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May 20, 2024


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One of the spiritual groups I used to visit was a Sai Baba center. One of the members used to be a professor of religion in India. Now that he was in America he was selling insurance. Anyway, he gave a talk on the history of the yoga schools of India. He had a big whiteboard, and he began rattling off the names of yoga schools I'd never heard of before or since, drawing diagrams of how one school was formed from these two schools, which formed 5 other schools, 2 of which died out but these 2 joined with a different school of another lineage, and these formed these 7 schools, which branched off into this, this and that school, half of which ceased to be, but the other half formed with several other schools, and these formed this new lines of schools...

The professor went on like this for a good half hour, stopping every 5 minutes or so to remind us, "Please understand, I'm only giving you a thumbnail sketch; there were many other yoga schools I don't have time to mention."

This lecture left a deep impression on me on how any and every religious school or sect is the product of syncretism and evolution. Every "revealed teaching" is actually a repackaging of someone else's ideas. And this has happened millions of times. And so I can agree that the general public perception is false that any religion has a distinct "self" or identity. All religions are fluid.

Moreover, I get a kick out of how professional religious apologists contradict themselves on this matter. This is particularly evident in today's Catholicism, with their apologists arguing that authentic Catholicism is about obedience to the church's teachings, while they spend just as much time arguing that the present pope (which Catholic teaching says is the last authority on this religion's beliefs and practices) is a heretic. It turns out that every Catholic is a Cafeteria Catholic. In other words, even the most conservative and orthodox believers pick and choose what to believe.

You see this kind of thing in the Sant Mat world as well. Satsangis initiated by Charan who can't stand Gurinder because of cell phones and rennet. We're only Gurumukhs (abjectly obedient to the shabd in human form) when it suits us.

That being said, and paradoxically as it may seem, I don't completely agree with the membership of one idea. To put it briefly if a bit tritely, there is a magnifying effect of good vibes when one is part of a fellowship of like believers. Even if we're mainly all Chiefs with ideas that don't precisely match, we do better in a group. This is something that both Muhammed and Dogen fully believed.

@Brian “Don't expect the organization to perfectly meet your needs, because this is impossible.”

I vaguely remember a couple of Sufi stories that emphasized the different approach needed for different people. One was about a man who spied on the behaviour of a well-known teacher and copied his humble, non-argumentative manner. The imitator applied this behaviour to his own life, including his bad tempered and neurotic wife. Becoming exasperated by his newly (and falsely) adopted humility, in a fit of rage, she killed him.

Another teacher who taught from books and the written word was asked how he would teach people in a different land if they had resources and practices other than reading and writing. His reply was that he would have a different set of students.

The gist of such stories being that they point out the Sufi way of teaching through prescription and is similar in this respect to Buddhism (Zen and Chan in particular).

Interestingly, although such practitioners each have diverse minds, experiences and expectations, the realisation of the elements of no-mind, impermanence and emptiness find a common unity – also amongst the modern sciences.

Brilliant insight. “Ready-made religion” is akin to UPFs. Ultra processed foods are designed to line the pockets of their designers and founders. But all they end up doing is poisoning the gullible buyers.

Think for yourself. Never be afraid to question because the truth has to be tested to be accepted.

Humans were born with the faculty of discernment for this very reason. Test what you believe to be true.

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