Friday, June 26, 2009


"True spirituality is not a fixed faith or belief; it is the ennobling of the soul by rising above the barriers of material life."
Hazrat Inayat Khan

"In the realm of religion most believers are still locked into traditionally accepted beliefs... Since these beliefs differ, they are often a cause of political conflicts with the trail of avoidable human suffering... The future perspectives of spirituality are based upon experience rather than belief systems..."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I bought a copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and began to read it. This does not always happen. Often I will buy a book because I like the title or the theme appeals to me. But then, in some strange form of imposed osmosis, I will believe that I understand the book without reading it. Sometimes I will break through this odd form of self denial and read, often discovering that my preconceived notion of the content is a great barrier to actually absorbing the ideas therein presented. It is this barrier that I must overcome in order to participate in the world of the author. Sometimes I will fail in this effort, deciding that I am smarter then the author and understand more then he/she does about whatever the issue or theme happens to be. There are a number of books in my library that I feel this way about and occasionally I look at the spines, imprinted with title and author and reprise my superiority. Then, if I am in a good mood, I laugh at my own presumption.

In the case of Reading Lolita in Tehran, unlike my usual m/o I began reading it right away. Why? Because, unlike many of the books I buy, it is about something that I truly know nothing about, the world of women inside a severe theocracy. Plus, the author has an author's note in the beginning of the book that I adore.
She says:
"Aspects of characters and events in this story have been changed mainly to protect individuals, not just from the eye of the censor but also from those who read such narratives to discover who's who and who did what to whom, thriving on and filling their own emptiness through other's secrets."

Isn't that wonderful though? And it brings me to the point of this particular blog. How much of your belief is based on the need to know you are better than others?
That may seem like a specious question but I am quite serious. I have been thinking much about how nice it feels to know that you know something that others do not know. How nice it feels to be in on some secret that only a very few can truly understand. And then to go further, how nice it feels to be able to tell someone that your belief is waiting for them, if only they will stop and listen for a moment to the wonderful message you have for them.

In the case of Ms. Nafisi, she was dealing in a system that not only is totally sure of its righteousness but also was quite willing to flog anyone who does not agree. Unfortunately for the floggers, eventually people will begin to see that there are serious holes, hypocrisies and inconsistencies in the system. So, we come to the next point I want to make, how invested are you in the belief system that tells you that you are wonderful and others are lacking? Do you depend on this belief system for your identity or to consistently inform you in some way?

I suppose we all do this to some extent; probably because we need some form of anchor to help us feel safe. Fundamentally that is what we are always doing, creating a safe place for ourselves with our interpretation of what we are experiencing or what we are told. When we get high or feel the increased flow of endorphins through our brains, brought on by the meditative or ecstatic state we have found, we will tend to attribute the feeling to whatever is taking place around us. It may be a religious ceremony, it may be a meditation class, it may be something quite individual but our tendency will always be to give credit to whatever or whomever the ecstatic state arose from. And we will then create a system to support our interpretation because that is what humans do. The much more difficult course would be to not create a system or a foundational belief.

It is almost impossible to avoid interpretation. We rely on language and cultural information to orient us and those will always be restrictive. Again the constant question, what to do? Well, back in the day, when I was a hippie, we questioned everything. Our battle cry was, "Question Authority!" Of course that only lasted until one was required to make a living, then authority became useful. I am not advocating such extremes but I am advocating having a look at what you think you believe and why you believe it. Only you can know what that is and how you arrived at the conclusions you have decided are real. As Pir Vilayat states above belief systems, even new ones, are passé; experience is the real teacher. Therefore, have your experiences but avoid creating a system to support them.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Anonymous said...

So true. Just amazing how you see life and maybe more people should see it as you do but then again, the world would be too perfect. Keep it up my friend.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... isn't it all based on the need to feel asfe and secure? Especially if it comes to the realms of the unseen and unknown? We need to creat an environment which allows us to make spiritual experiences reproductible and controlable. I think that's the origin of ritual and religion.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes that the need to feel superior over others emerges from our own insecurities about our identity and the need to validate that we have worth. Other times that insecurity emerges from our questioning of what the spiritual cultivation and attainment really means. Hence, the need to replicate in others to feed the proof that the mind is always searching for. "If only they would let me really explain what is going on...then they would get it and be like me..." Maybe both insecurities are really two sides of the same coin.



Anonymous said...

to post a comment seems to be proof of that which you speak...but I'm not totally sure about that....

with love and a giggle

Maggie said...

Interesting "anchors" no longer make me feel safe....not safe at all.

Love and Blessings,


Sarala said...

I tell new yoga, tai chi, chi kung students, 'drop-ins:' "this class may not be for you" - and if that's what they discover, that's OK. I say "find the style of practice, and the teacher, that you resonate with so that you will look forward to weekly classes, and in time develop a personal practice." It's not about me being 'right,' nor my way being 'the way,' nor even about one style of yoga or tai chi being better than any other style. There are many ways, as many ways as there are natures of peoples. It's selfish, really - I wouldn't want to be in front of a class full of people who aren't enjoying themselves! :-)