Avoiding incoherent nibbling on the spiritual path (IV)
by Maxim Hongell
Read the third part of the article here
The living knowledge
Sometimes on the spiritual path a great hunger for knowledge is awakened. When we are enthusiastic in learning new aspects it is good to back up this overwhelming curiosity by proper seriousness. This is valid especially in these times when there is an abundance of spiritual knowledge available, of which not at all everything is relevant for our spiritual evolution. Otherwise studying might become merely entertainment like a spiritual circus where we read about exotic things that are far away from our own life. Then later on we tell other people about the exciting “acts” that we have witnessed in the circus without them having almost anything to do with the way in which we live our lives. Then we become like an mp3-player that just repeats the track loaded into it. Of course this does not bring about the kind of transformation that spiritual texts are intended for. When we just collect pieces of information, we eventually obtain a big “treasure chest of knowledge”. Then, analogically speaking, we store it in our vaults without understanding its practical value. And from time to time we just show off to other people how expensive jewellery we own.
This kind of “dry” knowledge might change some of the contents of our thoughts but it does not bring profound changes to the way how we experience reality. As a consequence we start to live in an illusion, a dream where we think that we understand more than we actually do. Analogically speaking we just taste the cream on top of the cake and then we say “oh yes, this is a very good cake”. At the same time we do not know what is inside of that cake and how it tastes. And our own cake will not be juicy but just crumbs of dry knowledge.
An important mechanism of the ego is to label things by saying “I know this”. In this way the ego identifies itself with the information. It proudly regards itself as the source of knowledge in order to enhance self-importance, thus strengthening its structure. And usually we are not aware of this process. This is also a defense mechanism. By saying “I know this” the ego prevents us from applying the information in a practical way so that it would transform us. And of course transformation is the arch enemy of the ego. The ego wants us to remain in the rigid frame that it has created for us while transformation brings us out of that frame.
Studying spiritual texts can become casual like a routine of taking a walk through the park on every Sunday. Then we loose our transfiguration or in other words we do not anymore see the Divine beyond the words and it all becomes something banal for us. Especially when we come across a vast field of spiritual knowledge we might get numb and not regard it as something divine anymore. If we are attentive we can expose ourselves whenever we approach the study of sacred texts with a luke-warm attitude. In reality in this attitude there is a hidden anticipation that “nothing special will happen anyway”. Just like on those boring Sunday walks through the park where we have stopped admiring our surroundings. In this way the information remains dry and it will not create even mediocre results.
Let us imagine that we learn for the first time how yin and yang energies work in the universe and interact with each other. When we have memorized this information we do not yet understand it but for the moment we only know about it. In order to give life to dry knowledge we need to nurture it with contemplation and aim to reveal its hidden aspects. We can awaken a divine intention to understand in a profound way the information that we have received. We can for example aim to see the manifestation of yin and yang in nature and the ways how they attract each other. Or we can contemplate the game of those two energies in our inner universe. We can aim to live that knowledge, so that the knowledge starts to live within us. In this way the act of studying transforms itself into something practical and we are able to enjoy the whole cake.
This kind of playful contemplation can go on forever and we can constantly have a more comprehensive experience and a deeper understanding about those two fundamental energies. Then with amazement we discover a magical horizon of understanding that seems to extend beyond its apparent limits every time we reach them. In reality this means that we are expanding our consciousness and awareness. Then there will never come a moment when we can say “now I know this truth completely”. Then there will always be a godly mystery shrouding ever new divine secrets to be discovered by us.
We can awaken a burning yearning to reach the divine through the spiritual truths. We can gaze for the highest mountain peaks of understanding, aiming to elevate our consciousness during the process of learning. While we study we can always evoke the presence of God and pray for Him to help us to awaken divine understanding. In this way we are able to assimilate the knowledge on a much higher level than any that the mind could reach alone. Especially regarding spiritual texts there is an infinite amount of information that can, analogically speaking, be read only between the lines. And the “tapping into” this information happens at the supramental level. This is why it is good to study in a meditative way and to relate to spiritual knowledge as a modality through which the divine speaks to us. When we truly aim to transform ourselves by studying in a practical way, the spiritual knowledge can become a genuine means to get closer to God.
Mechanisms of spiritual digestion
If we nibble with many pieces of spiritual knowledge we might become spiritually saturated. This happens especially if we aim to study many different subjects at the same time. From all this multitude we can grasp only that which is according to the possibilities of our level of consciousness. The rest stays in our being undigested. This disharmony in our “spiritual digestion system” is empowered even more if we do not put in practice what we are trying to assimilate.
Becoming spiritually saturated is like going to a fancy party where there is served many kind of delicious dishes. Then we taste a little of everything, ending up tasting thirty different dishes. When we indulge ourselves unconsciously to such a feeding frenzy, we hurry to taste the next dish while we have not even chewed the last one till the end. Now what follows is that our being might not be capable of assimilating so many different combinations of tastes and such a variety of ingredients. Soon enough our digestion might disagree with the guzzle. After this it might take quite a while for the whole system to recover. We either would not want to see any food for a while or we would become numb to the food and not taste anymore what we are chewing.
There are two possible ways of eating. We can either have a consuming attitude so that we just gobble down anything like a hungry dog looking for a random snack on the street. This whole process is usually mostly unconscious. Second option is that we choose carefully the kind of food that is good for our being. Then we eat this food slowly, chewing carefully and paying attention to the process of eating. Evidently these two ways will have completely different effects. By avoiding nibbling we can create a more profound connection with the food so that it really nourishes and refreshes us like a breeze of wind on a hot day. The energies of the food will impregnate our being in a profound way when we give time for eating and open up for the experience. When we are fully aware and repeatedly taste the same dish we start to notice finer nuances and get closer to the essence of that food. Then that which was food only for our body now becomes food also for our Soul. In the same way the knowledge that we study will not only remain on the level of our mind but it will reach our Soul.
If we are very well aware of our own level of consciousness then we can approach spiritual truths according to the capabilities and resources that our spiritual digestion system has for the moment. This profound awareness helps us to chew long enough and avoid swallowing too fast. In this way we can avoid overeating and saturation and we connect the pieces of knowledge in order for them to create a coherent whole. After “eating” spiritual knowledge it is good to give it time to “settle in” and to be attentive to what kind of effects it creates in our being. We all know that if we just jump up and start running immediately after a big meal we will not finish a marathon and already around the first corner we will not feel so good. Instead we can sit in peace for a while and enjoy the fulfilment. Then we will not just forget what we have been studying but we start to nurture the knowledge inside of us.
Let us imagine that we are trying to study the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Koran and Siva Sutras at the same time in such a way that we just browse them and jump from one treaty to another like a frog that got lost. If we do not yet have the capability to connect all those pieces of knowledge together, the inferior mind can become confused. Then we might start to draw conclusions that are just presumptions or speculations or we start to remember incorrectly the things that we have read. Soon enough we would suffer from a lack of aspiration and have a certain feeling of “I know these things already”, as we become more and more saturated with the undigested knowledge. Then after a while we drop the study of all those books and move onto something else. What remains from that studying is not so much if it is compared with the amount of time we spend reading. It is like trying to row a boat with our fingers: no matter how diligently we flail them, the boat will not move.
This is why in the beginning it is good to take one treaty, read it very well and assimilate it and then choose the next one. And when we know many of them very well, then it is much more easy to make different kinds of correlation that represent the reality and not a fantasy created by our mind. By having a good overall view on a theory we can notice correlations between aspects that before did not make any sense when put together. Now suddenly we notice how they complement each other.
For example in the beginning when we read about the chakras we tend to understand them as separate totalities. But when becoming more familiar with them we start to notice how they interact with each other, how the functioning of one chakra affects another and how they manifest in our own being. This means that we are connecting the pieces of knowledge with each other and that we bring them to life. In this way studying becomes something profound and a tool that can transform our being in a Divine way. When we appreciate spiritual truths, knowledge and practice and see their value and sacredness, we start to see the Divine Light shining through all of them.