There’s a point that a few readers of my work have brought up with me in recent weeks. It’s a concern that, while they resonate with many of my critiques of spiritual culture, teachers and practices, they also feel that someone who is new on the path might take my writings as a reason to never embark on a journey of self-discovery in the first place.
It’s a fair point to bring up and something that I’ve mulled over on my own since I first began writing on this page.
Do my words have the power to derail or block someone’s legitimate search? Or alternately, do they have the power to hypnotize someone and brainwash them into believing what I am saying as gospel? And finally, is my critique of someone’s spiritual culture, tradition and practices the same as undermining their “spirituality”?
I’m going to answer each of these questions in this post, both to address some concerns my readers have as well as to clarify my intentions in writing on this page.
Everybody is seeking something. Whether that be love, money, power, fame, creative expression, enlightenment or whatever. And that seeking is driven by a powerful energy. And that is the energy of “lack”. How that lack manifests in a person’s life varies from person to person depending upon their circumstances. And depending on how one has interpreted that lack in one’s own life, it will determine what kind of search they will embark upon.
Some will go in search of “true love”, some in search of “great wealth”, some in search of “saving the world”, some in search of “spiritual enlightenment”. Each will believe that theirs is the path of highest value and virtue. Each will believe that what lies at the end of the search is the greatest good life can offer.
No one chooses what kind of lack they will experience. Thus, no one chooses what kind of search path they will embark upon. Most of this is something we have very little control over. Similarly, we have very little control over stopping the search or getting off the path we are on. We are drawn towards it often against our own will.
How many men and women keep repeating the same poor choices in choosing to enter abusive relationships even when they know full well that they aren’t making a wise choice? How many men and women continue persisting in those relationships even when they know that there is no hope for things to ever change?
Similarly, telling someone who is obsessed with becoming rich, that great wealth holds no intrinsic value, is hardly going to shift them off that path. And if it does, that is evidence that they may have already been harbouring significant doubts about their own choices. Or, telling a horny teenager that simply having sex is not going to reward him with the intimacy that he truly craves is hardly going to deter him from trying his very best to “get some”.
The seeking energy is such a potent organizing force and has such a powerful momentum that it can direct the entire course of someone’s life. It can no more be deviated by an opposing point of view, than a high-speed locomotive can be derailed by sticking your arm in its way.
There are only two ways a search can be altered.
When a person who has been on a particular path for some time finds that it’s just not working out for them, they may then latch onto another kind of search to satisfy that seeking energy. In other words, when one seeking strategy fails another gets adopted.
In the old days, unmarried, divorced or widowed women with “no hope of finding love” would enter the convent and give themselves to the “greater love” of god. A man disillusioned by money and fame may seek to settle down and start a family in the belief that that will provide him the value he seeks. Many seekers on the non-dual path today are those who have exhausted other kinds of searches and ended up seeking their spiritual selves in hopes that that will satisfy the gnawing lack driving them.
The only other way the search can be altered, is that it can stop altogether, when the seeking energy itself becomes fully exhausted. This happens when all seeking strategies have failed AND there is no further feeling of lack within. But this is something uncommon because a certain amount of lack is part and parcel of our basic construction as human beings. Absolute contentment isn’t a practical or functional state to be in.
So, there is this limbo state in which one still feels the lack yet one no longer has a strategy they can utilize because everything has been tried and failed. This is the kind of person that this page is particularly geared towards, although all may find some relevance in it.
And through this page, I talk about how I address that sense of lack in my OWN life. Not by resorting to some strategy of seeking some future state of betterment. But by adapting my perspective from moment to moment – rediscovering how the present moment comes in exactly the shape of the void that I’m carrying around in me. How life and I, complete each other. It is the peg and I am the hole. Together we make a whole.
There are two kinds of spiritual seekers. Those seeking truth and those seeking validation. In reality, no one is wholly one or the other, but in each person one of these two forms of seeking energy is dominant.
For the ones predominantly driven by a need for validation, spiritual culture will hold great appeal. Because what culture provides is a whole lot of external value markers by which we can evaluate ourselves and thus feel validated as per our progress. There are techniques to master, rituals to perform, texts to study, gurus to worship. Like any culture there are layers and layers we can immerse ourselves into and each of those layers comes with a plethora of identities we can adopt in order to validate ourselves.
Further, culture also provides the comfort of the crowd. By building communities, communes and cults based on shared beliefs, we crystallize our sense of selves through a constant feedback mechanism of validation. Culture exists for one purpose alone : to provide a sense of identity. And so those who are drawn to culture over anything else are those who are in search of an identity.
This is why charismatic individuals play such a powerful role in shaping culture. The words “cult” and “culture” actually derive from the same origin which means to “cultivate”. Those with charisma unanimously project a strong sense of their own identity. And in turn people, who are in search of an identity, are drawn to “cultivating” their own identities in the image of these gurus and teachers. However, it’s when these gurus and teachers themselves willingly participate in this very dynamic by pandering to the fragile egos of their devotees and providing all the false validation they require that the culture becomes solidified.
Seekers who are driven by a need for validation will spend a lifetime bouncing from guru to guru in search of the “perfect guru”. No matter how many times they end up disappointed, they don’t turn to themselves because within themselves there is no validation, only truth. And truth wasn’t the driver for them in the first place.
The really smart ones will become gurus themselves. They will find that the validation one receives as a seeker from even the greatest guru is a drop in the ocean compared to the validation a guru receives from thousands of devotees. Becoming a guru is a far superior strategy for seeking validation than being a devotee. It’s like graduating from a food kitchen for the homeless to a banquet hall. You can get a feast of wealth, power, status, fame and sex as bonuses on top of all that validation.
The other kind of seeker is the kind primarily driven by a desire to know what is true. And this kind of person may find little to no attraction in spiritual culture depending on how much of a desire for validation is also within them. They are likely to dabble in various philosophies and cultures, follow gurus and teachers for a time, without ever fully committing to any one of them. And they are likely to practice techniques that they believe will aid them in their search or ability to perceive the truth. Some may even settle on a particular kind of meditation or activity that they feel best relates to their own particular brand of seeking.
This kind of seeker intuitively understands that external value markers, people or sources cannot provide the truth. They seem to naturally grasp that the onus is upon them alone to find out what that truth is. And this is the resolve with which they engage in their spiritual practices or techniques of choice. However, given sufficient time they will inevitably come upon a roadblock : a sort of logical stalemate which is inescapable. And the stalemate is this: if truth is “true” by nature, then it should be always evident. Why do I need to “practice” to see it?
They have hit upon something significant. Because although, during meditation one’s perception becomes greatly clarified, truth must be something beyond just the quality of my perception of it. Does meditation make me perceive “more truth” and not meditating make me perceive “less”? Then if truth is my goal I should be trying to meditate ALL the time. Yet, something about this doesn’t feel right either. Truth by its very definition should be all encompassing. Evident at all times regardless of how clearly I am perceiving. And if it’s evident, then I’ve been looking at it all along.
Truth is an elusive thing precisely because it is so evident. It’s like searching everywhere for your car keys while holding them in your hand. And precisely because it is so evident, there can be no path to it. Only paths away from it. Yet, it is also true that giving up the search along any ONE of these paths can lead to the realization of that truth.
So, as in the example of the car keys: I may search for it using different seeking strategies. I may think the car keys must be in the bedroom of “love”, or in the kitchen of “wealth”, or in the living room of “spirituality” or in the study of “intellectual knowledge” or in the dining room of “power and fame”.
The kind of room I’m searching in has absolutely no bearing on where the keys actually are. They are in every room I seek because they are already with me yet I cannot find them. The further irony is, even if someone were to yell at me and say “Hey! They’re in your right hand”, I won’t be able to see them. Because the desire to search for them is so strong, I’ll literally be moving them out of my right hand into my left hand in order to look for them in my right hand. The reality is I’ve forgotten what those keys are even supposed to look like.
It’s only when I’ve completely exhausted myself that I may finally sit down in defeat and look at my hands. And I will wonder, is this shiny object that I’m holding actually my car keys? Naaaah, they can’t be. That would just be too stupid and too obvious. No, I was searching for my “car keys”. This is just some weirdly shaped object that I can’t even understand the purpose of.
And I may sit in that state of limbo and disbelief for quite some time. But eventually, the curiosity of what this bizarre shiny object I’m holding onto will gnaw at me. If it isn’t my car keys, what is it? It’s at the moment that I insert it into the ignition and the whole engine of the car roars to life that the reality of the matter will finally dawn.
It’s been with me all along.
So, I want to return to the three questions I outlined in the beginning:
“Do my words have the power to derail or block someone’s legitimate search?”
I say no, because the seeking energy is so powerful nothing can stop it unless it has spent itself. Those who resonate with what I say have felt that stopping happening within themselves for some time now. Others may be curious for a time, but will eventually move on because the words here will do little to fill the void the seeking craves to fill.
“Or alternately, do they (my words) have the power to hypnotize someone and brainwash them into believing what I am saying as gospel? “
It’s not words that hypnotize, it’s culture, it’s charisma, it’s emotional feedback and validation. If this page were actively designed to provide all of those then one could argue that, yes, this could be another form of propaganda or brainwashing. But that is not what this page does. I have intentionally built it in a lean and minimalist fashion. I provide no emotional validation, no ego massages, no culture to congregate around and a frugal sense of community. Everyone who visits here knows they are pretty much on their own. You can come as often as you like, but you don’t “belong” here.
And finally, is my critique of someone’s spiritual culture, tradition and practices the same as undermining their “spirituality”?
No. Because none of those have anything to do with spirituality. No more than searching in the living room has anything to do with your car keys.
Spirituality is nothing other than “one’s relationship with truth”.
And one is ALWAYS in relationship with truth. No matter what path one is seeking on, because the truth isn’t defined by any path or practice.
In fact, the words on this page are simply echoes of the three following sentiments expressed in a myriad different ways:
– You won’t find your keys in that room.
– Your keys have always been in your hand.
– Insert that shiny object in the ignition and find out for yourself!
Or in other words:
No teacher, teaching or technique will provide the answer you seek.
The truth is the most evident and obvious thing there is.
Take full responsibility of your life just as it appears and see for yourself!