Monday, November 1, 2010

An Overview of the 'Spiritual Path'

Someone wrote, “I’ve been on the spiritual path for over 20 years now, and I am at a point where I question exactly what a spiritual path is. It blends in with the rest of life so much that it’s hard to tell where regular life ends and spiritual life begins. Can you give some kind of overview of the spiritual path for people like me who’ve been doing it so long that they’ve forgotten what they’re doing?”

We begin this life conditioned by parents, peers, and society to see the world in certain ways and to have certain understandings regarding what’s going on, what’s out there, and what we’re supposed to do. What we’re taught to be our ‘reality’ depends largely on what culture we are born into and the times that we live in.

A 21st century American lives in an entirely different world than, say, a 17th century Japanese nobleman, or a 14th century Arabian peasant. The circumstances of our birth, including time, place, family, and close friends, are determined by karma. It does not matter whether we choose to believe in karma or not. It is true nonetheless. For more than half the earth’s population, it is a simple matter of fact.

We get caught up in a world of duality, and as we mature into adolescence and adulthood we become focused on the outer world and the ‘other’—or the realm of objective humanity. Since everyone else around us sees the same reality, we collectively agree that this is the way it is. Someone who challenges this, or says that the Truth is different from how we have always believed, is criticized, ridiculed, persecuted, and sometimes even crucified.

For this reason most true Knowers of the Truth keep it a secret among themselves. Attracting the attention of the masses only brings the madness of the world upon you—why bother? Most Masters or advanced Beings currently embodied on Earth are very difficult to find. In this current age they exist primarily in the ashrams of India and the lamaseries of Nepal and Tibet. Only occasionally does one venture to the West, and even then it is rare for anyone to hear about them or to know about their existence.

Even if one should come across such an advanced Being, chances are that we would not recognize him or her, as he or she would not fit our expectations of what such a one would be like. Instead, he or she might appear to be just like you or me, only he or she would be living in a God-absorbed or Self-enlightened state, yet who would know? It’s not the kind of thing that shows on the outside.

At some point we realize that there must be more to life than what we have previously understood. All the ordinary teachings and doctrines grow stale, and there is no life in them, nothing that will take us further if we wish to go beyond our present state. Ordinary religion does not satisfy, as it primarily points to the next life instead of working for spiritual advancement in this one. There are even those who feel that working for spiritual advancement in this lifetime is blasphemous.

There are many possibilities for getting from there to here, many viable paths available according to our individual type and needs, but skipping from there to here I will state that, based on 50 years of experience, study, and observation, the primary essence of ‘spiritual life’ is living in the Truth of the present moment.

There are many paths, many practices and methods, many seminars and retreats. There are all kinds of yoga and meditation teachers, all kinds of Buddhist teachers, teachers of advaita Vedanta, teachers of radical transformation, teachers who say ‘only this’ is real, and even teachers that teach that what is essential is beyond yoga or spirituality altogether.

Regardless of what one teaches, or what path one follows or promotes, eventually we reach the point where all that’s left is to live in the Truth of the Present Moment. What is the Truth of the present moment? It exists at the end of descriptions, for it does not exist in words. It exists at the end of time, for it does not exist in time. It is pure Awareness.

The Truth of the present moment is living while being conscious of Consciousness and aware of Awareness even amidst the dramas of daily life, while not getting caught up in them.

The ‘overview of spiritual life,’ is the journey from one who identifies himself as an individual in this world of time, space, and karmic circumstance, and who is identified with the body, mind, and emotions, to one who identifies himself as pure Consciousness, pure Awareness of Being, even while observing ordinary life go by, as the Witness of a movie. It is the karmic movie of life, and our true Identity is the Witness of that movie, which contains all the dramas.

The ego (ahamkara) and the mind (manas) are the 15th and 16th tattvas in the 36 tattvas of creation, going from the Universal to the individual. The 36 tattvas of Kashmir Shaivism offers the clearest delineation I’ve ever seen as to how the Universal becomes the individual. What we know as ‘sadhana,’ or what we refer to as a ‘spiritual path,’ takes place entirely on the 15th and 16th tattvas, which we experience as the purification of the ego and mind.

Once this purification takes place, awareness of the pure Self arises naturally and spontaneously. Only the conditioned ego and mind prevented us from experiencing it all along.The ‘Yoga Vasishtha’ states that being bound or deluded is nothing more than mental conditioning, and that once that conditioning is removed, the state of enlightenment or liberation already exists in its own right. This is our most natural state. Everything was leading up to this.

So many people worry about the direction the world is taking. This worry, of course, has gone on for many centuries. It is not a new worry. Throughout history people have been worried about the apparent bad state of the world. This is the illusion of maya at its best. Forget the world. When you leave the body you won’t care about it so much anyway. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it becomes totally irrelevant.

Eventually we come to a calm and peaceful state. It is also a state of madness. The true Self manifests as giddiness. The poet saint Rumi said, Let your LOVE be Disgraceful....Crazy...and WILD. If you're TOO Holy and careful...God will escape you!

It is definitely not good to be too holy. My Teacher once said, 'Please do not try to impress me with your spirituality.' Be real, be true to yourself, be sincere in all ways. Don't be pretentious; don't try to make a good impression; and never worry about what others think of you. Be free from these things if nothing else, otherwise objective humanity sucks you in and you start thinking that you're one of them.

Be true to your Self. You are your own God, and the divinity you have always searched for already lies within you. Contemplate this and understand what it means.

As is our tradition, let’s conclude this entry with something from the comments last month:

DRB said: Daniel, you seem to have one real question: 'Are the lessons further on in the course more advanced than the early lessons you are reading?'

You realize that all such terms like 'advanced' or 'elementary' are totally relative. 'Advanced' as compared to what? And if we get into comparing, what's that all about? Somehow the ego has gotten involved, because only the ego compares. To the Self everything is one and the same. Duality exists only from the ego's perspective.

From the perspective of the Self, there is only One.

So, about the course, the thing is, as you have apparently noticed, once you sincerely participate in the course, you begin to advance within yourself. I say 'sincerely' participate because there are definitely different levels of participation. Some people read stuff from many other sources as well, and they read a lesson and think, 'that's interesting,' and they perhaps never come back to it, imagining that they already 'know' the contents after one or two readings. Such people miss the point of participating in the course, and fail to value and appreciate what it actually is and how it actually contributes to one's life.

The course is not about words. Something 'more advanced' is happening.

When you begin to sincerely participate, and make the lessons a high priority in your life, you find that your understanding and vision of things is more expanded, more elevated, and much freer than before. So in truth something in yourself advances. This is the only reason we do sadhana, for that matter. We desire, on some level or another, to move from one state of Being to a greater, freer, more expanded state of Being.

So by time you get to the lessons you will receive in two years, you will be more advanced yourself. So of course the lessons will seem more advanced as well. You will be amazed at how somehow the lessons keep coming up with something completely new and unexpected. These surprises, or even, sometimes, shocks to the system, cause a transformation in our own Being and an upgrading of our level of understanding.

We would get nowhere if everything happened just as we expected it to. If you knew what was in the next lesson, what good would that lesson do you? It has to be a surprise. Something has to be different about it from all other lessons. And in that way something NEW happens, for only in the NEW do we discover 'advanced' aspects of the Truth.

Once we learn something ‘new,’ we can be assured that it will also be more ‘advanced.’ The two go together.

Every lesson of the course can be read on whatever level of understanding the reader already has. The more spiritual understanding you have, the more 'advanced' Lesson 1 or Lesson 2 will seem. In two years from now, go back and read a lesson you received two years earlier. You will be amazed at all the 'new' stuff in there that literally didn't seem to exist the first few times you read it.

This is because the more advanced we ourselves are, the more advanced the lesson seems to be. When we read a lesson our understanding of it corresponds to our own state. When our state changes, come back to the same lesson and you will see so many new things in the lesson you never noticed before.

If someone in the highest state were to read the lessons, he or she would simply see them as expressions of the way it is. The course is a new or 'modern' presentation of something extremely 'Ancient.' But, of course, we can only discuss such things when we get to 'more advanced' lessons.

For information about the Course of Training written by D. R. Butler and available by email, write:

For Spanish, write: