Friday, February 2, 2024

Mystics, Saints & Meditators ??

     Mystics, saints & serious meditators are considered - by some - to be models of wise, fulfilled, mature human beings. Many, however, are quite certain that anything beyond our current conventional materialist understanding, including conventional level of religiosity, is nothing more than wishful thinking, delusional or insane.
BUT, who in their right mind would NOT want to find ultimate meaning & purpose in their life? Who is NOT interested in beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace?
    Our society seems to have forgotten that this short life of ours is meant for us to mature & evolve as much as we're able to. We haven't got a clue about mysticism and meaningful spirituality, so we ridicule these as "too deep for me!" and rush back to meaningless distractions. 

    This recent interview with imho a very intelligent, highly-educated, serious spiritual practitioner, Swami Medhananda (SM), might shed enough light to soften rigid barriers :

    SM: “Prove to me that your experience of whatever you see in front of you is NOT just your own personal experience. Prove to me that it makes some connection with an ontological reality." ('ontology seeks the classification & explanation of entities') 

    Interviewer: “Ten people could be in my room here, and they could all see what’s in front of me. So there would be some kind of subjective agreement among us.”

    SM: “The problem with that is, all those people occur in your perceptual field. So that’s also part of the subjective perception. Imagine I’m in a dream, and I’m wondering if this tree I’m seeing is a real tree or a tree in a dream. Then I ask these eight dream-figures around me, ‘Tell me, am I dreaming or is this really a tree in front of me?’ They go, ‘Yeah, it’s a tree. It’s a real tree.’ And then, lo and behold, five hours later, I wake up and realize all those people cross-checking my experience with the tree were part of the dream.
    There’s no independent cross-check. There’s nobody who can come from outside your dream to verify that it’s not a dream. That’s a real problem, and you end up with epistemic circularity
    The moral of the story is not that everything’s a dream. The moral of the story is that almost everybody in the world who’s sane accepts that when we perceive something, like a laptop or a tree in front of me, it actually exists and that I’m actually making contact with an objective reality, even though we can’t prove it to anybody. There’s no non-circular way of proving that. And so, it makes no sense to hold Mystics to a higher standard than we hold ourselves with respect to sense perceptions. That’s the lesson.”

    Interviewer: “One way I think of it is, if everybody experienced what Mystics experience, then we would take for granted those realities, just as we now take for granted the realities of cars & trees. But the fact is that Mystical realities are so comparatively rare that it’s not part of popular understanding. So it’s easier to dismiss them as aberrations or lunatics or hallucinators etc.
    But what I would say, if you don’t believe that God exists, do the experiment. Do specific practices for 15, 20 or whatever number of years, and you may arrive at that experience. There’s something scientific about that.
    You might compare this to the Higgs Boson. They say they’ve discovered the Higgs Boson. I kind of believe them, because they seem like they know what they’re talking about. But I couldn’t confirm that for myself unless I went through decades of study, gained special expertise, and had special intellectual abilities. But that’s the way science works. There’s a kind of collective agreement based upon what the experts say and it’s always open to challenge.”

    SM: Absolutely, go ahead and follow these methods which are pretty tough. It’s not as easy as mixing this chemical with that chemical. But if you do it, if you put in the time & effort to establish the ethical & spiritual pre-requisites needed for that spiritual experience, then you should have the same experiences that I’m having. So that is kind of a cross-check but it’s more complicated & elaborate maybe than typical cross-checks.
    Another factor is, observe the life of the person who claims to have undergone that spiritual experience or that alleged spiritual experience. Does that experience seem to have transformed him or her. That’s a very important criterion. As Swami Vivekananda used to say, a person going into a very high state of samadhi spiritual experience will come back a saint, even if he goes into it as an ordinary person. That’s another criterion. You can just look and see whether that person is really saintly. If he or she is not, then you have some reason to believe that maybe it wasn’t a genuine experience. But again, it’s not hard & fast, because some saints actually hide themselves, and behave like ordinary people, so as not to attract attention.”

    Interviewer: “These days, there have been so many examples of famous gurus & other spiritual teachers behaving reprehensibly. …"

    SM: “I’m giving a talk on ‘Self-deception in Spiritual Life’" This is now available :
    Swami Medhananda interview:

    Of course all human beings, whether wearing your clothes, business suits, aprons, surgical scrubs, monks' robes, priests' vestments, or scientists' lab coats, are subject to errors, misdemeanors, and even outrageous criminal behavior. AND WE ARE MEANT TO, AND CAN LIVE, SO MUCH DEEPER ...

    “So long as one is merely on the surface of things, they are always imperfect, unsatisfactory, incomplete. Penetrate into the substance & everything is perfect, complete, whole.” Philip Kapleau. “The Zen of Living and Dying. A Practical and Spiritual Guide.” Shambhala, 1998. 

"Your Happiness Serves the World" - by Molly Hahn

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