Once upon a time, some spiritual seekers took a long pilgrimage to visit a great enlightened Master in Tibet. They traveled by boat, donkey, and on foot. They weathered severe terrain, cold, and storms. After several months, they finally found the Master’s ashram. When they were escorted in to see him, the Master acted very strangely. Normally a quiet, compassionate, and gentle man, he was wild and aggressive. He scolded and mocked the weary travelers. They became very upset. Then he sent them to their rooms for the night.
The Master’s closest disciple, dumbfounded, asked, “Master, I have never seen you behave that way before. These people traveled so far to see you. Why did you treat them like that?”
The Master responded, “They came here for truth. But what they believe they already know about being spiritual prevented them from hearing truth. I had to first shatter those beliefs. Now they will be able to listen from a deeper place within themselves.”
“So that was all an act for their benefit?” the disciple asked.
The Master looked down and quietly muttered, “No, not really. They came here seeking the support of nature. Sometimes it does not come in the form expected. I just had to do it.”
It is completely understandable to have ideas of what a life lived with the support of nature (in other words, a spiritually advanced life) looks like on a day-to-day level. It is easy to offer simplistic descriptions that will pacify and attract spiritual aspirants. However, those superficial notions are just not the way things really are. My passion is to offer as deep and valid an understanding of the subtle ways of the universe as I possibly can.
Some people try to say that being more spiritual assures a peaceful, happy, and harmonious life. This is just not necessarily true. Some people say your health will be assured and you will become brighter, more intelligent, more successful, and have more money. Again, it is not always true. Growing spiritually is a very sublime phenomenon that nourishes life on a level that transcends the ordinary criterion people commonly use to assess success in life.
An analogy with leaves may help to illustrate this. For this example, let us say that a leaf connected to the branch is a spiritual leaf, and a leaf disconnected from the tree has lost its way spiritually. In a given moment, either leaf, whether connected or not, can lean to the right, to the left, or be pointed up or down. It depends upon the wind. So, if you use direction to evaluate a leaf, you might say that connected or not, there is no difference. You may ask, then, what value is there in being connected? If you use superficial criterion, it is difficult to tell the difference.
In an effort to motivate people to grow spiritually, spiritual teachers can be tempted to focus on the superficial results. Though there may be some degree of truth to it, the essential nature of genuine spiritual growth is underemphasized.
Another tree analogy may help. If a tree is twisted, bent, and dying, you can make it healthy by tilling the soil and watering the root. Nevertheless, if you are evaluating the tree based upon whether any twists exist, you will feel the tree gained nothing from your effort. So, to truly appreciate what it means to be spiritual, the individual’s vision must expand. How does the person’s vision expand? By becoming more spiritual. Admittedly, this is a paradox. The universe is riddled with paradox. That is called the cosmic joke.
Having said all of this, there is some abstract connection, some carryover, between being a more spiritual being and having the daily aspects of your life flourish—just as there is some connection between the trunk of a tree and its most distant leaves. As people grow spiritually, they do tend to be happier, more successful, healthier, more psychologically balanced, etc. What is being addressed here are the expectations of what a spiritual life looks like. Though there may be a degree of truth to those notions, the real value of spirituality is in awakening to the depth of one’s being that transcends those qualities. Once an individual truly awakens to a spiritual life, what that person used to see as his life is seen just as a veneer or tip of an iceberg. The surface may be of great value and importance on its own level, but now the individual has awakened to so much more.
What is the rest of the iceberg like? In all honesty, it is indescribable. It is unlike anything in the realm of thoughts or emotions. It has been said that life is completely the same, but totally different. Deep inside, you already know everything, so you certainly have some sense, some inkling, however vague. Until you have attained it, you don’t know what it is even though you think you know what it is. Yet, it is the sense of it that keeps you moving and propels you forward.
Our nature is like the nature of trees. Some healthy trees naturally bend to the right. Others naturally reach for the sky. One of the biggest obstacles to spiritual growth is the notion of “what spiritual people act like.” Through translators and teachers, groups of people have come to a simplistic consensus of what spiritual Masters throughout time have said: Buddha, Christ, Mohammad, Krishna, Moses—the list goes on. People who reinforce those convictions and spend their lives committed to imposing them upon not only themselves, but other people, become the spiritual leaders of humanity.
So, in order to identify what support of nature looks like, first be willing to look deeper. Look deeper than your current convictions. Look deeper than even the translations and interpretations of the words of the great enlightened Masters. To know it, you must become it. To become it, you must abandon the notion that you know it. I choose my words carefully in order to clarify and deepen people’s understanding of ancient spiritual teachings. Those teachings have been misconstrued, misunderstood, and distorted. I point no finger of blame here. It is simply the elusive nature of truth.
So where does this leave you? Do you throw your hands up in the air, say there is nothing you can do, and just give up? Of course not. What you do is your very best. Use your mind. Ponder the words, even in this article. Examine your reactions. What are they based upon? … Really. Reflect upon your identities, your conditioning, your belief system, the state of the world, the nature of human mentality. Ask yourself where your feelings are coming from. Are they a result of your conditioning, your fears, your insistence to have something to cling to, or are they coming from a deeper place? By doing this, you will be softening your identities and conditioning so that nature can well up through your physiology.
Your deeper place is not a place of concretion. It affords you nothing to hang on to. It is a place of infinite abstraction. No-thingness. The sound of one hand clapping. The Tao. The unknowable. Living in accord with that is what a life lived in the support of nature looks like. It is barely discernable, particularly if you are not willing to look to the subtle, and to that which lies beyond your current beliefs. Never forget: the path is profoundly elusive.
© Michael Mamas, 11/06