31. And the Blessed One recovered from that illness; and soon after his recovery he came out from his dwelling place and sat down in the shade of the building, on a seat prepared for him. Then the Venerable Ananda approached the Blessed One, respectfully greeted him, and sitting down at one side, he spoke to the Blessed One, saying: "Fortunate it is for me, O Lord, to see the Blessed One at ease again! Fortunate it is for me, O Lord, to see the Blessed One recovered! For truly, Lord, when I saw the Blessed One's sickness it was as though my own body became weak as a creeper, every thing around became dim to me, and my senses failed me. Yet, Lord, I still had some little comfort in the thought that the Blessed One would not come to his final passing away until he had given some last instructions respecting the community of bhikkhus."
32. Thus spoke the Venerable Ananda, but the Blessed One answered him, saying: "What more does the community of bhikkhus expect from me, Ananda? I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back."
"Becoming a student of the Diamond Work is too expensive for the average person. Apparently these days some people just can't afford to get enlightened." - from an anonymous reader
New path: Ridhwan teaches new way of looking at the world
Posted: 04/17/2009 08:24:00 AM MDT
Michael Boone holds his prayer beads before the morning session at the Ridhwan center. Ridhwan was founded in Boulder and now has roughly 10,000 adherents.
BOULDER, Colo. -
A sage -- or was it a wag? -- once noted that any spiritual path that can be summed up in a few words probably isn't worthy of the adjective.
Even creeds and traditions that can reduce their beliefs to a sentence or two -- "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet"; "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that everyone who believes in him shall not perish ..." -- have centuries of texts and tradition to flesh out the basic message.
So perhaps it's no surprise that students of the mystical Ridhwan School, founded by A.H. Almaas and started in Boulder, struggle -- albeit with a smile -- to reduce their "path" and the "work" down to a few simple phrases.
"Let me see ... It's basically a journey of self discovery, it's more than somebody saying 'This is what is true, believe it.' That's not how this path works," says Ridhwan teacher Anne Laney, 55, who first encountered Almaas' work in 1989. "In this approach, you are investigating your experience, your consciousness, finding out what's true. It's a very open-ended process."
Boulder has long been known as a nexus of nontraditional spiritual paths offered by teachers such as Naropa University founder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. But the Ridhwan School â which teaches Almaas' Diamond Approach â is an unusual success story. Having sprouted in Boulder living rooms with just a few students in 1976, today the teaching has more than 10,000 followers from Berkeley to Germany to New Zealand. Almaas' approach synthesizes aspects of the mystical branch of Islam known as Sufism (he's a native of Kuwait), Buddhism, Hinduism, the "Fourth Way" of G.I. Gurdjieff and modern "depth psychology."
Pressed to sum up his spiritual path in a few words, Almaas wryly points out that he's written a dozen books on the subject.
"This teaching is about becoming a more complete human being, more fulfilled, actualized," Almaas says by phone from Berkeley. "There is a lot more to it than meets the eye when you openly explore your spiritual side."
Is it about God? Yes, Almaas says, though because of the sort of students he tends to attract â intelligent and even skeptical â he stays away from theistic language.
"We talk about the expression of a larger will, call it the universal will, that makes everything in the world happen," he says. "In some other traditions that will be called god's will."
Students begin working with teachers and progressing in the foundations of the teaching. When a group â dubbed Diamond Heart 1, 2 etc. â reaches a certain level of maturity, membership is closed until a new group is born, often years later.
The focus of the Diamond Approach is what Laney calls "inquiry." Essentially, it's a Socratic approach to examining self and the world without any expectation of a conclusion. Students meet every other month or so to meditate and practice inquiry â an instructor presents a teaching, then introduces a topic for inquiry; students explain their experience of that topic. Then students typically will break into smaller groups to do more inquiry, then come back together.
"You inquire into something, guided by a teacher," says Boulder's Peter Bakwin, who first discovered the work in 2004. "It might be looking at why you reacted a certain way. But unlike therapy, it's a true investigation, and there is no objective. ... (But) if you follow any experience deep enough, it has to lead back to the truth. It's pulling back the veils on the deeper truth."
Students do much the same thing in "small groups" every couple of weeks, and regular individual sessions with teachers.
Almaas, the founder, used to visit the Boulder group as many as 20 times a year, but now comes just once annually, in the spring.
His teaching does not come easily â or cheaply.
"It takes lots of time and money," says Bakwin.
Duncan Scribner has been involved with the Diamond Approach since the beginning, when Almaas â the pen name of Hameed Ali â first came to Colorado.
"Hameed learned many different modalities from a variety of different teachers," says Scribner, 61. "But it's a about waking people up to what the hell we're doing, all the games we play, the lies we tell ourselves. It's like being hit by a 2-by-4 â but in a loving way."
Almaas, 65, lives in Berkeley, the other North American hub of the Ridhwan School. He came to the United States in the 1960s to study physics and math at the University of California.
"I wanted to find out myself what is true about the world and about reality," he says by phone from Berkeley. "Science was not the best thing to satisfy that curiosity. I was looking for an inner sense of what it is to be a human being, what is life."
He shifted his academic focus to psychology and began to study with various teachers, including Claudio Naranjo of the Â¤'60s Human Potential movement, "Tibetan lamas, Sufi masters and Hindu thinkers."
But while Almaas owns up to those and other influences, he emphasizes that his particular teaching grew out of his own experiences. Both he and his students say one difference between the Diamond Approach and other traditions is its emphasis on walking a demanding spiritual path while living fully in the world.
"Buddhism developed within monastic orders; my approach has developed in everyday life," he says. "We are 'in the world, but not of it.'"
Bakwin, 47, grew up in Boulder, earned Ph.D. from Harvard and worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before retiring several years ago. He was a skeptic who stumbled on the Ridhwan School when he ran out of reading material on a trip to South America and his wife brought him a book by Almaas.
Known for his ultra-running exploits â he once ran a 200-mile course with 66,000 feet of climbing in 96 hours â and logical, systematic approach to the world, Bakwin says the Diamond work has shifted his focus from "external" to "internal" experiences.
"I spent a lot of time pursuing extreme external adventures, and now it's much more about internal adventure," he says. "I feel much more of a sense of excitement about things, but now I'm focusing on inner worlds rather than running or climbing. "
And that comes close to a stripped-down definition of the Diamond Approach: Delving into inner worlds, being excited about what reality tosses your way and walking through a normal life while doing it.
"Now when something happens, my first instinct is to get curious rather than try to do something about it or categorize it or react to it," Laney says. "I get to see what is more true than my conditioning."
EVALUATING THE SUCCESS RATES of SPIRITUAL TEACHERS
an excerpt from
Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing
Talk about it:
"How long has your guru been teaching?"
"Well, uh, over thirty years."
"And how many of his students have achieved enlightenment?"
"That you know of personally?"
"Well, uh, I never..."
"That you've heard of?"
"That there were rumors of?"
"I don't think..."
"What is it they're doing, Martin? The recipe for enlightenment they're promoting - what is it?"
"Uh, well, meditation and knowledge, basically."
"And in thirty years they've never held someone up and said, 'Look at this guy! He's enlightened and we got him there!' In thirty years, they don't have one? Don't you think they should have, like, an entire army of enlightened guys to show off by now?"
"Well, it's not..."
"After thirty years they should have a few dozen generations of enlightened people. Even with only a quarter of them becoming teachers, they should have flooded the world by now, mathematically speaking, don't you think? I'm not asking all this as a teacher myself, mind you. I'm just asking as a consumer, or a consumer's advocate. Don't you think it's reasonable to ask to know a teacher's success rate? The proof is in the pudding, right? Didn't you ask them about the fruit of their teachings when you started with them?"
"Well, that's not..."
"Don't you think it's reasonable to ask? They're in the enlightenment business, aren't they? Or did I misunderstand you? Do they have something else going?"
"Nooo, but they..."
"If Consumer Reports magazine did a report on which spiritual organizations delivered as promised, don't you suppose that the first statistic listed under each organization would be success rating? Like, here are a hundred randomly selected people who started with the organization five years ago and here's where they are today. For instance, thirty-one have moved up in the organization, twenty-seven have moved on, thirty-nine are still with it but not deeply committed and three have entered abiding non-dual awareness. Okay, three percent - that's a number you can compare. But this organization of yours would have big fat goose egg, wouldn't they? And not just out of a hundred, but out of hundreds of thousands - millions, probably. Am I wrong?
an excerpt from
Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing
The Four Great References
7. And there the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Now, bhikkhus, I shall make known to you the four great references.  Listen and pay heed to my words." And those bhikkhus answered, saying:
"So be it, Lord."
8-11. Then the Blessed One said:
1) "In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak: 'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation';
2) 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief. Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation';
3) 'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or:
4) 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation.'
"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn.
Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should:
Trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline.
If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus:
1) 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance;
2) this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu —
3) by that community,
4) by those elders,
5) by that elder.'
In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it.
But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by
or by that community,
or by those elders,
or by that elder.'
And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."
A GUIDE TO AUTHENTIC SUFI GROUPS
The following points are designed to assist sincere seekers in their quest for authentic Sufi representatives. These days there are many Sufi organisations. Some are genuine and some are not. It is too common to hear reports of negative experiences of people who have been "burned" by dubious groups. The points below should help seekers avoid such groups.
A sincere devotion to Allah Almighty, a deep reverence for the Holy Prophet - peace be upon him - and a love of a life of prayer and rememberance of God are the main signposts to authentic groups. These are always more important than claims of "unbroken chains of transmission" and other claims of "authority" based on dreams or visions. Don't be too concerned about claims of "authority". seek groups where the Sufi life of prayer and brotherly love are tangible and real. The proof is in the pudding.
Does the Order have a proper relationship to Islam?
Sufism is the interior perspective of the Islamic religion. Avoid groups that deny this or that claim that Sufism is entirely independent of Islam. Avoid de-Islamicized forms of Sufism. A Sufi Order should have a strong, healthy connection to (externalist) Islam and be respectful of the Islamic faith. The people who run the Order should be pious, sincere Muslims.
Are members of the Order required to be practising and committed Muslims?
While some Orders will permit non-Muslims into the introductory levels, properly constituted Orders will insist that serious long-term members are practising and committed Muslims. Avoid Orders where this is not so or that are indifferent to the religious affiliations of members.
Does anyone make money from the operations of the Order?
While it is proper for an Order to cover its costs a Sufi Order should not be a profit-making business. Avoid Orders that operate as business ventures or that require expensive membership fees or on-going financial contributions from members.
Does the Sheihk have some other occupation by which he makes a living?
"Sufi Sheihk" is not a job. Sufism does not have a paid priesthood. Avoid Orders where the Sheihk is not successfully established in some other occupation beyond the Order.
Are the private and family lives of members respected?
A Sufi Order should not interfere in the private or family lives of its members. Members shoulds never feel pressured to change jobs, marry or divorce, move location, etc. Avoid Orders that do not respect the right of members to pursue their own private and family life.
Are members free to come and go from the Order's activities as they please?
The Sufi path should be freely entered. It is arduous and demanding. Members of an order should be free to drop out at any time for any reason without having to justify themselves and without being pestered or pursued. The decision not to continue participation should always be respected. An Order should not in any way coerce or pressure members to participate. Avoid Orders where this is not the case.
Does the Order have a tolerant and universalist perspective?
Sufism is an esoteric perspective. At an esoteric level all religions meet. There are many paths. Avoid Orders that insist that they and they alone are the true path or that are hostile to religions other than Islam.
Is there a fraternal spirit in the Order?
A Sufi Order should have a well-developed atmosphere of fraternal love between members. This Platonic fraternal nature excludes members using an Order as a dating pool or a marriage agency. Avoid Orders that do not have a fraternal atmosphere or that are incestuous.
Is there a proportionate sense of formality and chivalry?
A Sufi Order should have an appropriate code of behaviour that is both formal and chivalrous. If the conduct of the Order is too casual then it is merely a club. Sufism is a serious spiritual endeavour. Avoid Orders that are too casual or frivolous.
Is the Order directed exclusively to spiritual purposes?
An Order should only have one purpose - the spiritual advancement of its members. They come together for rememberance of Allah Almighty. Avoid Orders that combine Sufism with other, more profane purposes whether it is a sport, learning Turkish music, bellydancing, etc.
Does the Order mix spiritual forms and systems or employ profane methods and philosophies?
Sufism is a rich self-contained tradition. Avoid Orders that try to blend Sufism with other disciplines or spiritual systems such as yoga, Gurdjieff, pop psychology, gestalt therapy, American Indian rituals, etc. Seek an Order that is purely Sufi in its philosophy and methods.
The two teachers) presented the Enneagram in and uplifting, inspiring, ugly-duckling-to-beautiful-swan manner.
'I still feel the warmth from my time with them. I still consult my notes. And I can still see and hear Teacher X say, 'Remember, thoughts are things. Your number is really who you are not...You cannot hate someone you cannot understand.'
'(These teachers) the messengers, were their message. That congruity allowed their teachings to slip more easily into the minds of their listeners.'
"cultic milieu," which is a parallel religious tradition of disparaged and deviant interpretations and practices that challenge the authority of prevailing religions with rival claims to truth. These upstart movements are dynamic and novel, but usually short-lived. They adhere to an alternative theology that they regard as more authoritative than the laws, rituals, and interpretations that define their parent religions.
The analytic concept of the "cultic milieu" was proposed by Colin Campbell, who called it an ideological underground. Michael Barkun defines the cultic milieu as "the domain of rejected and stigmatized knowledge" that exists alongside the conventional institutions of learning in society.21 The cultic milieu is the dynamic seedbed of novel interpretations of sacred matters out of which new religious communities take shape. The great majority of new groups are benign..