in meditation and experience these deaths. its simple. Yet difficult.
No guru talks about his experiences, its the rule. the disciple has to be find out on his own. and should not try to follow what his guru experienced or experiences. i think this is clear. U have one option: to say or not say. Its better not to say as far as I am concerned. And yet again the spirit is subtle and prefers poetry rather than objective answers. Read the masnavi.
And what about art ?
"When man is no longer just creating art; But has become art himself" F.N Birth of Trajedy
What about the art of death
We have the art of cooking, killing, fighting, now we have the art of living, and there are a trillion ways of living, but what about the art of death? Shabd meditation I still think offers the a good art course on the Art of Death. I dont know about the MA or the PhD in santmat. i am still here , in this blog , writting with rest of the classmates. A chatroulete.
PEACE SISTERS AND BROTHERS
Posted by: alexis | February 15, 2010 at 08:49 PM
I was exercising fuzziness not death when I practised sant mat, but then Alexis may not be!
Sometimes romance remains while the human/ religious focuses melt away.
Posted by: Catherine | February 15, 2010 at 09:53 PM
George, imo santmat masters have not experienced anything, but they have great faith that their masters have and so, feel confident to preach since their master elected them. They are also trapped in a metaphysical dogma inwhich followers and staff are heavily invested. It all creates an environment of survival that may be better than for those outside in some instances.
I personally do not value the outcome of a person who has sat almost continuously for 17 years in a darkened room. That's just unhealthy. Who was his master, what was he practising? Agra believes even today that Beas does an inferior form of sant mat meditation. We are all such gullible fools, but sometime it may help us for a while.
Posted by: Catherine | February 15, 2010 at 10:03 PM
Alexis, obviously no one ever has died and been able to tell us about it. A near-death experience, or a feeling of "dying while living' in meditation isn't actual death.
So death remains a mystery, and likely always will, since the only way to know what death is like is to die -- but then it isn't possible to tell the tale of what happened to anyone still alive. At least not in a demonstrable way.
George, I doubt that any of the Radha Soami gurus have experienced what the RSSB literature claims to be true: inner regions of sound and light, etc. But anything is possible. So far this isn't provable, though. Like you said, people experience all sorts of things that are subjectively, but not objectively, true.
When I used to take LSD, the walls would "melt" and shimmer with colors. Does this mean that I saw real physical reality? Or that my psyche was seeing an illusion? Same questions pertain to mystical experiences, because the brain can conjure up subjective experiences with or without drugs.
Catherine, I agree: meditating in a cave or a dark room for years and years does seem deeply unnatural. But, hey, each to his own, so long as it doesn't hurt other people.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | February 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM
thanks for elaborating. but this shows the point i was making:
you replied to my comment by saying: "i meant to try say that that these gurus or masters have apparently had some glimpse of something most of the rest of us never do, something beyond this immediate world."
the key phrase here is "these gurus or masters have apparently had some glimpse of something most of the rest of us never do"... with emphasis on "apparently". you see, we do not know that they have experienced, that they have had any "glimpse". they have never admitted or claimed this in their writings or lectures. so there is no "apparently". it is not apparent at all. it is only something assumed on the basis of faith by followers.
the other thing is where you said: "something most of the rest of us never do". i would have to partly disagree with that. i have had many transcendent mystical experiences, and i know quite a few other people who have done so as well. these were experiences that were at least equal to and sometimes even more profound that the ones that sant mat teachings describe. i know without a doubt that i had these experiences, and i also know with certainty that other people have had their own as well. so this means that the sant mat masters are definitely not alone or unique. it also means that the sant mat masters have no monopoly whatsoever on transcendent mystical experiences. you may not have had them, but a many other people have. and moreover, the so-called masters actually may not have had the extraordinary experiences that other people have had. as i said, i do not recollect ever reading or hearing a sant mat master actually admit or claim to have had any of these experiences first hand.
you also said: "That is their claim, i am not sure if it is reality or not, i have no doubt its subjective reality, but whether its actually real or a hallucination seems unclear."
you see this is also where i disagree with you slightly. you say that this is "their claim". but they have no claimed any such thing. if you or anyone can produce any book or lecture where thy have made such a clim, i will be willing to consider it. but i have not seen it. i have read all the books and i don't remember ever reading them making that claim. they talk all around it, but they don't actually claim to have experienced it. that is the thing that tricks most people (like yourself) into ASSUMING (and then believing) that these so-called masters have expereinced what is described in the literature. but the truth of the matter is that they never actually admit that.
another point is where you say: "i am not sure if it is reality or not, i have no doubt its subjective reality". i agree with the first part because you are saying that you are not sure if it is really true. in other words you doubt. but then, in the the latter part of that statement, you say "i have no doubt its subjective reality". i don't agree with that. you are assuming that they (the masters) have had a "subjective" experience (of something, but we know not what). however, i would say that we do NOT know if they have had any "subjective" experience either. they have never admitted or claimed that they have expereinced ANYTHING. so therefore, i would say that there IS DOUBT about a supposed "subjective reality" as you say. there is no evidence to support that thay have had any experience at all. they have never said that they themselves have actually experienced these supposed subtle planes and 'inner spiritual regions'.
please understand that i am not challeging you at all. i am simply trying to shed some light and reason on aspects of this matter that tends to elude most people because most people tend to miss and gloss over this, and thus make unfounded assumptions that are simply not corroborated by any real facts, actual admissions and/or personal testimonies on the part of the so-called masters.
thats all i am trying to point out to you and to readers, so i mean no offense to you personally George. this is simply a matter of intellectual accuracy as far as i am concerned. if anyone can produce actual written evidence (not heresay) where a sant mat master has actually admitted to experiencing these mystical states and inner transscendental regions, then i would be more than happy to look at it. but so far, in my 30-plus years of experience in sant mat, i don't remeber seeing or hearing that anywhere.
you also said: "i actually agree with you, and you are quite correct i have assumed that the satguru has traversed these regions otherwise the RS teachings would be even less believeable to me then they are."
i definitely hear you... but like i asid, you are only making that assumption. yet the curious and tricky thing is, that the idea that "the satguru has traversed these regions" has no basis in their written and spoken words. they never actually say that they themselves have "traversed these regions". they never talk about thire own experience. so then, there really is NO reason to assume that they have. if they said so, then at least that would be something - not proof - but at least something. however they have not even said one word about their own personal experience. but nevertheless people go on blindly assuming.
its very tricky and obscure. but once you see this, then the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.
and so THAT is why this here point is so crucial. so George, thanks for initiating this particular subject matter, and thus allowing me to expose the gap (the assumption) for what it really is.
George, you also said: "the main difference between a mystic tradition like RS and religion is that the mystics say that if they follow their path you can 'see' for yourself, i.e that you can traverse some of these planes. [...] that is what they are saying"
yes, that is what they say. but thats a trick as well. you have to buy into the belief before you can test it out. and the fact remains that almost no one gets any results. so even if you go "see for yourself", you have to get initiated to do that. thats exactly how ppeople get hooked.... and some even hooked for an entire lifetime. its an insidious and pernicious cbelief system and cultic manipulation.
and you are quite right when you say: "I dont agree that it is a science by their definition and i am very wary of the results." it is not a science, but that how the advertise it. its misleading and deceiptful.
good talkin with you george.
Posted by: tAo | February 16, 2010 at 01:08 AM
i hate to tell you this, but you are way out to lunch. here's why:
alexis said: "whether there is life after death. I mean this is the context of our discussion. Life after death."
-- no it isn't that is not the context of this discussion. that is only YOUR notion.
alexis said: "meditation is a process whereby death is faced, conceptually, imaginatively and in the most ideal scenario, biologically."
-- again, no it is not. there is no actual death in meditation. death is not faced in mediation. you do not actually die - you are not actually dead - until you really die. only then you are dead. mere meditation is not the same as real death at all. not at all. not even close. you have obviously bought into and are parroting some very misleading notions and rhetoric.
alexis said: "If can experience a biological death while in the body"
-- sorry, but you are wrong. you cannot experience "biological death" and stil remain alive to tell about it. it just ain't true. so you are living in a fanatasy world. you have never come close to dying. if you had, then you would not be so preumptious and glib about it. its a serious matter. you haven't got a clue. have you ever been around death? have you ever been around dying or dead people for very long? i don't think so. i think you are all talk and no walk.
alexis said: "What the guru want is for the disciple to sit in meditation and experience these deaths."
-- again, meditation is not the same as death. meditation is not an experience of physical death. you simply do not experience real death in meditation. you have no idea what you are talking about. you are just fantasizing.
alexis said: "No guru talks about his experiences, its the rule."
-- what rule? there are no rules. you sound like another religious fundamentalist. and btw, people (including gurus) don't talk about their experiences for one primary reason: they have no experieces to talk about. and the people who have had expereinces are not afraid to share and talk about them. so your little excuse doesn't fly. nobody who has any common sense buys that shit.
alexis said: "the disciple has to find out on his own."
-- bullshit. you are merely parroting sant mat dogma.
alexis said: "What about the art of death [...] there are a trillion ways of living, but what about the art of death?"
-- you have a death wish. thata a mental illnes. seriously, get yourself some counseling.
alexis said: "Shabd meditation I still think offers the a good art course on the Art of Death."
-- to be honest alexis, you have some rather obvious mental health issues. so please go get yourself some counseling or psychiatric help. your irrational mentality is unhealty.
Posted by: tAo | February 16, 2010 at 01:53 AM
George, gurus are much like bishops or the pope- teaching people how to be from a blueprint someone else has laid down.
Christians teach about the bling happening after death and the satsangis talk about it happening through a specific sitting meditation and then after death.
Guaranteed, after a very short time, most untrained people are sleeping or daydreaming on their meditation cushions because the method is to wake very early and to sit entirely on one's own for long periods for the rest of one's life. A person inevitably is going to end up sloppy or frustrated particularly if they have done no specific physical training that shows on a continuous basis how to sit for long periods.
IMO the idea of exclusivity through some repetition in any direction is the reality killer. I also think that body, mind, 'spirit' are so interconnected- nothing's going to work, in fact harm will be done, if one of them is unhealthy.
Posted by: Catherine | February 16, 2010 at 05:42 AM
Brian, do you think that it is harmless to teach impressionable people that sitting all day in a dark room is admirable and may make them one with god or realised? If that person was in the west today, what would we think of him?
In all truth, when he came out he was nuts really; probably the same as when he went in! More likely, much, much worse. This is the person from whom the sant mat teachings evolved. The reason we don't know anything about his master was because after all that self-abuse he was so disabled that he couldn't remember! If some slim chance occured that he remained sane after all that, then he had so much invested, do you think he was going to say, 'Erm, sorry, it didn't happen for me.'
I recently came across some of the great master's teachings about women- talk about backwards. I think that we have progressed as humans on the whole, with time, as far as our approach to religion and beliefs are concerned and that sant mat is all about getting stuck in a tradition in the past- regressing, copping out, romantisizing. Sometimes it helps, but eventually, hopefully, life will push people to grow out of the dream.
Posted by: Catherine | February 16, 2010 at 06:07 AM
tao and brian
we obviously disagree on fundamentals
and on the extend of the human potential
if a caterpillar can die and become a butterfly
and the universe created such a thing a rose with thorns
and beautiful days with dark cold nights
i dont understand ur little faith in the species called homo sapien
that crawled its way down from trees,into caves, and then walked the earth and went to the moon
There is another line by F.N who says more or less "that the mistake of philosophers is that they have analysed man only within the span of the past 10,000". H.Sapien is an ancient and timeless process, so dont rush and CLAIM 100% that this cannot be done.
If someone tells u it can be done, his word has more basis than yours. If i tell you I saw someone doing this and this has more gravity than "I did not see him". Because I didnt see him implies that you were with him throughout the day, never loosing him/her from your observations. Fihi ma fihim rumi.
So, if you dissmiss god
and u dissmis religions
and cling to phenomenology
then for the love Dionysius! dont reject Man! DONT PUT LIMITS MAN AS WELL! he may not be the end product anyway. he might just be a barrel that contains wine, - wood and grapes making love. dont throw limitations in that mixture as well.
anw. thats all.
Can we agree to dissagree and move on?
Tao to be honest i couldnt read ur full comment. sorry, try writting it again, and this time write as you would speak to your best friend that is on the same level as you. Why do you feel the need to be so defensive. Go to chatroullete.com to see the rest of the jivas in samsara.
PEACE SISTERS AND BROTHERS
Posted by: alexis | February 16, 2010 at 06:16 AM
To be perfectly honest I believe that someone achieved enlightment but I don't believe that man has gone to the moon. It was just an expression.
Posted by: alexis | February 16, 2010 at 06:18 AM
people do not have thoughts, they are just visited by them for a while.
Just a little reminder not to take the inner narrative too seriously.Be ready to laugh at that
which one once thought real.
All the best
Posted by: Stephen S Fine | February 16, 2010 at 07:16 AM
I am a bit concerned about the kind of spiritual leanings your comments reflect.
Wish you the best !
Posted by: Many Splits | February 16, 2010 at 08:29 AM
yes, understood and its an interesting point you and Catherine make.
I thought RS claimed to be a 'scientific' way for training oneself to go within and see the evidence for yourself, and as one becomes a better 'seer' one is drawn by the shabd up into these ever higher/finer spiritual realms? Since the satguru is GIHF, i assumed he had experienced all these planes, since he is perfect?
If the satguru has not experienced each of these planes, then RS is no different from religion in simply following a previous teaching without corroboration.
On another issue i found interesting, was that you've had various transcendental experiences yourself, so i take it you are not objecting to the possibility of these different planes of existence, merely that you do not believe the current satguru has actually experienced these himself?
I was wondering how you view or explain these experiences as someone with lucid logical thought might do. Do you consider the experiences to be real or do you ever wonder if it could be your mind playing tricks on you, i.e. hallucinating?
In Brian's 'wall-melting' analogy, the percieved experience of the walls melting at that time was real to Brian, but of course it was not real. Those walls would have remaned perfectly solid throughout.
So while its fine for ppl to all have their own different subjective realities, these would seem they have nothing to say on actual reality if they are merely perceptual distortions of the mind.
Now, perhaps many transcendental experiences are not hallucinations, but in view of how easily the mind is tricked by chemicals or hypnosis or dream states; i'd always wonder to myself how real such experiences were however vivid they might seem.
Posted by: George | February 16, 2010 at 09:27 AM
Thank you for your thoughts.Do not be concerned. Everything is just fine.
Posted by: alexis | February 16, 2010 at 09:34 AM
Although everyone may indeed have their own personal way, and tho it may not hurt or impact anyone else, such a personal experential account of reality does not have any value in informing actual reality.
This is the problem scientists have with the 'its all good, just different' approach which seems to be common to alot of new-age thought. The tolerance is admirable, but it allows for sloppy-thinking, since clearly the fellow whose imbibed a packet of magic mushrooms has very little to say on any sort of actual reality.
Mr Mushroom will surely have his own view of reality, but it is not an alternative view to be respected equally to that of a lucid viewpoint, rather it is a distorted view which sheds no insight into actual reality.
Posted by: George | February 16, 2010 at 09:55 AM
tAo, thanks for reminding me, and others, of something obvious that often gets forgotten: if a guru doesn't even claim to have experienced what he purports to know about mystical truths, this is more a sign that we should be skeptical of him/her than a sign he/she is the real deal.
I think many true believers have fallen into an unfounded belief in the "those who know do not talk, those who talk do not know" thing. Why would this be true? I just ate a bowl of oatmeal. I can say, "it tasted like oatmeal, with a banana and berries on top." Does saying this take away from my experience? No, of course not.
Catherine, when I said "each to his own" I didn't mean to imply that all of the "own's" are equally desirable, productive, or beneficial. But I'm enough of a libertarian to consider that people should be free to choose their own lifestyle, so long as it doesn't hurt others and isn't coerced. This could include sitting in a dark room and meditating for many hours a day.
George, there is indeed a difference between "real" reality and "subjective" reality. Those who think there isn't should try an experiment: they should say to themselves, "nothing can hurt me," and try to genuinely believe it. Then, step in front of a rapidly moving bus. Who wins? The bus or a belief?
Posted by: Blogger Brian | February 16, 2010 at 10:58 AM
Sant Mat is not okay. It could be evil.
Letting people believe you are god and giving proclomations on marriage, life styles, whatever, - in that pretense, knowing full well you know nothing, - how bad is that ? what ethic and integrity is that? Who could do such a thing ?
Sant Mat badly damaged my happiness because of choices I made under that influence and contines to lead others into a stagnent and steril existence. Time they will never get back.
Posted by: cyfer | February 16, 2010 at 11:26 AM
lol, Brian, well you could go further, your headline is a provocative one, which i quite enjoyed but then you found a way out of sorts for a personal viewpoint.
Your bus analogy is one way, another is a man dying of thirst in the dessert who spots an oasis, and just as he's marked down the GPS location he is spotted and rescued. His oasis vision is noted down by the scribes, but it turns out it was a mirage. His subjective reality has just distorted actual reality and since ppl have believed him and written down his sacred vision, they also now believe in a distorted reality.
I guess what i would like to know from you and Tao, since you've both had or glimpsed at these transcendental experiences at one time or another, do you believe these are actual reality or possibly hallications of the mind?
Posted by: George | February 16, 2010 at 12:48 PM
The founder of “the Radha Soami branch of Sant Mat, is said to have meditated almost continuously in a dark room for seventeen years before supposedly realizing some great mystical truth.”
Many eastern spiritual traditions encompass spending long periods of time in silent meditative seclusion whereas most westerners find this sort of practice very difficult. Perhaps because of the conditioning and cultural differences between the east and west?
Ramana Maharshi avoided company and sat alone in concentration and spent much time absorbed within to the extent that he was so unaware of his body that he was even bitten by vermin. My point is that if someone were to behave like this in the west this person would probably be thought of as a poor homeless person and would be removed from society and diagnosed with some serious mental disorder. So, what we in the west would think crazy seems to be acceptable behaviour in some eastern countries.
Shakyamuni was also born into a similar cultural environment and he became a recluse to pursue his aim to find the truth and ultimately became the Buddha (awakened one).
In our modern world unusual behaviour seems to be accepted or excused when under the influence of alcohol and drugs otherwise if not under the influence of drugs we in the west usually tend to behave in a "normal" fashion for fear of being classified as having some form of psychosis. Whereas it seems that in the east (in some cases) someone who has lost contact with external reality or has experienced a “different reality” through meditation is perceived as an "enlightened" being.
Posted by: Jen | February 16, 2010 at 03:20 PM
we basically pretty much agree on all this. but occasionally you say things that i am not quite sure whether you are just poking fun at. here is an example...
you said: "Since the satguru is GIHF, i assumed he had experienced all these planes, since he is perfect?"
-- do you mean to say that the satguru really IS gihf ?? now you don't really believe that do you? fyi, i don't believe that at all. i never have. to me its ridiculous... unless we say that everyone is god in human form. otherwise, its total rubbish imo.
you went on to say: "If the satguru has not experienced each of these planes, then RS is no different from religion in simply following a previous teaching without corroboration."
-- i totally agree with you on this, and i tend to think that this is the case with RS. it is nothing more than a religion. its just dressed up to be mysticism. and worse, its falsely called a "science", which we both know is also rubbish.
you asked: "another issue i found interesting, was that you've had various transcendental experiences yourself, so i take it you are not objecting to the possibility of these different planes of existence, merely that you do not believe the current satguru has actually experienced these himself?"
well two things:
-- first... yes i have had experiences and i think that that there are things or realms that are beyond the range and spectrum of normal sensory perception, just like UV light or ultrasoncic sound that we cannot see or hear. i feel that there are definitely realms of non-ordinary awareness that are not normally perceptible, but become perceptible in in altered states of heightened awareness. as far as that being purely subjective, yes it is... but ordinary perception is all subjective as well. so yes, i am not objecting to the possiblity of other planes of existence. in fact i think there are indeed various dimensions to this so-called "existence".
-- second... no, i do not necessarily refute or deny that the so-called "current satguru" has experienced other planes. he may have, i can't say. my point however, was that he is NOT saying. so just like Brian pointed out... if Brian or myself has any sort of experience (inner, outer, material, spiritual... whatever), then we have no problem admitting that or telling about it. but these RS gurus refuse to admit anything or to talk about their own experiences. so that leads me to doubt and to suspect that they probably have not really had those experiences of other subtle planes and regions that form the very basis of their teachings. and if that's the case, then that means they are hypocrites for allowing people and followers to assume otherwise. so then, like someone said, its just a religion where the guru is like the pope and he is merely parroting the stories and myths and religious dogma of the past saints or gurus. and that seems to be the case with RS, in my deeply considered opinion.
you also asked: "I was wondering how you view or explain these experiences as someone with lucid logical thought might do. Do you consider the experiences to be real or do you ever wonder if it could be your mind playing tricks on you, i.e. hallucinating?"
-- well, this is a bit of a deep subject and hard to answer in a few brief remarks. briefly, it all depends on what the particular experience is. some are more subtle levels of perception, and others are born of the imagination. its tricky to explain this due to differences in individual reference points. i will have to think some more about the best way to elaborate upon this and get back to you later.
you said: "In Brian's 'wall-melting' analogy, the percieved experience of the walls melting at that time was real to Brian, but of course it was not real. Those walls would have remaned perfectly solid throughout."
-- i understand your point, but actually the 'walls' are not really solid. but i am not saying that the melting of walls perceieved on lsd is valid though. many years ago i have taken significant number and moderately powerful doses of very pure quality lsd, and i rarely perceived the so-called 'melting walls' effect. this sort of thing all depends on the mind-set of the individual, the setting (environment), and the dosage. there are many variables. and the melting walls was not really what it sounds like. the walls were not really melting. it was more an effect of heightened awareness in the perception of light and color and texture and depth perception, and an altered sense of space and time.
you said: "its fine for ppl to all have their own different subjective realities, these would seem they have nothing to say on actual reality if they are merely perceptual distortions of the mind."
-- you mean 'consensus reality'. there is no one reality, but there is consensus reality.
you said: "perhaps many transcendental experiences are not hallucinations"
-- i would not say that "many"... but i would say that SOME experiences are not hallucinations, but rather theyt are perceptions of more subtle phenomena. what i mean is, for instance, are dreams had while sleeping "hallucinations"? are thoughts halluciantions? what actually is the nature of dreams and hallucinations? is waking life a kind of dream? do we know for sure? what actually is 'reality'? (other than the consensus of the perception of the so-called physical world) these questions do not necessarily have simple answers.
you said: "in view of how easily the mind is tricked by chemicals or hypnosis or dream states; i'd always wonder to myself how real such experiences were however vivid they might seem."
-- yes, but i would not say that the mind is always being "tricked". sometimes the awareness may become heightened or expanded so as to include other dimensions of perception, that are not necessarily less real than the so-called physical world.
you said: "I guess what i would like to know from you [Brian] and Tao, since you've both had or glimpsed at these transcendental experiences at one time or another, do you believe these are actual reality or possibly hallications of the mind?"
-- thats hard to answer in a few words. some aspects are of those experiences definitely seemed very real, and some other aspects may have been somewhat hallucinatory. the difficulty, as i said before, is what or where is the reference point? who's to say what is "real"?? especially when things that we take to be real, turn out not to be real. someting to think about.
Posted by: tAo | February 16, 2010 at 04:53 PM
"we obviously disagree on fundamentals"
-- what "fundamentals" are you referring to?
"if a caterpillar can die and become a butterfly"
-- fyi, the catepillar does not die. it merely transforms or mutates into a butterfly. and in the opposite way, thats also the crux of your mistake regarding meditation. meditation is not the same as actual death. somehow you deny or fail to understand that fact.
"i dont understand ur little faith in the species called homo sapien"
-- i have lots of faith in human beings. i just don't have any faith in your lame-ass dogma and supernaturalistic fantasies.
"dont rush and CLAIM 100% that this cannot be done."
-- that WHAT cannot be done? you are a bit confused and you communicate poorly.
"If someone tells u it can be done, his word has more basis than yours."
-- i take that back, you are not just confused, you are certified nuts. just because someone says something, that does not make it true. without proof, you have nothing. and in that case, words also mean nothing. you are just another typical religious nut who thinks that mere beliefs equal truth. you need education as well as counseling.
"If i tell you I saw someone doing this and this has more gravity than "I did not see him"."
-- no it doesn't. if you have no solid evidence to support your claim, then its merely heresay. there is no logic or proof in what you are saying. its just talk. it has no "gravity". you are bereft of basic reason and intellectual maturity. you have a long ways to go.
you should ask Brian about this, he can explain it to you.
"So, if you dissmiss god"
-- wrong. i never "dismissed" god. the questiuon of god still remains a mystery.
"and u dissmis religions and dogmas"
-- yes i dimiss religion and dogma.
-- i do not dismiss truth, but you have present no truth. words and heresay is not truth. far from it.
"and cling to phenomenology"
-- wrong. i do not cling to any such thing. you are confused and mistaken.
"dont reject Man!"
-- i don't reject man. you have a very distorted and faulty imppression.
"Can we agree to dissagree and move on?"
-- no, i don't agree with people who are immature, illogical, irrational and delusional.
"try writting it again, and this time write as you would speak to your best friend that is on the same level as you."
-- no... because, a) you are not my best friend; and b) because you are not on the same level as i am. you are far younger and less mature than i am, and vastly less experienced... not to mention your being full of all sorts of dogma and irrational nonsense.
"Why do you feel the need to be so defensive."
-- again, you are confused. i am not defensive simply because i am not defending anything - YOU ARE. you are the one who is defensive about sant mat and mysticism. its reflected in all your comments.
"Go to chatroullete.com to see the rest of the jivas in samsara."
-- i have no interest in such nonsense.
you need to quit trying to be such a dogmatic smart-ass preacher, and be more receptive and humble, and maybe you would learn a thing or two from Brian and some of the other commenters here.
Posted by: tAo | February 16, 2010 at 06:41 PM
I agree with Cyfer's and Tao's comments above.
I continue to be concerned about you and all those who tread the RS path. Having been brought up with the Sant Mat teachings, it was tough for me to take a look at myself and see where my life was headed. I am not someone who got disillusioned and walked away, I took a conscious decision to step out of it.
There are many contradictions within the Sant Mat philosophy itself, but the power-house that RSSB has become is a far cry from the days of Charan Singh.
However, I can see where you're coming from - in RS, when you are blinded by the blind faith, it seems like the only way to God.
I think I was lucky enough to ' wake up ' and smell the roses.
Posted by: Many Splits | February 16, 2010 at 08:29 PM
Alexi, this one's for you, please give me your opinion...
June 2009. I visit Beas with a friend for the weekend. At that time of the year, the sun is blazing down, turning the weather a dry, 42 degree centigrade. A large group of poor men have taken the long train from Rajasthan to Punjab to re-make the roads within the Dera. The road-seva is in full swing.
Using redundant equipment, they work tirelessly, pouring hot tar from the cauldron onto the scorching ground. We watch them patiently.
Around 1.30 in the afternoon these men take a break and get into queue to have lunch at the ' bhojan bhandar ' which is a large, open hall with tall tables and no chairs. My friend and I are in queue as well and once we're inside, we scramble to find chairs for ourselves. A sevadar comes over and sternly tells us to stand and eat. Left with no choice, we bring our plates closer over to the table where the road-seva men are standing, and a have a chat with a few of them. They come across as simpletons who take great pride in their seva.
Later in the day, a few thoughts crossed my mind -
If these men are doing ' seva ' which the Dera does not pay them for, why can't they at least get chairs to sit down and eat ? Don't their aching limbs need some momentary rest before the next shift begins ? Don't they deserve chairs more than I do ? Is RSSB short of funds to provide chairs for them ?
My experiences in life have taught me one thing - Where there is no room for love and compassion, there is no room for spirituality.
Posted by: Many Splits | February 16, 2010 at 10:40 PM
you have expressed a wonderful insight here:
"Where there is no room for love and compassion, there is no room for spirituality."
thank you for sharing this. for therein is the light of wisdom.
Posted by: tAo | February 17, 2010 at 12:15 AM
An excellent post Brian !
Presently, one of my relative's is experiencing ' mystical insights ' or so he says. I have never seen him happier or more content with life.
Whatever it is, it works for him.
Presently, I've set myself free from my RS belief system. I have never been happier, though I think I could be more content... :)
Whatever it is, it works for me.
Posted by: Many Splits | February 17, 2010 at 12:32 AM
Respects, and thank you Tao !
I honestly believe that I have a lot to learn, and emptying out my RS belief system was the first step in that direction.
Have a wonderful day !
Posted by: Many Splits | February 17, 2010 at 01:10 AM
Well explained and interesting. Sorry for the long response that follows.
On whether the satguru is GIHF, no i do not believe so, but the satsangis do. Do i believe he's traversed spirtual planes? no. Similarly, and please do not take this personally, do i believe you or any other human has percieved a different realm that is real by subjective experience? no, but that is what i am trying to find out.
I would regard all subjective experiences with circumspection, and those that are far removed from normal human experience as most probably being physcological hallucinations induced by the human mind.
However, I'm trying to operate from the premise that i am in fact incorrect and that their are such profoundly transcendetal experiences to be had; and that such subjective experiences are capable of informing reality.
You also correctly identify the limits of our human senses, but we should distinguish between seeing the real version of reality at different levels and a distorted version thereof. So at the human level we experience the wall as a substantially solid structure, whereas at an atomic level the wall would be experienced as a substantially transparent structure with much space between atoms. However, there reamins one reality at different levels. At the human level, the wall is solid, were one to experience it as transparent at this level, it would be a distortion of reality. But more importantly, when one trips, the experience is not of the microscopic reality (which would be an insight into reality), not at all, instead the tripper experiences a distortion of a macroscopic level of reality where the brain processes textures and colours differently and incorrectly. Try and walk through a melting wall and you still going hit solid, so its a distortion of your reality.
Doubtless as you say, there are levels of reality we are not capable of experiencing, however technological advanced we get, but i understand the transcental experiences we roughly talk of here beyond this in that they are had by ppl with the same physical senses as other humans, but claim to have somehow attuned themselves to another realm (or even level) of reality - this i do not believe. I believe its an hallucination, but i may be wrong.
i agree on most points, but perhaps differ from you guys on subjective experiences where you say 'some aspects of those experiences definitely seemed very real, and some other aspects may have been somewhat hallucinatory'. Its honest and yet it appears you do believe some of these subjective transcental experiencess are real, and while i find this interesting in its own right, my view is that its unlikely any of them are real and moreover if one is to be consistent and discount some subjective experiences as being hallucination, surely one needs to prima facie discount all claims that depart from normal human experience?
The metaphor of subjective love used above is slightly misleading imo, in that love is a normal human experience, widely experienced without training one's mind. However, the same can't be said for someone claiming to have subjectively experienced astral travel or primordial budha nature or a dissolution of all forms into non-duality. These are abnormal to the human experience.
I take your point on frames on reference, but again this would need one to speculate that some ppl are more primed or ready than others, and again am reluctant to buy into this since it requires the same level of speculative belief that makes the RS satsangis believe their satguru is primed to travel to KPaX without a space craft.
The problem with subjective experiences is the same as for religion itself, they often make claims to 'truths' that are conflicting and far removed from everyday reality, and since they cant all be true, imo its probably likely none of them are.
Like most things in the universe, it probably comes down to probabibility. Nearly nothing is impossible in a nearly infinite universe, but one has to take into account what is most likely.
Posted by: George | February 17, 2010 at 05:22 AM
Interesting, especially the eastern holy men and there hermit-like quest for understanding.
Self-knowledge is important, but is it the be all and end all or even the most important form of knowledge? The mystics say 'know thyself', partly i suspect to realise our supposed perfect natures, but don't we learn alot about ourselves from others who can see our blind spots? Dont we learn more about the world generally from others?
Just seems humans are by nature social animals, and at our happiest when surrounded by ppl we trust and like, even the most solitary of us must surely enjoy the company of a trusted friend or partner now and again as opposed to constant solitude. As the saying goes, no man is an island. It would seem friendship is one of the cornerstones of a good life.
The religious and secular seem to share an almost completelty opposite view of life and death.
In general, imo religious folk seem to view life as suffering wrought by base human desires that need to be controlled, whereas death is paradise provided certain teachings are followed. In contrast, secular folk seem to believe this life is all we;ve got, some of it good others bad, but that its best to make the best of it while you here by doing what one enjoys without harming others.
Posted by: George | February 17, 2010 at 06:04 AM
I think we are surrounded by the extra-ordinary building up and unravelling of life which is exceptional enough. There are laws which govern it, but there are many unexplained phenomena such as what may be called mystical experiences such as hearing phenomenal sounds, seeing light, being healed at a distance or through a placebo, etc. That these things can be experienced has nothing to do with religion or ultimate truth. Nor should an atheist experiencing them suddenly become religious.
Say it is true that some weirdo emerged from his cupboard and experienced a repeatable wayout journey to a place called Sach Khand, then so what? Do we think it's worthwhile giving it a bash? Say it actually worked and we could go there each morning, then where's the proof that it's not just a trip to a nearby solar system? The originator says, it's the furthest, but what if his experience in fact blocks off millions of others which are better? Or what if it is better for us to experience what we do ordinarily paying attention to ourselves, our families, work and the environment? There are lots of options but I feel better when I do the last one.
I think that we dance according to our need? Sometimes it's a trip to India, new people willing to share the same experiences from all over the world maybe with a meet and mate prospect, a quiet time with a good excuse away from the kids, a discipline, an opportunity to do selfless work, a spotless environment, a hero, a carefree routine. All this, such as people get from a trip to the Beas Dera, regenerates the batteries.
What if we can believe that we may be working at the same time towards being the finest possibility in the pinnacle of creation? Then the break is justifiable once a year at least.
But, after a while we are fortunate enough to read or think widely about the path we have chosen, and discover it has a very unenlightened, somewhat embattled journey to the present pristine environment. We realise that our investment was not well researched or that there is not enough basis to believe what we have been told. We question the very basis of our elected path. Maybe we were young or afraid or in a hurry or unprepared. Now things are different. In our maturity, having done all that, we face it and look for evidence.
Posted by: Catherine | February 17, 2010 at 06:49 AM
All experience is with in or if you like subjective.This is very clearly shown by Thomas Metzinger in his book "The Ego Tunnel".Even our body is an image projected by our brain.
With regard to so called mystical experiences,for myself it was not so much the experiences but the knowledge that the person(or if you like ,an unique awareness that self identifies with itself)was/is the same awareness that is awake and goes about ordinary life.In other words,experiences come and go but you/me stay the same experiencer/observer regardless of what is being experienced or even where the experience is being experienced.I learn't I am stuck with what ever I am.
I hope this helps
Stephen S Fine
Posted by: Stephen S Fine | February 17, 2010 at 06:58 AM
Your question, “Self-knowledge is important, but is it the be all and end all or even the most important form of knowledge”?
--For some people self-knowledge may be important and for others not important at all. There is a vast amount of knowledge available just like there are a huge variety of people with many different mindsets. During different stages in life we seek out the knowledge we need to survive or that we are interested in at that particular time of life. I have no idea why some seek self-knowledge and others don’t or if it is the be all and end all or most important form of knowledge. Who am I to judge?!
You say, “don't we learn alot about ourselves from others who can see our blind spots? Dont we learn more about the world generally from others?”
--Sure we learn from others and its great if we can see our blind spots. I think we see in others a reflection of ourselves (not a pretty sight sometimes :)
You also comment about humans being by nature social animals.
--Some people are more sociable than others and some are more reclusive and embrace their solitude but there is also a wide range of in-between types of personalities.
You say: “As the saying goes, no man is an island. It would seem friendship is one of the cornerstones of a good life.”
--I prefer, “Be an island unto yourself” (Buddha).
--I also like, “Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; for love is sufficient unto love” (Kahlil Gibran).
You say, “The religious and secular seem to share an almost completelty opposite view of life and death.”
--I can’t comment on this because my perception of life is somewhere in the middle between these two opposing viewpoints and its only my perception after all :)
Posted by: Jen | February 17, 2010 at 08:25 PM
Metzinger's book was good and is one theory of mind which is well supported.
The ego tunnel is a good analogy in how our perception is tunneled, nevertheless there remains an external universe with which we percieve a mutltitude of experiences, some of which conveying new information despite being tunneled, and this is how we learn and broaden our horizons. Science and technology has developed because of this ability to build off the ideas of others. Moreover, it is common sense that ppl exposed to a broader range of experiences will have a broader outlook on life.
Thus, i disagree that experiences change whereas the experiencer stays the same. The ego tunnel which perceives our experiences is also dynamically shaped itself over time by these experiences. Just as a tunnel guides water, so the water will also shape the tunnel itself over time.
While self-knowledge is important, it is not everything imo.
Yes good comments. I presume Buddhas quote is trying to say that one should try be self-sufficient and not need anything from others?
But we do need things from others, we need food that we can only get from consuming other's organic matter. Its our biology, and unlike morals, it cannot be escaped from, we need to eat for us to survive.
But even if one assumes the Buddha is talking of not needing any desire or attatchment, i think the human psyche's (others might call it soul) nourishment is love. Surely we all need to give and recieve love, its when love is withheld or not forthcoming, that the most damaged and brutal human psyche's result?
Posted by: George | February 18, 2010 at 11:32 AM
“Be an island unto yourself” – this expression is mostly taken to mean taking refuge in the Buddhist teachings and community but I have read that Buddha did also advise his audience to seek refuge in themselves.
My personal interpretation, or kind of visualization that I aspire to, would be a state of mind, being still, centered, composed and strong from one’s own core being. A kind of detachment and non-interference with all the machinations of the world (those waves crashing on the beach :) whilst still living in the world. Its not a kind of cold detachment, its an all embracing consciousness which just simply observes and allows the rest of the world to just go about its own business.
So yes, how to survive in the world without being too involved, living a kind of life where we are self sufficient and able to provide for ourselves and our basic needs? When we are young and so busy providing for our families and ourselves there doesn’t seem to be much time for introspection and reflection and we have to find somehow a way of balancing the worldly needs and those of the inner self. At my stage of life it is different, I have time now.
I remember you asking about what have mystics done for this world? Perhaps when they are seen to be an example of unconditional love, the highest form of love, they show the way to our own capability of accessing and expressing this type of love.
Posted by: Jen | February 18, 2010 at 04:20 PM
I agree with this post, but I have always summarized it as follows:
He who says he knows the path does not know the path.
Posted by: Sean | February 18, 2010 at 10:07 PM
Jen, i think there is alot of truth and balanced grounded wisdom in what you say.
Posted by: George | February 19, 2010 at 01:42 AM
Thank you for taking the time to reply to me.
I liked your observations very much.The idea of
a dynamic ever changing personality is right up my
ally.Nevertheless and it is certaintly not showable I somehow suspect a "presence"(tuscon's word and idea).That could not be said to have an existence.It is like an atmospheric presence,supporting,benign and allowing for the personality the freedom to develop.Being both personal and impersonal.The "I" pronoun could be the way it thinks itself into existence.
What ever I have written is a personal way of seeing things and is more for you to think about and is my way of saying I live with uncertainty and I am happy to hear other opinions and ideas.
With kind regards
Stephen S Fine
Posted by: Stephen S Fine | February 19, 2010 at 03:43 AM
Thanks George, really nice to have positive feedback, much appreciated. Keep up the good work with your incisive questions and comments.
Posted by: Jen | February 19, 2010 at 04:04 AM
I simply loved your previous comment.
There is a lot to learn from it.
Posted by: Many Splits | February 19, 2010 at 09:46 AM
Jen, many Splits, George, it's possible that my husband holds exactly the same philosophy as you and he does really well with it.
My approach has always been different, perhaps more hotheaded, but I have always been an activist, by which I mean that if it is not right, I'll be diving right into the middle of it, fighting like crazy to address the wrong, angering the opposition and receiving mixed results. I would have difficulty being warmly detatched, probably get some dreadful illness. Connection, interaction, communication, debate, action for social and political reform, wiping a baby's bottom.... involvement. After all we are here.
Posted by: Catherine | February 19, 2010 at 10:55 AM
But as Brian experienced from his bajilionth 'spiritual' book, I would agree an approach or attitude for one may not be a formula for all, despite the Buddha's efforts.
Thank the stars for variety! Nice word Brian... bajilionth! Thinking about bhajan by an chance when you came up with it?
President Bush was devastated when he heard about the two Brazilian people who had been killed in Iraq. Just how many people is that, he asked.
Posted by: Catherine | February 19, 2010 at 11:17 AM
agreed, there are certain issues that draw me in like no tomorrow, and i get very hotheaded, but there is also alot to be said for being able to adopt a more detached approach as Jen indicates, i think this is alot of what these mystic traditions try teach, which is supposedly a broader more enlightened outlook of the world. i thought jen's comments on what mystics possibly have brought to the world, was a very good answer and one to consider.
Not really into activism or joining a club, since most don't seem terribly sincere, but if something is clearly wrong, i will take it on with everything i have.
Tho can't say i get terribly worked up about global warming or whether one recycles or not, and i def would avoid a baby's exhaust pipe at all costs, terrible mess - thats woman's business, they are mentally stronger then men.
Posted by: George | February 19, 2010 at 12:19 PM
Many Splits, Catherine and George, nice comments. Yep, definitely agree with “an approach or attitude for one may not be a formula for all”. Had a chuckle at Catherine’s more lively and animated approach to life. I still have a feisty side.
I often wonder what drives us or what inspires us to move in the directions we take, a glimpse of something we would like to become perhaps or maybe an ancient deep-seated memory of what we have been.
Posted by: Jen | February 19, 2010 at 04:17 PM
Interesting reading. Maybe your comment could be rephrased as - With regard to a spiritual path/religion - what do they give us and why do we need them?
I do believe in some form of spiritual enlightenment, everyone has progressed through many trains of thought to get where they are right now… reading a blog on a website called “church of the churchless” means there is some aim/objective which we consider to be worthwhile…. either that or it’s a means of ensnaring people in heated debate for some self righteous or vindictive aim…. and I assume that no-one here will accept that as a personal view.
Yes you are so right that many people find a certain type of spiritual ‘truth’ and then without proper investigation find themselves a member of a closed minded and dogmatic belief system, usually one that irks others by pushing their congregation to proselytize that belief further. I know that it only makes sense that a system which self replicates will gravitate towards the aim of further aggressive self-replication, but it still irks me nonetheless.
So lets assume for this point that the goal is ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and try not to put too much personal bias or coloured perception behind that term for now.
I define spiritual enlightenment as an aim to connect with a force beyond this physical reality, one which we are perhaps attuned to from a previous state of existence/dimension, or one which we aspire to out of our personal soul/super consciousness/higher mind being naturally attracted to for evolutionary purposes.
Side note - I believe the soul/ super consciousness/higher mind to be the same thing, and that people spend too much time trying to define or copyright each name as their property.
The third possibility is that we are naturally attracted to this as a pointless pursuit by our brain and mental makeup as human beings, my personal instinct is not happy with this option…. usually there is a point to attraction in this universe.
Each being can identify their own signposts along the road of their evolution, but what are these, and are they universal?
Perhaps this is the key to your point – that we are all defining these in our own way and that it’s pointless to copy someone else’s methodology, I do agree with that to some extent…but not wholly…. there are lessons to be learned by a discerning mind and perhaps we should concentrate on educating people to do that more…. “hey you – be more discerning” :0)
Whether a person’s path is to spend a large amount of time as a hermit, connecting with a local congregation, reading, writing, discussing (blogging) then it is true to say that some spiritual facts appear to be universal…or rather similar, and there is value in researching these. Part of being able to research different versions of ‘personal truth’ and paths to enlightenment is through finding congregations of like minded people (either physically or electronically) so it is essential to have these institutions…. they are not “wrong” in essence…only perhaps in their content.
I sometimes feel connected spiritually with inner self /god force / quantum field simply by quiet reflection in a natural setting or absorption in a personal hobby or sport.
That said, it’s obvious that some pursuits accelerate my evolution more than others and perhaps the scale includes so many shades of grey it gets hard to know where to turn. Therefore the teachings of others help me to get back on track and refocus that which I lost sight of, although I use a discerning mind to filter what’s right for me.
Geoff (Jen’s son)
Posted by: Geoff | February 19, 2010 at 08:12 PM
George and Jen, the serious questions: Is aloofness detachment? Can one be peaceful/ serene and active? Do all sages teach the same thing... can we generalise that they think the same? Who is a sage? Is detachment superior to attachment? Can we attach and detach and reattach etc with out clinging to one or the other thing? Was Ghandi an activist?
George- the deed would be done by the people responsible for producing the baby or the people they pay... so that the future doesn't get worse! Otherwise take that last bit as 'metaphorically speaking.'
And what's all this bigoted talk about women's business being the dirty stuff- squeemishness is short-lived and runs equally through the sexes. Tut! Tut!
Posted by: Catherine | February 20, 2010 at 10:14 PM
So many questions and I don’t have the answers just more questions!
As Brian says in this post “A personal experience is just that: one person's experience".
I still like the theory of sanskaras (imprints on the subconscious mind which we have brought over from previous lives), which would explain how each person is unique and makes their own way in life according to these deep impressions from what they have experienced through eons of time. Although I now question my linear understanding of time and also wonder if reincarnation is just an easy way of explaining the inequality and injustices of life, especially for those born into the tradition of a caste system.
We can learn from the example of sages and then again each person will be attracted to those teachers who resonate with their own inner awareness. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote “Be the change you want to see in the world” will have different meanings to people each according to their own personal perception of life.
Posted by: Jen | February 21, 2010 at 03:16 PM
I believe that religion is not wrong. I am a Christian, but I still believe in science. Some people have trouble believing things that are not tangible; however, sometimes you must have faith. I agree with the statement that was made about sometimes it is only through people’s own experiences that they believe, but sometimes people just need a little faith. Yes maybe science is proven, and doubled checked many times, and I understand that there is no real proof of God, but that does not mean he does not exist. Some people have trouble taking that leap of faith when it is not proven. I know it’s every one’s own opinion, but just because something does not have evidence does not mean it is fake. Science many times is based on theories and is normally accepted based on evidence unless proven wrong. God has not yet been proven to not exist, so why shouldn’t it be accepted too.
Posted by: Rachel | February 23, 2010 at 07:44 PM
Rachel, if religion offers you comfort and meaning, great. If I were you, I wouldn't worry overly much about whether the religion you believe in is objectively true. What does it matter, reallly?
Like you said, it is your own experience that is important. If you enjoy going to church, or whatever, and feeling close to God, then that is the key thing.
My main objection to religion is when it tries to take the place of science in explaining how the universe works. But if people use religion to make their lives happier and more meaningful without trying to convert other people to their way of thinking/believing, no problem.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | February 23, 2010 at 08:12 PM
Brian and tAo, tAo also made the following claim:
"i also never read where sawan had claimed to have any experience either. nor jagat singh. shiv dayal singh wrote sar bachan, but he did not claim to have any experience either, as far as i know."
have either of you guys even READ the Sar Bachan poetry?? If you had, you would know that shiv dayal singh wrote extensive CLAIMS about inner experiences.
I'm just saying.....
Posted by: Todd | February 24, 2010 at 04:34 PM
you posted your comment above, on the wrong thread. it does not belong here.
you also posted the very same comment elsewhere, where it does belong, and i have responded to it there.
however, nevertheless, fyi here is a copy of my response that i already posted over on that other (correct) thread:
you said: "have either of you guys even READ the Sar Bachan poetry??"
-- yes i have, several times and in two different versions, the RS version and the Agra version. do you somehow think that, after having been initiated for more than 30 years, that Brian and i would not have read it by now? then you apparently don't know much about us. but perhaps you are just trying to be sarcastic.
you said: "If you had, you would know that shiv dayal singh wrote extensive CLAIMS about inner experiences."
-- no, he did not. he did not make any such claims that i know of. he described inner regions, but he did not himself claim to having had experienced them. there is a definite difference, and it is a difference that you seem to keep missing. merely describing supposed inner planes and regions is quite different from actually saying and admitting that he personally went there and experienced them.
and that's the point here.
you said: "I'm just saying....."
-- saying what? i have read sar bachan... several times in fact. if you think that you can produce any text from sar bachan where shiv dayal singh himself actually admits and claims to have traversed the inner regions, then i will be glad to look at it.
Posted by: tAo | February 24, 2010 at 06:18 PM
I agree with you Brian. I respect people’s opinions and would never try to convert someone to mine. I understand that all people have their own choices and opinions, and I do not think it is right for people to try to change them. I also believe that it is not rights for people to think that one religion is better than another, so I think people should form their own opinions.”
Posted by: Rachel | February 24, 2010 at 06:18 PM
Great article. I love your approach. Being a Deist, I have a like minded approach. Any religion is only right, when it is right for you. That is why I say do not judge others, and never think your way is the only way, or the only truth, cause you're just fooling yuourself.
Posted by: Jay W. | December 02, 2010 at 09:08 AM
Brian, you are wrong. Ramana Maharishi did not have a Guru, so he was NOT told by a "guru to keep asking "Who is the seer?""
Posted by: Todd Rush Chambers | June 17, 2016 at 06:36 AM
Todd, thanks for the info. You're right: looking at my Ramana books, he didn't have a guru. I'm not sure where I got that idea -- maybe from the fact that Ramana told people that a guru was almost always necessary. It's a bit unclear what he meant by "guru," though, since he also said that one's higher self was the true guru. I'll edit the post.
Posted by: Brian Hines | June 20, 2016 at 03:06 PM