Interspiritual Quest

November 16, 2011

My first post-grief blog! Not that I am “over it” or “moving on” but rather that I am checking out a world in which I no longer lead with loss, yet rest in the sacred suchness with which death has gifted me.

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, GOD OF LOVE, in which I am exploring the distinction between the classic “interfaith” movement and the emerging “interspiritual” quest. Put simply, the interfaith movement is comprised primarily of ordained representatives from established faith traditions who are seeking to impart and acquire knowledge of one another’s religions, to foster empathy and acceptance. The interspiritual quest is more about immersing ourselves in the practices at the heart of various spiritual paths, and experiencing them from the inside.

A little more than a hundred years ago, Swami Vivekananda—beloved disciple of the God-intoxicated Indian saint, Sri Ramakrishna–came to the West and convened the first World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. This event marked the birth of a global dialogue of faiths, a conversation that has been unfolding ever since. The interfaith movement has been characterized by the sincere effort on the part of religious believers from all the world’s major faith traditions to build tolerance, trust, and mutual understanding. In light of the historical atrocities committed by powerful institutions in the name of God, this dialog has been both liberating and healing.

Now, at the dawn of a new century, it’s time to go deeper. It’s not enough to seek an intellectual orientation toward other traditions. We need to plunge into their mystic heart and let them transform us. (Thanks to the late Brother Wayne Teasdale for coining the delicious term, “interspiritual.”.)

This is exactly what Ramakrishna was up to. He did not politely approach Christianity and agree to tolerate it. He enfolded Christ into his own blazing heart and met him there, in the fire of love. He kept a picture of the child Jesus and Mother Mary on his altar, along with Kali, Krishna, Tara, and the Buddha, and offered incense to them every morning. He repeated the name of Allah throughout the day with great devotion, and experienced a vision in which the Prophet Muhammad merged into his own body. He adored the Divine Mother in every form; it was through her that he experienced all paths reconciled. Ramakrishna actively practiced diverse faith traditions, and their particular objects of devotion regularly brought him to tears of ecstasy.

Immersion in the well of any single spiritual tradition dissolves the forms that limit the Divine. Repetition of any of the Holy Names carries us to a place that transcends all naming, where we rest in the One Reality. Ramakrishna says that it is not necessary to renounce the formalities of religion. When you place your devotion at the feet of whatever spiritual ideal is most natural to you, “formalities of every kind will simply disappear from your being.”

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5 Responses to “Interspiritual Quest”

  1. Christine said

    Mirabai, Wonderful post… “immersing ourselves in the heart, experiencing from the inside… …plunging into the mystic Heart.” For me I had to let go of spiritual/religious traditions and frameworks – and follow the “pathless path.” It was just “my” way…

    It seems too that the real “tradition/path” is to remain open to the Essence of our Being – Love, the one Reality, and let that lead the way. Not that I’m there yet 🙂 Still learning to open the heart and let LOVE in…

    Am so looking forward to your exploration here…

    • Mirabai said

      Yes, for many of us, the true heart connection happens when we cut the moorings to traditional institutions and sail into the open sea. I guess, not ever having been indoctrinated by any one tradition, I had nothing to rebel against, and so I find a garden of delight in every religion. But I recognize that this is not true for most people, for whom religion has often been a place of hypocrisy and limitation of the Divine Mystery.

  2. Doug in Traverse City said

    Beautiful thoughts and imagery of the devotional process. I think many of us forget, or perhaps never knew the power of devotion (or that we could even do it or what happens when it takes us over). If we can surrender or commit ourselves in love, humility or devotion, 100% of ourselves to something or someone, we transform. It is in the act more than the object that holds the seeds for transformation.
    As someone once said, it is the love “expressed” between a teacher and a student that makes that relationship work. It is also said that in regards to commitment, or perhaps devotion, 99% effort does not translate into 99% results. 100% commitment or surrender, does however yield 100% results.
    Its kind of like the difference between the turkey and the cow’s commitment to Thanksgiving dinner. The cow might be committing a part of themselves by providing the milk, but the turkey is committing their whole selves. Like the turkey and dinner, spirituality or God wants all of us and will not give us what we want until we seem to have given all of ourselves and are lying on a plate with the stuffing, mash potatoes and gravy and all the cranberries of life, having had ourselves, been, completely transformed.(sorry)
    Ram Dass use to say the problem with commitment to someone or some path, is you have to give your whole self if it is going to work. There is no reserving a part of you from participation and there is no getting out of the commitment once committed. It is sort of an all or nothing thing with your original intentions being your safety net that allows you to come out the other side intact.
    Everything starts with the beginning, and on the beginning everything rests. (A Taoist saying)
    I went to see an American artist’s work in a museum recently. He lives in Japan and sends his art work quilts all over the world for display. Something he wrote in his introduction struck me. He said, “it is not possible for me to experience all things of this world. I can however go to that still place inside of myself, that place that is like a mirror and reflects all things and know them from there.”
    Perhaps by practicing one faith fully, I practice them all.
    As the Sikhs tell us, the Aquarian age is upon us and it is a time of knowing rather than believing. Ah, but who wants to be that turkey that gives it all up for dinner….
    Happy Holidays

    • Mirabai said

      I agree that we must agree to the 100% if we hope to make room for transformation (which the poor turkey does not have the luxury of doing) (Remember Rumi’s chickpea poem?).

  3. Catherine Naylor said

    I await your book.

    I left the Catholic Church, and all “religions,” in 1968 as an act of rebellion. Got a one way ticket to Australia where I would be anonymous and would try to drop all dogrmas, doctrines and social conventions.

    Slowly over the years I began to look for what you’re talking about here. There seemed to be no companions, no guides.

    As I said, I await your book.

    Love to you,
    Catherine Naylor/Taos

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