Mysticism in World Religions
Sunday, March 1, 2015, 2:47 PM
Scriptures, theologians and many religious leaders tell us what the divine is by listing grandiose attributes. Most mystics worship personal aspects of the divine, but they also speak of what it is not. Many of them said that the divine essence is nothing, i.e. no thing, that it is immanent in all things, yet is transcendent to everything. Mystics consider this seeming paradox to be a positive negation.
Avidya, non-knowledge in Sanskrit, is used in Buddhism for our “spiritual ignorance” of the true nature of Reality. Bila kaif, without knowing how in Arabic, is Islam’s term for “without comparison” to describe Allah. Ein Sof, without end in Hebrew, is the “infinite beyond description” in the Kabbalah. Neti, neti, not this, not this in Sanskrit, refers to “unreality of appearances” to define Brahman. In via negativa, the way of negation in Latin, God is “not open to observation or description.”
Many mystics and some religions, in particular Buddhism and Islam, refer to the divine as absolute Truth, ultimate Reality. Some mystics equate grace, love and spirit with the divine essence. It is not even accurate to state that the divine exists, just that it is. The ineffability of the divine precludes any explanation which rational thought can understand. It is a mystery which our minds cannot solve.
Mysticism emphasizes spiritual knowing, which is not rational and is independent of reason, logic or images. Da`at is Hebrew for “the secret sphere of knowledge on the cosmic tree.” Gnosis is Greek for the “intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths.” Jnana is Sanskrit for “knowledge of the way” to approach Brahman. Ma`rifa in Arabic is “knowledge of the inner truth.” Panna in Pali is “direct awareness”; perfect wisdom. These modes of suprarational knowing, perhaps described as complete intuitive insight, are not divine oneness; they are actualizing our inherent abilities to come closer to the goal. It is consummate cognition, unmediated discernment, with certainty.
Direct experience in the divine essence also has various names. Devekut, cleaving or being joined in Hebrew, is the immediate state of attachment or adhesion to God. Realizing the Dharmakaya, dharma-body in Buddhist Sanskrit*, is a consciousness of ultimate Reality void of dualities. Fana, annihilation or dissolution in Arabic, is achieved by extinguishing selfhood until all is Allah. Samadhi, putting together or union in Sanskrit, is the absorption of consciousness in Brahman. Unio mystica, mystical union in Latin, is an experience in which the soul of a human is said to enter into unity with God. These are the supreme experiences in this life; there are also alternate definitions and terms.
Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.
The divine is neither “up there” nor “down here”; it is not outside nor is it inside; it is at the infinite here. The divine is neither before birth nor after death; it is not yesterday, today nor tomorrow; it is in the eternal now. There is no place where the divine is not, there is no time when the divine is not, because the divine is not related to space or time. The divine is; all other words are insufficient.
Note: Some believe the Universe itself is infinite and eternal, a continuum of expansion and contraction. Some physicists say that there are dimensions beyond space-time.
*In Mahayana and Vajrayana; “satori” in Zen in Japan has similar connotations.
(9 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life," my free ebook on comparative mysticism)
Sunday, February 22, 2015, 2:47 PM
We often bring our own baggage to this life’s experiences and are so concerned with how we appear that we cannot clearly observe what is directly in front of us, nor what is happening all around us. Some call this tunnel vision; mystics call it spiritual ignorance. When you gaze at life with dark glasses of your self, through lenses that are clouded with your ego and individuality, you confuse the apparent with the real. You must remove those glasses to see this life as it is.
We are so close to our subjective impressions that we frequently imagine them to be reality. We must stand back and look at the big picture to understand things as they truly relate to one another, not solely as they relate to “me.” Most people have doors between “me” and “them.” The divine essence is just outside your door, but when you keep it closed it cannot come in to transform your life.
“Wait a minute! Mystics say that the divine is already in my soul.” True, but where is your soul? It is not isolated in that little room you call your self; it is not subsisting on feeding your ego and drunk with your individuality. It is the divine essence waiting outside your own barriers, present presently in this place at this moment. Clean up the mess you made with I, me and my and let it in. It is not your soul until you allow it to join your self as an honored guest in your home.
When you observe the big picture you can see this life as it is here and now, not only with respect to your past or how it could possibly influence your future. There are, of course, wider screens for you to consider. Will what is happening here affect those you love? Might it impact the people of your community or nation? Can it bring you and them closer to the divine? A disturbance in the ocean now can cause waves crashing on distant shores. Here and now is important.
Superficial judgments are often in error. Our emotions, mind and senses can be fooled. We build beliefs based on past experiences or what we have been taught, but what if they were mistaken? Mystics say that you must go beyond the pleasures and disappointments of this life’s loves to realize divine Love. It is also necessary to surpass the little truths of today to accept eternal divine Truth. Transcend everyday realities to be aware of divine Reality. Live in the divine.
By opening up to that divine flow of endless Love, absolute Truth and ultimate Reality, from the widest outlook, we can then better understand many of the specifics of the more focused views required in daily living. Mortal loves become richer, mundane truths will make more sense, and worldly realities of today are seen in the wider setting of the divine. It will alter the way the ambiguities of this life affect you.
From a divine perspective, in the context of eternity, there will be less anxiety, fewer worries and reduced pain from this transient life’s troubles. In the universal background of infinity, however, our prestige, self-importance and achievements will have diminished significance. We attain equanimity which prevents wild fluctuations. Our horizons expand. Living becomes greater. The big picture will make this life seem smaller. Here and now surpass space and time.
(8 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life," my free ebook on comparative mysticism)
Source : www.suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf
Sunday, February 15, 2015, 4:45 PM
Mystics’ experiences may be quite similar, still their techniques and interpretations varied. Reading about mysticism in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, the Kabbalah of Judaism, and Sufism of Islam you will find many differences. In this life, people differ.
Schools of mysticism in each religion recognized that seekers had distinctive inclinations. Most aspirants respond best to devotional approaches, many of them were more contemplative, some have preferred meditation, while too few were primarily interested in helping others. The teachers often integrated these methods, yet tailored to the needs of individual devotees. No two are the same.
Qualified teachers have also realized that there were different motivations among their students. A few seemed to have been born spiritual, many came upon the quest later in life, perhaps due to an intense personal experience, and most of them just felt obligated - for diverse sociological and/or psychological reasons - to at least once attempt the search. Their dedication and abilities differed.
Mystics themselves were usually brought up with the symbolism, rituals and scriptures of that religion in which they had realized union. Their own mindset prior to an absorption in the divine may have influenced their later interpretation and, more likely, their recounting of it to others. The divine presence may then have been expressed in terms of a personal deity, a celestial image, a prophet, saint, or other figure familiar to them and/or to their followers.
The ultimate Reality of the divine One - its essence surpassing conception or perception - is absolute certainty for those absorbed in it. It had infused itself into every part of their being, confirming intuitive insight of, and increasing love for, the unity of all existence. Most mystics had then returned to their limited human self, many of them greatly transformed, but a few did continue in this universal consciousness for all the remaining years of their mortal life.
First concentrate on the mystical tradition of your religion: it too has alternative views. The yogas of devotional Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism, as well as the spiritual knowledge of Vedanta, have diverse schools. In the Kabbalah of Judaism, the early devotees of the Zohar were more esoteric than later, ecstatic Hasids. Buddhist lamas of Tibet, acariyas of the Theravada of Southeast Asia, and Zen masters of East Asia use distinctive techniques. The Christian mystics, of Eastern Orthodox Churches, Roman Catholics, Protestants, and especially Quakers, have dissimilar practices. The many Sufi orders of Islam, Shi’a and Sunni, may teach sober (gnostic), ecstatic and/or love mysticism.
Early mystics were mostly ascetics, monastics, religious teachers, or esoteric scholars. Modern mystics tend to be very involved in this world. Their universal perspective, lack of ego, spiritual tranquility, expansive attentiveness, and selfless service make them admired and respected members or leaders of both their organizations and communities. By awakening in the greatest achievement of this life, they may then consciously share in eternal oneness with the divine.
Note: The terms “contemplation” or “meditation” may mean the reverse (discursive vs. nondiscursive) in Eastern versus Western faiths. Discursive is a process of reasoning.
(7 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life," my free ebook on comparative mysticism)