Many Paths, Same Destination

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For several years in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I wrote articles about my experiences with Amma for “The New Times,” a free newspaper that was, at that time, available in Washington and Oregon. I have started sharing some of those articles on my blog. I am choosing the articles to post based on their topic, therefore they are not being shared chronologically. The article below was published in March of 1998.

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The day after Christmas, while eating brunch with friends, I half-jokingly said that next year I thought I would ask my guru, Amma, if I should come for my annual visit to her ashram in South India. (Normally I just go; I don’t ask.) On my way to the ashram last year (1996), my plane had decompression problems and fell 25,000 feet. This year (1997), less than a week before I was to leave on the trip, I discovered that I needed surgery, now. There for I had to cancel, or at least postpone, my pilgrimage.

While I am abundantly aware of the lessons I had the opportunity to learn from these two experiences, a part of me is a bit tentative about planning another trip to India. What else might happen? After making this statement, one of my friends snapped, “Why don’t you just check in with yourself?” I responded with some ineffective statement, and then kept my mouth shut.

Then, when I received my January 1998 issue of The New Times, my eye fell on statements written by Sobonfu Somé:

“People in the West tend to live unbalanced lives… so they search for a guru of some form to take care of their spiritual needs. The idea of a guru doing everything and all we have to do is show up and tell the guru, “this is what I need, fix everything and I can get out of here” does not work. The guru takes the individual’s involvement away and once the individual’s involvement is not there, nothing can really happen.” [Note: This quote is from 1998. I don’t know if Sobonfu still holds the same belief.]

After dealing with my initial desire to defend, justify, rationalize, explain, and judge, I decided that it is time for me to respond to this way of thinking.

What I have discovered in nine years of being a devotee of a guru [Note: I have now been a devotee for more than 27 years!] is that discipleship is anything but mindless pursuit. I have needed to learn to become – and stay – exceedingly conscious and attuned to what is happening both within and around me, to be impeccable in my actions, and to be fully in integrity. I have needed to learn when to ask my teacher for help and when to find the answer within. I have certainly not “given away my power,” but rather have been learning about what surrender means.

That is not to say that I have not observed people using gurus in the way that Sobonfu described. Several years ago, I asked for time with one of Amma’s swamis in order to share my concern over what I perceived as devotees “following” in ways I judged to be mindless, acting from what appeared to me to be blind faith.

He explained the difference between mature and immature discipleship. He said that the surrender that comes from a mature disciple results from years of testing and observing the guru as well as from watching the growth of both oneself and of other disciples. As a disciple has experience after experience with his or her guru, faith grows naturally. Surrender to the guru and to Spirit/God comes as faith grows.

I find I have judgments similar to Sobonfu’s of the ways I perceive some people using astrology.  It seems to me that when individuals make most or all of their decisions based solely on astrological readings, they create self-fulfilling prophesy, give away their personal power, stay stuck in self defeating behaviors and as a result limit their personal growth.  I notice that others use astrology as a guide or as a way of helping them to understand what they are experiencing, rather than a tool that has every answer.  I guess any tool used in an obsessive and mindless manner is likely to undermine the purposes for which it was created.  That is not the fault of the tool nor of the system, but rather problems created by misuse of the tool.

My years with Amma have been filled with an almost unbelievable level of challenge and growth.  My personal spiritual process has amazed me.  I believe that asking Amma to be my guide and teacher has resulted in speeding up the rate in which the universal “lessons” come and has provided me with the support I need as I move through each challenge.  I am thankful that I have someone to help guide me as I find my way through unknown territory.  I am also very thankful, and quite certain, that she does not “do it for me.”  As far as I am concerned, meeting and going through each challenge is what creates the joy of living.  I would not want anyone to do it for me.  That does not mean, however, that I must learn all I need to learn without help.

Perhaps instead of criticizing each others chosen spiritual paths, we can instead be thankful that there are so many ways to connect with Spirit/God.  With this attitude we will be better able to support each other as we learn the lessons we are here to learn.

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“The New Times” articles that I’ve already shared:

Support in Times of Trouble

A Multitude of Lessons

Exposing the “Know-It-All”

 

Let There Be Peace on Earth

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Helen at This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time started a new prompt today entitled Song Lyric Sunday. It gives participants a chance to share the lyrics and tune to a favorite song. The song that came to my mind was “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me.” It was one I loved in my early years but haven’t thought of for decades.

The song was written by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller in 1955. The lyrics are:

Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me.
Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be!
With God as our Father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry breath I take, let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally!
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

When I looked for a video to post with the lyrics, I was drawn to one by the Harlem Boys’ Choir. The song touched me as much as it did fifty years ago. I imagine it will bring back memories to some of you as well. And it is certainly a message that the world needs to hear at this point in time.

 

 

Living Codes

Sreejit has written a new poem that I think is an amazing piece of self reflection.

The Seeker's Dungeon

My code says…

My code says it’s ok
to go it alone, when no
one understands, but a real
man has to be able to deal
with those that march to
another’s demands. My
rhythm is slightly incomplete –
a hiccup in my giddy up – I march
to about 4 ½ beats, but it flows
steady in me so I rest
at weird angles.

The rebellion of rock with
an R&B filter, smooth but
with splinters, modest but not
hindered, I’m not a flower
child, but I’m free and
I’m wild, untamed, I move
at my own pace, I don’t
care about the race, but the
way in which it is run.

Careful that you don’t
misunderstand, I have my own
demands. Those of you with whom
I don’t go far back, that didn’t witness
me always on the attack, will
think that I have no bite, but be

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Dungeon Prompts: What is Your Concept of God?

Sreejit started his third season of Dungeon Prompts with quite a challenge! He wrote:

There are so many different concepts of what God is that we are forced to philosophically dissect and explain our own notion of the word before we can even talk about it.  Often the westerner is not conceptualizing the easterner’s view and vice versa and though one may be devout and faithful in their own religion they would be considered crazy by another’s standards.  So what is your concept of God and what is His/Her/Its impact on or necessity in your life.

My beliefs about God have changed numerous times in my life. During childhood and into my college years, I was involved in the Christian church in various forms. My mother’s church was very liberal, but during the 10th grade I went to a Billy Graham crusade in Hawaii and became “born again.” During those years when I considered God, I probably thought of his love and also of the need for me to be free from sin. Continue reading “Dungeon Prompts: What is Your Concept of God?”

Tears of the Prophets

I read this poem for the first time today. It really spoke to me. In these days of war and unrest I think God cries for all of his/her children, regardless of nationality, religion, race or any of the other ways we subdivide ourselves and create a sense of otherness. Thank you for writing and posting the poem Paul.

Poesy plus Polemics

(Originally posted here April 2013)

Illustration from bongoisme.com Illustration from bongoisme.com


Jerusalem shudders
Her ancient stones bleed
From perpetual combat
Among three great creeds
Whose branches give forth
Each a different hued fruit
Yet all stem precisely
From one selfsame root


Abraham cries against hatred
Christ cries for wars still begun
Mohammed cries at injustice
My God cries for all three His sons

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9 Reasons My Ancestor Would Return to Their Grave

I had to laugh when I read the Word Press Daily Post challenge for today. The challenge was to answer the following question: “If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?”

I can just imagine the look on my ancestor’s face as they walked into my house for dinner. Since my adult children are visiting from India now, it makes it even easier to imagine. I don’t think it would matter what ancestor it was, they would likely all be shocked. Let me count the ways. Continue reading “9 Reasons My Ancestor Would Return to Their Grave”