How We Deepen What We Know Is True, the Second Side of the Teachings

Posted on October 24, 2009. Filed under: How Spirituality Works | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

I read about Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion yesterday, along with her becoming outspoken against the traditional definitions for God. I then visited blogs that were discussing these things and decided to make this post as part of that discussion. This contribution to that discussion is from a the perspective of someone that has followed a specific Spiritual Teacher and so the response reflects that association. This does not mean that I presume that my Spiritual Teacher has the market cornered on enlightenment. I do not. In fact I feel that I have identified several Enlightened Masters alive at this time from different lineages, and refer to them as Spiritual Teachers. It is my impression that there is very little respect today for Spiritual Teachers which is a tremendous loss if those teachings have validity. This response is therefore an attempt to expand on the thoughts that Karen Armstrong puts forth from the perspective of the lineages that produce Enlightenment. Any validity in this response comes from the validity of the teachings of those lineages.

The blogs that I visited were: In Good Faith, Learn English with Turgay Evern, This Tumbleweed Life, by Hibernopithecus, Insight, Rethorykal Questions, Find and Ye Shall Seek, Prometheus Unbound, Slow Muse, March Fourth Blog, Run Motherfucker Run, Marmalade, Randall Butisingh’s Weblog, Empowered Thoughts

We deal with questions that do not have specific answers all the time. Questions like:

Is there God, and if so what is God?

What is compassion?

What is love?

This list could go on and on. Just because there is no specific answer to questions like these does not mean that no answer exists. The difference here is that while there is no answer for these question from any source outside of ourselves, we do have the ability to produce an answer from our own understanding through direct experience. Questions like these cannot be satisfactorily answered by sources outside of ourselves because the answers that we seek are experiential. No book or explanation can convey an experience such as what it is like to become a parent, or ride a bicycle. The experience is the only way to these understandings, and even then each individual’s experience will be unique. Karen Armstrong’s argument that a finite mind cannot ever conceive infinity and therefore God is correct, but this does not mean that we have no experience of infinity or God. It means that our understanding of that experience will always be less than the full understanding.

This is the reason that Spiritual Teachers have always relied on spiritual practices to teach students. The words of the Teacher are not enough to convey the understanding that is necessary for the students to achieve enlightenment, there must also be the personal experience that is acquired through the spiritual practice.  This is still not the full answer however, if it were all students that performing spiritual practices would become enlightened. Simply performing spiritual practices is also not enough. There is more. In order to understand what is needed from the spiritual practice honesty is required. Deepening spiritual understanding requires a deepening of our honesty. This is reflected when we meet a Spiritual Teacher. What we understand when we meet the Spiritual Teacher is that they have developed much deeper honesty with themselves. If we recognize that honesty we recognize the person as a Spiritual Teacher.

How to develop this internal honesty through spiritual practice has been called the second side of the teachings, and has traditionally only been taught in the silence. The rigidity of this tradition has had the effect that the vast majority of students of any Spiritual Teacher do not learn the second side of the teachings. The result is that these students that do not learn for themselves and become dependent upon relying on spiritual practices and their relationship to the Spiritual Teacher. When this occurs we notice that something essential is missing in religious practices and rituals, and that reliance on the divinity of the founder of the religion is stressed more than the pursuit of an ever deepening spiritual understanding, and way of relating to others. This has become an ever worsening problem as belief systems that run contrary to the original teachings have been constructed based on limited understanding of the original teachings and used to justify subjugating others, genocide, and even justify the extermination of humankind.

In order to teach this second side of the teachings openly so that a greater number of students can develop a structure had to be developed. One Spiritual Teacher to dedicate his life to doing so was Yogi Bhajan. His structure for learning the second side of the teachings was given the name Sat Nam Rasayan. which means healing through the true identity. The appropriateness of this name is apparent in the healing that is experienced whenever the internal honesty is further developed in some meaningful way.

The second side of the teachings, the structure of Sat Nam Rasayan, is built on very simple experiences that we all have of being honest with ourselves. The significance is that this means that all spiritual development is built on this. The first of these experiential awarenesses is that all we know is what we feel.

When I first started learning Sat Nam Rasayan this seemed to me to be too simplistic to have much significance, but it proved important on at least two levels. First because I was critically assessing what was being taught, I was intent on finding something to argue with, and the assertion that all I knew was simply a result of what I felt passed my critical assessment. Secondly in order to learn to re-evaluate my perceptions there needed to be a way to establish a shift in normal perception in order to make learning possible.

The assertion that all we know is what we feel may seem overly simplistic but it conveys that we can always identify what we feel if we are honest enough, and that everything that we think of as our understanding is ultimately experiential.  On the other hand, consider that we have feelings (many of which that we may not understand but do have none the less) about everything. There is no thought or idea or concept that can be presented to us that we do not have a feeling response to. This does not imply that the way that we interpret our feelings is correct. On the contrary, we normally delude ourselves into believing that what we feel we want is most important. The process of how we untangle our self-delusion about what we feel requires us to develop deeper personal honesty and is the structure of the second side of the teachings, Sat Nam Rasayan.

It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

Advertisements

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

4 Responses to “How We Deepen What We Know Is True, the Second Side of the Teachings”

RSS Feed for Sacred Space Comments RSS Feed

[…] Yogi Bhajan's Student Just another WordPress.com weblog « How We Deepen What We Know Is True, the Second Side of the Teachings […]

[…] self-honesty can grow from the seemingly insignificant honesty of identifying what we feel (How we deepen what we know is true). In this state of honesty we can then also identify what our reaction to what we are feeling is, […]

The simplest answer to what is God is probably ‘God is love’, and as for what is love: ‘do not do to others what is hateful to yourself’ as the Prophet Mohammad said, that is a good start.
We may not love everyone in the same way but the respect and consideration we keep for them in our hearts and show in our behaviour is what the Charter for Compassion is about.
It’s not just for the other person- it is life-changing for oneself to be compassionate. As we used to say with simplicity ‘kindness is its own reward’!
~Best regards.

I find the answer that ‘God is love’ overly simplistic and the definition of love as ‘do not do to others what is hateful to yourself’ as not a definition at all.

These two examples demonstrate a couple of misunderstandings about the difference between religious and spiritual. In religion belief is accepted. In spirituality everything is based on direct experience. God is love is a religious belief, and is too small to convey the limitlessness of God. Since God is all things then, God is love, hate, corruption, greed, day, night,….. all things. There is nothing that is not God. God is the totality of everything, and the only reason that there is significance to God is that all things are interconnected.
As for ‘do not do to others what is hateful to yourself’, this is an instruction. The Spiritual Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh is very clear that compassion is always the product of understanding. Following an instruction, even from an Enlightened Master, conveys no understanding by the follower, and is absent of compassion. For example, we may feel that it is hateful to be confronted when we are behaving badly, but at some point it is necessary to confront bad behavior despite how much confronting it is hated. Understanding is what makes the difference.
It may seem as if this example is ridiculously simple minded. I would point out that religious folks throughout the world are selectively choosing the religious instructions that they follow with a fanaticism and lack of understanding that distorts the original meaning of the instructions. They are making quite a mess of things


Where's The Comment Form?

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: