Today's Saying: Spirituality is not about impressing others or proving you are superior to anyone; it is about enjoying being one with others, which is to say, loving others and being loved by them.
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Why? Why? Why? We go on deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, until we reach the point where there is no answer. There is not even a question.
*Chogyam Trungpa. The Essential Chogyam Trungpa. Ed. Carolyn Rose Gimian. "Padmasambhava and Spiritual Materialism."
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Nasruddin earned his living selling
eggs. Someone came to his shop one day
and said, "Guess what I have in my hand."
"Give me a clue," said Nasruddin.
"I shall give you several: It has
the shape of an egg, the size of an
egg. It looks like an egg, tastes
like an egg, and smells like an egg.
Inside it is yellow and white. It is
liquid before it is cooked, becomes
thick when heated. It was moreover,
laid by a hen."
"Aha! I know!" said Nasruddin. "It
is some sort of cake!"
The expert misses the obvious.
*Anthony De Mello. The Song of the Bird.
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In the early 19th Century, "expert" began being used for persons offering information in court not known to persons generally. We now call such persons "expert witnesses."
In spirituality, the expert attitude is an expression of the egoic need to be and appear extraordinary. Here, one seeks to impress with knowledge, show off their spiritual practice, or demonstrate special holiness or enlightenment. So, this self-elevation is detrimental to clarity and compassion, hallmarks of mature spirituality.
So, reaching the place of no question and no answer is the state of ultimate ignorance. Not ignorance in the sense of stupid or unlearned; rather, enlightened ignorance arises in the sense of not knowing and not needing to know. Knowing is present, but knowing is not held to, as though you need to remind yourself you know. You know, so you pass on; intelligence becomes the ground of moving on. You do not forget. You do not unknow. You use what you know when you need to, but you do not put it on display to impress anyone or prove something about yourself. You put things in the toolbox and pull them out when you need to work with one of the tools. Otherwise, it stays hidden. You do not pull out your hammer and say, "Hey! Look at my amazing hammer. Look how I can use it!" So, you have grown into spontaneous wisdom rather than holding to knowledge as a collection of facts. This process applies to all qualities of the spiritual life.
As to knowledge, how does the expert miss the obvious? The clinging to expertise clouds and crams the mind. One, focused on what she knows, cannot be open to the situation one is in. The whole situation is offering insight, but one cannot see it. She is blinded by her attachment to what she thinks she sees. She is readied to see what she has preconditioned herself to see. So, there is no fresh insight; there is only repetition. She is not thinking; she is regurgitating.
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Jesus speaks of this expertise, ego-highlighting attitude. He points to how religion or spirituality can go to the head, becoming a clamoring for attention and recognition, a means to receive admiration rather than living as an equal among equals.
Afterward, Jesus spoke to the crowds and his students. He said, "The bible scholars and the conservative party [i.e., Pharisees; lit., pious, or holy, ones] have taken their seat on Moses' seat of authority [teaching the Torah]. So, what they tell you, do it and keep watch over it, but don't do as they do. They tell you what should be done but don't do it themselves. They tie up heavy loads and put them on people's shoulders [stringent religious requirements], but they themselves don't want to lift a finger to help carry them. All they do is to be a show-off for people. They make their scriptures-boxes [on forehead and arm] extra-wide and their tassels extra long. They cherish the couch of highest honor at banquets, the seats of highest honor in the synagogues [places of gathered worship], respectful greetings in the marketplaces, and to hear people call them "rabbí" [lit., great one].
*Gospel of Matthew 23.1-7
Jesus continues by showing how such show-off religiosity eventually leads to demotion, while self-demotion leads to genuine promotion. Jesus points to the karma of self-righteousness, or spiritual pride, and the karma of humility-by-love.
Yet, you shouldn't be called "rabbí," for you have one teacher, and you're all brothers and sisters. And don't call anyone on earth your father, because you have only one father, who's in the sky [or, heaven, heavens]. And you shouldn't be called instructors, for you have only one instructor, the Anointed One [or, the Christ]. And the greatest one of you will be the servant of the rest of you. Whoever raises herself will be lowered, and whoever lowers herself will be raised.
*Gospel of Matthew 23.8-12
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So, the Way leads us to the humbleness of releasing what we could use to appear remarkable in contrast to others. We may be exceptional in some way, but we do not flaunt that. For example, some persons are evolved spiritually. Yet, included in this remarkableness is the humbleness that is a trait of persons mature in the Way. If your giftedness shines, so be it, but you do not turn on the light switch.
The daily practice of resting wakeful in Silence is a means to practice this self-demotion, a means to let go of the head and sink into the heart. In the Silence, no one is an expert. Yet, no one is a non-expert. In the Light, we are all no ones, for we do not stand apart from others. What we each are is we. In the Silence, we return to our oneness with Spirit and with each other. All about us that would impress others sinks back into the Source of wisdom and compassion.
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.