The Path

A monk asked: 
« What is the true path on earth? » 
Fayan said: 
« Not a single path on earth is true. » 

~ Fayan Wenyi

 

I’d like to tell you a story, a parabolic tale I wrote long ago. It’s a story that has already been posted here on its own. It is called ‘The Truth Seeker’, but could have been called ‘The Path’, as it exposes, describes some of the stages we find along the spiritual path. This expression has been used, overused in spiritual circles. There seems to be so many paths, so many avenues of understanding. The Christian path, the Sufi path, the Advaita path, the tantric path, the direct path, the progressive path. The story that I’m about to tell you was written in Madras, on the grounds of the Theosophical Society, where the young Krishnamurti was ‘discovered’. Twenty years later, he rejected all organisations built around him and pronounced these famous words: “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.” So what is this path we so often hear about? What is its reality? The title ‘The Truth Seeker’ gives us a clue. It would be reasonable to say that a path, spiritually speaking, is everything that results from the activity of seeking truth. That’s one way of seeing it, but in that case, as seeking can be endless and so often leading nowhere, such a path is really not a path at all. Let’s see what our story has to say: 

     « A man, Admita, was living in a harsh and hostile desert. Surrounded by sand and swirling winds, he led a life of wandering without help or hope. He has well heard of stories that described places of lush greenery and great beauty, where valleys, forests, meadows, rushing streams and great rivers were home for countless animals, where mountains stood above deep blue seas, where the sun was warm and the air filled with a gentle breeze. He did not believe that such places really existed, but in front of so much loneliness and adversity, he could not help thinking about it and hoping to discover this wonderful land. » …

A playful exploration into the nature of the spiritual path (READ MORE…)

 

 

Promenade Parisienne

I love, during my walks in Paris, to stop in one of the many small parks that you find in the capital. I sit on a bench and rest while observing, listening. Some children are having some fun a little further, pushing each other on the slides, playing on the swings. I hear the gate slam from time to time, when a mother arrives with her child, an old man leaves with his dog. All the benches are not occupied. Some old ladies are chattering on one of them, two lovers are kissing tenderly. Some older men are playing pétanque and the balls are slamming, breaking the joyous monotony of the carousel music. Some children are shouting with joy. Suddenly, a din of flapping wings falls on me. A swarm of pigeons, lured by abundant crumbs of bread, swoops down on the nearby bench. A few scattered sparrows come to join in the feast. A couple is passing by, stopping for a moment, while their little dog is stretching in the lawn. A young woman is walking fast. Friction of wings. All around, the trees rise majestically and protect all this little world from the warm rays of the sun. They are like big umbrellas and their tall rough trunks spring from the ground, sometimes seeming to counterbalance their bending choice, like big tensed muscles. …

Share with me a poetical promenade in Paris (READ MORE…)

 

Destroyer of Darkness

We continue our series of texts or essays on different subjects of spiritual interest. The subject here is about examining the figure of the spiritual teacher, or the guru…

 

Be a light unto yourself; 
betake yourselves to no external refuge. 
Hold fast to the Truth. 
Look not for refuge to anyone besides yourselves
.”
~ Buddha Shakyamuni

 

It knew better. This thing, so dense, so light, that took me into its lap, that invited me for a dance with eternity, with infinity, would not leave me alone, unattended. Not even two days after encountering this mystery, after dipping into this bath of love and beauty, I was being shown a way. I believe it is inevitable when there is an opening. In a burst of synchronicity, a friend materialised and handed me a copy of Newsweek magazine where there was an article about a spiritual teacher who had died a couple of weeks earlier. I was immediately drawn to him. It was the beginning of a ten year journey into his teaching. I wasn’t the easiest friend though, nor the most faithful. Just a couple of weeks before, among the temples of Khajuraho, I was explaining to a German lady guru who invited me to her meetings, how little I felt about spiritual authority, how important it was to find out by myself, not to be influenced in these matters. My new spiritual teacher wasn’t the friendliest towards the figure of the guru either, but nevertheless he was my first help and pointer, my first pathway towards understanding. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”, it is traditionally said.

An exploration into the function of the spiritual teacher (READ MORE…)

 

Blown Out

We continue our series of texts or essays on different subjects of spiritual interest. The question here is about ‘having a spiritual experience’, and delving into the nature of what is called ‘awakening’…

 

There is a safe place in view of all, but difficult of approach,
where there is no old age nor death, no pain nor disease.
It is what is called nirvāṇa, or freedom from pain, or perfection;
it is the safe, happy, and quiet place which the great sages reach.
That is the eternal place, in view of all, but difficult of approach.

~ Uttaradhyana Sutra, 81-4 (Buddhism)

 

Nothing much, really. Something just like peeking out of the window. But let’s not be overly disdainful, for this can bend the course of a life and change it in a profound way. To have a spiritual experience is a blessing, a call, maybe a rehearsal for the final dissolution. It leaves you puzzled, wanting to understand, and above all, searching to have it again in the future. It can be just a flavour suddenly lingering at the back of your mind, or a spectacular awakening, or anything in between. In all cases, you meet something new, that is outside any known experience, and yet has a familiar flame, like an old forgotten memory. Above all, peace, love, and happiness are attached to it. It is the DNA of any genuine experience, its vital core, and what makes it so desirable. After all, do we want anything in life but a lasting happiness? It can last for seconds, minutes, or days. It comes as a grace, unexpected, uninvited. One important characteristic is that it fades away, finally disappears. Otherwise we wouldn’t call it an ‘experience’. A spiritual experience is an awakening that failed.

An essay to delve into the nature of Awakening (READ MORE…)

 

Bhārata Mā

We continue here our series of texts or essays on different subjects of spiritual interest. The question here is: ‘Why is India so often such a determining factor in our spiritual life?’ Let’s explore it…

 

For our goal was not only the East, or rather
the East was not only a country and something geographical,
but it was the home and youth of the soul,
it was everywhere and nowhere,
it was the union of all times.

~ Hermann Hesse, “The Journey to the East”

 

India. I visited her and fell under her spell and her charm. If I look back, my spiritual journey started as a big cliche: I went to India to find truth, and I found it. Well, I didn’t find a neatly arranged package of truth, ready made and understood to be lived for ever thereafter. No, I rather found a messy bundle of bewilderment and puzzling questions about the nature of truth. But it had a lasting impression on me. Mind you, it came in the form of a big, exotic, full-fledged, but short lived awakening experience. Nothing less for this little big man who knew nothing about spirituality, and woke up to his first Indian trip burdened with a memory and experience that would take him a lifetime to understand. So why? Why does India take such a large part in shaping not only my life, but the life of so many people, when it comes to spirituality? What lives there that is so potent? Let’s find out. Let us all embark on a journey in Bharata, which the Brahma-Purana describes in this way: “The continent situated north of the Ocean and south of the Snow Mountain is called Bhârata. There resides the descendants of the tribe of Bharata. Its width is seventy-two thousand times the distance traveled by a cart. A land where deeds are fruitful for those who seek deliverance.

An essay on the discovery of India’s spiritual heart (READ MORE…)

 

On Labyrinths, Grace and the Via Creativa

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Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral

Miriam Louisa Simons is a retired artist and educator, and the creator of several excellent blogs on the non-dual journey. I’m happy that she is the first friend invited to contribute here. Out of a lifelong dedication to art and spiritual inquiry, she invites us to delve into the image of the Labyrinth, uncover its connections with our life, with grace, until ‘we arrive naked at the freedom that was always there’…

 

 

 

Do you think I know what I’m doing?
That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself?
As much as a pen knows what it’s writing,
or the ball can guess where it’s going next.

~ Rumi

 

The Labyrinth is a familiar symbol. Its enigmatic presence has left footprints that fade back into the beginning of the human story. Its origins and its purpose have been rich fodder for research and speculation.

I don’t pretend to know the truth of its tale, but see the archetypal labyrinth as apt visual shorthand for the map of a life, and that’s how its symbolism is used in this little essay.

The many lanes of the Labyrinth are in fact only one long path that winds and twists and turns back on itself as it explores all the territory of a life before arriving at its Heart.

By ‘Heart’ I mean the natural essence of the ‘walker’ of the Labyrinth – beyond both conception and perception – the unknowable and ineffable awareness we nevertheless recognize as our changeless Being.

An essay from Miriam Louisa Simons (READ MORE…)

 

Suffering Leads to Joy

This is the first of a series of texts or essays that will be presented in the future. Different subjects of spiritual interest will be explored in turn. Writing this text started with answering a simple question: ‘How did it all begin for me?’…

 

“Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come! come!”

~ Rumi

 

How did it all begin for me? This. This deep interest in finding out what life is about. This love of Truth. This spiritual search. In what cradle did it come to existence, in what fertile soil did it come to grow? I remember how acute the desire for change was as a young man. For this was all there was to it at the time. A big, raw, sincere desire to change, to be different. I was unhappy, dissatisfied with what I was. Surely it was the first seed, the primary cause of this journey. The path leading to that change in myself I had no idea about. I had to feel my way along, through random books, exotic places. Except for one intuition though, that there was something more to life than finding happiness solely through acquisitions, through changing the person that I happened to be. Otherwise I would have gone for it in a more acute way. Instead, I turned towards some kind of spiritual call, knowing nothing of it. I rushed into a tunnel of unknowing.

An essay on the subject of suffering. (READ MORE…)