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


Holy Rut

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

I belong to a closed Facebook group that posts a lot of really interesting things that I might otherwise not see. I’m grateful for this and for the group, and a lot of the posts I’ve seen in it, but I feel like it’s also shown me something I suspect is terribly prevalent throughout humanity and am disappointed by – in fact, more than once I’ve considered leaving the group because of this thing (among others). This thing is our addiction to externality.

We love our rituals and religions. For those inclined toward suchery, a huge chunk of one’s identity can be placed into religious practices. For many, indeed most, this is a natural part of one’s development. There’s no harm in this. One, however, can become trapped in this and what eventually happens is that religion and its rituals stick around long after they’ve gone dead. To share a quote I placed on my Facebook page recently by Chariji, “In fact, all spiritual traditions speak of religion as the kindergarten through which we have to pass.”

Sri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari, who comes from a Vaishnav family and is the third and current master of my Parampara / Sampradaya, has said a lot on this matter. He tells us that every religion in the world says the same thing, “Seek within,” but that we have mostly lost sight of this and that our rituals have instead become the aim. He also cautions us about becoming too religious saying, “Religion enforces an externalization of the mind in man’s search for God. Mysticism or spirituality internalizes the search and directs the mind to the heart of man where the search really should commence.” (These words and others are surprisingly “bhakt” considering the history of this lineage.) Beyond these words, he went on to say that he’s not suggesting religion is dead, but that it should instead evolve “like I evolve, you evolve, like my child evolves.”

While speaking to a friend about this, it was mentioned that there’s a time and place where religion and ritual are needed. I fully agree. Certainly, for each of us, there’s a time and place where we’re the most benefited from this. But I would assert that we still have to be on guard. People are often fools, after all. People are often asleep behind the wheel – as any study of the ego will reveal. And this is the Kali Yuga, a period of time when we’re most likely to become misguided. I personally have known and currently known a number of people who could be (and eventually will be) even “more” than they are because they refuse to budge in their growth. I think this is why I’ve ranted more than once about folks being lazy. We tend to find a rule book we like, and then get comfortable.

Sri Chariji Maharaj (Sri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari) says where religion ends, spirituality begins, and where spirituality ends Reality begins. He goes on to say, “…and where Reality ends, then commences that stage of the ultimate existence which for the lack of better word he calls Bliss. Now it is clear from this that religion has to have a definite end in the pursuit of our goal.”

I don’t plan to cease adoration of my beloved Ganapati. In fact, here soon, I’ll be observing the monthly Sankashti which follows every full moon. Although I no longer am as steadfast as I once was, I’ll continue my japa sadhana. I’ll continue abstaining from meat and will still go to temple. These things, of course, are all religious observances for me (well, except for the vegetarianism) and although I don’t “need” most of them (hell, sometimes I don’t even want some of them), I’ll still enjoy them. My lesson here is that we can too easily end up identifying with and clinging to things that are meant eventually to be left behind. I fully believe that most humans linger behind in certain areas long after they should – long after they’re actually able to transcend. It’s like staying in kindergarten long after you have mastered your ABCs and 123s.

Aum Sri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Good Company

Naga Sadhu

Naga Sadhu

I recently went to my favorite book store, Half Price Books. I have made a promise to myself that I’d frequent the place less because I need clothes currently more than I need books and since I’m not as likely to shop for clothes, this will hopefully help balance me a little as well as eliminate some bills I have, which will in turn contribute to another goal. None of that is actually very relevant right now, though. I went and bought a book ( more than just one actually ) and I wanted to share a bit from it with you.

The title is “In the Company of a Siddha,” and pretty much the whole thing is a series of documented interviews with Swami Muktananda. This lineage, I believe, comes from Kashmir Shaivism and his sect focuses a bit more on the practice of devotees receiving shaktipat from the lineage leaders – gurus who are qualified to bestow that kind of thing. There’s part of an interview between Muktananda and several interviewers from a German (Munich) newspaper called Esslinger Zeitung that I found interesting. I’ll have to double check the book, which isn’t in front of me currently, but I think the interview I’m pointing to took place not much prior to the Baba’s mahasamadhi. Knowing this, I get goose bumps – most people simply never know when someone else’s last moments as they currently are might arrive.

This dance in life is quite literally unstoppable. It is what allows for physical existence. It’s the very process of maturation. And it also serves as the means to transcend our material bonds, allowing for escape from the wheel of death and rebirth. It is supreme and all will have to bow to it at some time or another.

The impermanence of the human lifespan isn’t what I intend to focus on for this post, though. Rather, I want to discuss a little about the impermanence of religion. I think Baba Muktananda’s words in the interview I’ve mentioned do well at expressing what I believe in my heart of hearts. The words are shared immediately below.

EZ: You know the condition of people here in the West. What do you think are the reasons for it? Is religion wrong? Is the church wrong? Is society wrong? What is the cause of it?

BABA: It is hard to say where the fault lies. You cannot say that the fault lies in religion because if it is a true religion it cannot be wrong. If a religion is founded by a great being, it cannot be false. Maybe the followers are at fault. Westerners take a lot of interest in outer pleasures and think there is truth in them. They take very little interest in the inner Self. That is why misery has increased.

EZ: People here who begin to take interest in the inner Self, don’t go back to their old religions. They take interest in the religion and philosophy of the East. What is the reason for this?

BABA: After people take interest in the inner Self, for them orthodox religion is dry. You should understand what religion is. In Sanskrit the word for religion is adhva, which means “a path.” One who has become absorbed in the bliss of the Self no longer takes interest in the path.

EZ: A path is just a means to reach the goal.

BABA: Yes. When you are thirsty, you look for water. After you quench your thirst, you no longer need it. A saint once said, “When my mind has become soaked in the holy river of the heart, why should I take a dip in the Ganges?” In the same way, one who has become immersed in God’s love takes no interest in formal religion.”

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

The dance of life, Shiva’s Tandava Nrtya, that’s mentioned above applies to everything everywhere – including humans and how they rely on religion. From the human perspective this dance is a fine one, indeed! On one hand, humans are encouraged to find within religion and spiritual practices the structure necessary for growth. That growth though, is meant to enable the transcendance of religion, which was itself only ever meant to be a tool. When a tool has served its purpose, it should be placed aside. I think many humans find problems – indeed create additional problems – by remaining ignorant of a tool they possess, possessing improper understanding of that tool’s usage to begin with, and inadequately understanding when to set that tool aside – although the last issue is less of a burden because for some this happens somewhat naturally, depending on what path their maturation has taken.

It’s important for someone to do the homework necessary to remove this kind of ignorance. Hinduism, being an experiential religion, mandates that you can’t simply know or feel. You can’t just read about Truth. Singing and dancing ecstatically will only get you so far. You must make yourself transcend. You must make your path. You can get far on knowing and feeling, but without experience you’ll be missing a big part of the picture.

I would encourage you, dear reader, to exercise your “knowing” and your “feeling” and use that experience to realize Shiva-ji’s Nrtya, His Tandava. Without fear, actively dance in this life. Dance through it. And then, when maturation and karmas coincide, dance beyond it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti