The method cannot be the way in a comparable objective sense. Follow Dogen Zenji, you sit facing the wall to realize Zen; follow the Sufi path and through breath and awareness you find the Beloved within; follow Christian mysticism and through devotional practices you achieve union with God; follow Vedanta and through self-inquiry you attain the ultimate Reality; follow the Divine Mother of Kanyakumari on the beaches of Mumbai and you collect a rubbish bag and follow her picking up garbage.
We can beat this diversity into porridge if we like with the blunt instruments of generalization and universalization; after all, aren't all spiritual goals and methods ultimately the same? But just look for a second-Zen, the Beloved, the Kingdom of God within, Nirvana, the Ultimate Reality, surrendering to the humility of collecting rubbish-do they really all sound the same to you?
Assimilating Great Wisdom And Making It Your Own
As you climb the slippery pole of spiritual practice and attainment you learn to recognize, then you automatically recognize, where people climbing below you are coming from. It is the same, exactly the same, in everyday life and psychological development. Once you have journeyed through adolescent challenges you see them more clearly and your personal concern for them wanes, hopefully so you can bring compassion to others going through those same sort of challenges, but they are no longer yours.
One of the behaviors I see a lot-perhaps because I have been there too-is taking on some aspect of spiritual teaching and retelling it, as if you knew or believed it yourself, when it is merely quoting or repeating a formula by rote. There is nothing intrinsically bad in this as such, for it may be the beginning of making great wisdom your own. All of us at some time or another tend to emulate the master, the guru. It's not a bad practice in its place, but only if it leads to your assimilating great wisdom and making it your own.
Great wisdom is within you inherently, since you are born a human being. It is almost trite, it has been said so many times, but try to hear it as if for the first time: great wisdom is within you. Now my view is that there is nothing, absolutely nothing at all, as important as discovering this wisdom and orientating your life to it firmly, thoroughly, as quickly as possible.
There Can Only Be One Way
Advaita Vedanta people come in here and tell us there is no one to realize anything. Christians tend to find this rather self-centered and arrogant and, in my view, project their inner wisdom onto Jesus of Nazareth … but you see I don't care. I don't care and I encourage you not to as well. There are many ways to pursue spiritual practice, but-and here is the essential point-there is also only one . There can only be one way.
Rumi's mode of teaching was direct, simple, and experiential. One day he took his new students and devotees to a field to teach them how to go beyond themselves, not in theory but practically. The disciples were bewildered, wondering why they were going off to a field and not being taught in the ususal way.
When they reached the field, they found a farmer engaged in some hard work. He was digging a well in a field where he had already dug twelve incomplete wells. He would dig a few feet down and when he found there was no water, he would start digging another well somewhere else … over and over. With his repeated digging he had almost destroyed the whole field without finding water.
Rumi told his disciples, "If this man had put his total energy into digging only one well, he would have reached the deepest source of water long ago. But he has almost destroyed the entire field and he will never be able to make a single Well. With so much effort he is simply destroying his own land, and becoming more and more frustrated and disappointed. What kind of a desert has he created? And yet it is still not really a desert, but you have to dig deep to find the source of the water. "
He turned to his disciples and asked them, "Are you going to be like this insane farmer? Sometimes on one path, sometimes on another path, sometimes listening to one, sometimes listening to another? You will obtain a lot of knowledge, but all that knowledge is simply worse than useless, because it is not going to give you the enlightenment you seek. It is not going to lead you to discover the waters of eternal life. "