Gnosis-ery

I subscribe to a blog here at WordPress called Isma’ili Gnosis. I don’t read all of the posts that are published because I prefer to spend my already terribly limited time doing other things that are a little more applicable to my personal path.

Isma’ilism seems to be Sufism. And in many ways, on a number of levels, Sufism is closely related to my path with the Sahaj Marg / Heartfulness…. “path of the Heart” and all that. Honestly, I think it’s because of having spent a couple of years studying Islam intensely and now walking a path that carries its own “flavor” of Sufism that I can stomach Islam really almost more than I can Christianity.

There’s a post on the Isma’ili Gnosis site that I want to draw your attention to. It’s a post meant to explain the “strongest argument for the existence of God” and as you would expect it’s a long and kinda meaty post. You can find it here. I’m not sure I stand by every word of the post itself, but a lot of it is legit from where I sit. The second full paragraph was something that struck me. It reads,

“Two major reasons for the growing popularity of atheism and agnosticism among people today are that a) most people are not exposed to the classical concept of God within their own religious tradition and instead are made to believe in an anthropomorphic image of God and  b) the positive arguments for God’s existence are poorly understood and misrepresented by both atheists and people of faith.”

To be clear, I really don’t take issue with “the growing popularity of atheism and agnosticism.” It’s my firm belief that those paths are no less valid than any other and I also firmly believe that anyone walking either or both of those paths will absolutely and undoubtedly arrive at whatever my own final destination is. There can be no other option.

Beyond that, I agree with the two other points in the paragraph. As far as “a” is concerned, a huge problem of today – in all kinds of contexts – is that no one really knows what they’re talking about. We settle for snips-n-clips from lots of different places, half of which oughtn’t be trusted – and we assume those tidbits of info are the sole and whole truth. This, dear readers, is wholly dangerous. It’s because of this that, for example, Christians, are almost universally ignorant of the real depth of their own holy texts. (I’ll generalize here because in this case it’s pretty well safe to.) The texts that now make up what is known as the Christian Bible are quite varied in regard to original intent, original content, original language, etc… And much more than just those things, never mind additional factors like cultural norms of the time and other such things that really should be taken into consideration. Christians today – generally – have very little recognition that their own cherished path originally amounted to what we now would absolutely label as a Middle Eastern cult… which even today are problematic. And Christians aren’t alone in this systemic ignorance. All that to say … Point “a” is correct. Too many of us known too little about the things we cling to.

A side effect of this terrible ignorance is the mention of an anthropomorphic image of God. I’ve written here probably more than once about what a terrible idea it is to humanize God and how faulty any conception of God is that exhibits traits that too closely resemble human behavior. It. Is Dangerous. And it is dangerous whether you revere Christ or Krishna.

Point “b” from the paragraph quoted here is also important. On Facebook, I follow a variety of groups from all walks of life. There’s a “godless and irreligious” group whose posts I see. And really, even outside of Facebook posts this remains true – I’ve visited atheist websites and I own a number of atheistic books. Something I have noticed is that Atheists mostly only have stones to throw at the Abrahamic religions. Seriously, I’ve viewed A LOT of atheist material and I don’t think it’s too inaccurate to say that not more than 3% of all I’ve ever seen has been directed toward Dharmic religions. Almost always their “targets” are Jews, Christians, and Muslims. I think this is indicative in its own way but this also seems to be the other side of the coin of what’s mentioned in regard to positive arguments simply not being known by either side.

Anyway, read the post. Because I said. It’s for your own good.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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“श” के मंत्र

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In a recent post I mentioned some about stilling the outside of a person and also stilling the mind and how these relate to the progressive development of a person. In that post I also briefly mentioned a fancy little mantra I’d been made aware of by a friend who’d received it from one of his own friends.

Before I share that, I want to make very clear that this isn’t a “real” mantra. In any established tradition that employs mantras, it’s very rare to find the absence of specifics that dictate things like: what a mantra is made of, how it can be used, how often it should be used, the effect it is meant to have, risks associated with its misuse. And many other stipulations.

In my opinion, those varied rules are a really mixed bag of legitimacy and bullshit. In some cases they serve as safeguards and in other cases they don’t seem to be good for much more than unnecessary policing meant primarily to shuffle devotees into one line or another (a subtle form of crowd control, which religion is terribly good at but which spirituality rejects).

None of that really matters in the case of this particular “mantra,” though. One of the first benefits experienced by anyone employing a mantra is a developing single-pointed-ness of the mind. And it’s in this aspect that we’re able to relate this mantra to the aforementioned post. Are you ready for the mantra?

Here it is: Shhh.

That’s it. It was mentioned so basically by my friend that at first I only smiled a little and then allowed our conversation to move on quite easily. However, like many other humans, I am sometimes prone to recycling negative energy through the emotions attached to certain stories of what I have experienced. I’ll mentally review a circumstance I found myself in and how I was wronged by someone or how I wronged someone or what I should and would have said if my tongue were a little quicker on the go. (If you care to learn more about this kind of nonsense, read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)

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Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh. (breathe out) Shhh. (breathe in) Shhh.

I’m using my mind (mental recitation here, not with your actual mouth!) to literally tell my mind to shut it. It’s that simple. I like this because it’s such a direct form of communication, which is a style of communicating that I’m known for using. And in my experience, it hasn’t mattered whether you’re very upset in the moment or whether this is used as part of the daily sadhana. You needn’t slow your breath, either. The message of “Shhh” is fantastic because, at least for English speakers, the message is inherent. You likely won’t be thinking of what “Shhh” technically communicates because you’ll be busy feeling it and experiencing it. The breaths in and breaths out, the duration of the mantra, the space in between all of these – will all lengthen naturally as this “mantra’s” effect begins taking.

I wouldn’t bank on this to scrub your karmas or develop siddhis of any sort. But if you simply wish to go deeper than you might otherwise and carry with you a relatively clean mental or emotional slate as you dive, if you wish to settle down after a tumultuous moment, if you only seek to know a very simple stillness that you might otherwise not have known – then this might just be where you could start.

Shhh.

Try it sometime. I dare you.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Falling Off the Ground

Last night I took myself outside after two failed attempts to nap. (I’ve been battling a head cold for about three days already. It’s been quite the roller coaster and I’ve been craving rest.) It was around dusk and I decided to untangle some of my Morning Glory vines and encourage them in new, specific directions. After that was done, with my laptop at our sun table I decided to do anything online except school work. This made me feel lonely, so I texted The Best and reminded him that he hadn’t left his room since coming home and that his nicotine levels were surely running low. (“Don’t you have to come outside for a breath of fresh air soon?”) Sure enough, he had joined me outside within 5 minutes. A short while later I found myself out at our sidewalk, sitting and staring at the dark sky. I watched the stars while suspended in Navasana (boat pose). This led to sprawling out on the sidewalk – which actually is a much better way to watch the stars.

While I was still really young my father taught me how to see the stars move. It’s one of my all-time favorite things to have learned in this life so far and having been given that wisdom from him makes it even more precious to me. After he’s gone I’ll continue watching stars move with him. The best and I also saw UFOs, no joke.

Resting later in Shavasana (still on the sidewalk), I experienced something cool. I suddenly felt like I was on a ceiling and was looking at a celestial floor. Of course, humans aren’t meant to relax on ceilings, so the celestial floor felt like the better, more natural place to be. I sensed within me a very subtle yearning leave the ceiling for the floor. I found myself practically craving a launch from the pavement I relaxed on and expand into the speckled indigo Everything I saw before me. Usually closing my eyes helps encourage these kinds of expansive experiences, but this time it proved only to limit it – so I kept them open, without blinking, for as long as I was able. In his own way, I think The Best (who joined me on the sidewalk after his nicotine dose) was probably also having a similar experience because he started a conversation about gravity and being thrown out into space.

I’ve said before that when this life is finished and I’m done with this body, I will refuse additional bodily cycles and instead adopt the myriad forms of this planet’s weather system(s). I now suspect that this will not suffice. Even being a part of Earth’s weather is likely to feel too much like still being stuck to the ceiling. Rejoining the aforementioned floor will be far better and I will do it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

The Differently Same Reality

So … by request, the plan for this post is meant to kind of illustrate the parallels between being Hindu and being Sufi. I’ve not really done this before, and going into it I feel a bit intimidated because, unlike Hinduism, I haven’t spent the last 10+ years studying and living Sufism.

In a recent post I brought the idea that I’ve usually thought of Sufism as a type of Islamic Hinduism. Chewing on that a bit more since that post, I think I’ve changed my perspective on that. I believe Sikhism to be a better fit for the idea of Islamic Hinduism. There are other religions, too, like the Baha’i faith that could also perhaps fall into a broader category of “Islamic Hinduism” – with each path, of course, having it’s own so-called specialty.

However, as I’ve been looking around online trying to learn more about these parallels I’m finding that Sufism is indeed much like Hinduism – but it’s really only like the parts of Hinduism that are truly beyond the mundane. Like those in Hinduism who reach the upper elevations of transcendence, Sufis – despite their own “rituals” – don’t really hold much place for the things that tend to preoccupy the bulk of humanity’s religious concentration. In mainstream Islam and definitely what could be called the bulk of Hinduism ritual prevails, but from what I’ve gathered Sufis seem entirely aware that their unique practices are definitely meant to be transcended as soon as one’s development permits.

From the Hindu side of this we’re familiar with having murtis, bathing them, dressing them, feeding them, waking them in the morning and putting them to bed at night. We perform japa ritually. We begin or don’t begin certain endeavors based on the movement of the heavens. And the more orthodox parts of Hinduism even dictate on things like clothing, food, profession, and marriage. Still, for all of this there are the rare exceptions within Hinduism wherein the believer isn’t held to these things and the emphasis is often on a more direct and experiential connection to the Source, one’s true Self.

This is where the parallels between “Hinduism” and Sufism begin to show. To narrow things down a bit here, the roots of Sahaj Marg that can be traced back to Sufism indicate a Naqshabandi Sufi lineage – which is actually unique among the Sufi paths as it is the only denomination that goes back to the Prophet of Islam through the first caliph instead of the prophet’s cousin, as all the others do (I think). Additionally, depending on which source you choose to reference, there are possible Shaivite Hindu roots (well, influence) to Sufism. I don’t know much about these and can’t really attest to the verity of those claims, but it definitely seems to fit on a few levels.

In the case of Sahaj Marg practices we see a definite blending of the two that highlights the parallels. The Master or guru is important. There is the heart-to-heart transmission, or pranahuti. As with Sufism, the Sahaj Marg tends to avoid murti worship, prefering instead to worship the Divine on a more subtle level. As with some sects of Hinduism, the Yamas and Niyamas are taken to be guidelines of exemplary living that develops spirituality and improves the earth life. Mind you, the Sahaj Marg also has what are called the Ten Maxims which are totally separate.

Certainly, Sufism has it’s own set of unique practices, which could be as limiting as the bulk of Hinduism’s rituals. But once you drop all the baggage of man-made religious expression what you’re left with is where these two paths collide – indeed, I think every path combines at that level. On that note, I’m finding that it’s actually more efficient to detail the differences between these two paths than it is to highlight the parallels – a task I really have no interest in going into very deeply. I can say, though, that you can’t compare Hinduism to Sufism because Sufism is pretty much entirely mystical while Hinduism isn’t necessarily. You can compare Hinduism to Islam, but to make a fair comparison between Hinduism and Sufism you would need to isolate some path of Hinduism that is, life Sufism, pretty much entirely mystical.

I’ve attached a video I found online that might offer better insight than I am able to, although it’s quite lengthy.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti