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have been searching for a long to find the spiritual community
which is right for me. How does one know when you have made the
search for the spiritual community which resonates with you is
a journey that many people are on. The following excerpt may help.
(Editor’s Note: The following is taken from the book, ‘Spiritual
Traditions: Essential Teachings to Transform Your Life’
by Timonthy Freke. It is available in bookstores )
community can be very helpful in maintaining and developing a
spiritual practice. Most of us need spiritual friends to encourage
us on our journey and to share our confusion and revelations.
Just as with everyday pleasures a joy shared is often a joy doubled,
so on the spiritual path having trusted companions to share our
experiences can increase our insight and enjoyment. But how should
we choose our spiritual friends? There are so many different spiritual
groups we could join. How do we know which one is for us?
our Spiritual Friends
Often life miraculously does the choosing for us. There is a natural
law of life whereby we are attracted to those with whom we have
an affinity. Sometimes, however, we may feel the need to work
within a particular tradition or place ourselves under a particular
teacher. In so doing, we have the opportunity to learn a great
deal very quickly. But we must be cautious and listen carefully
to our deepest intuitions. Spirituality is as full of charlatans
as any other area of life - perhaps more so!
at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as
you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one
question. ‘Does this path have a heart?’ If it does,
the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.”
Don Juan, Mexican Shaman
are so many different spiritual traditions and practices,;how
do we choose which path to follow? How do we know which path will
actually lead us to our destination? There is no one right way.
Each one of us starts off from our own unique predicament and
each one of us must find our own way up the mountain of Truth.
We can certainly be guided by the wisdom of the saints and sages
who have gone before us, but to decide which teachings and practices
we should work with at any particular time requires us to make
our own intuitive decisions about what is right for us.
Cults and Charlatans
Involving ourselves with the wrong people can be a waste of time
or even be harmful. For this reason, it is sometimes recommended
that we steer clear of new spiritual movements and work within
tried and tested traditions. But the dangers and inadequacies
associated with cults and false teachers are also common amongst
groups functioning within the mainstream religions. How can we
tell a genuine teacher and community of seekers from the many
fanatical fakes and misguided cults? There are a number of warning
signs that characterize those groups that are to be treated with
suspicion and probably avoided.
Spirituality is about experiencing a sense of oneness with all
people and all things. But many spiritual groups attract adherents
by making them feel special and superior to others. Often group
members are taught to believe that they have been chosen to follow
the one true path. Their particular teacher is the only genuine
teacher who is on a mission to save humanity. In extreme cases
this is accompanied by a paranoid sense of being persecuted by
a hostile world. While it is perfectly natural for spiritual teachers
to demand commitment from their followers, such elitist attitudes
encourage an egoistical sense of self-importance and causes deep
divisions between people - the very opposite of true spirituality.
Spirituality is about transcending all concepts and beliefs, and
directly experiencing the ineffable Truth for oneself. Some spiritual
communities, however, require unquestioning adherence to the dogmas
of the group. In extreme cases, those that question are ostracized
and made to feel that they are unspiritual or even evil. Sometimes
this is justified by teaching that the logical mind gets in the
way of spiritual understanding and must be abandoned. While this
is indeed an ancient and respected spiritual teaching, it is not
the same thing as abandoning your own powers of discrimination
and personal intuitions in favor of blind belief. Genuine spirituality
does not advocate gullibility but encourages deep questioning
until the seeker has genuinely found his or her own answers. Authentic
teachers acknowledge that ultimately the Truth is yours already.
They cannot give it to you, only help you to discover it within
yourself. Those claiming that they alone can (for a fee!) impart
the Truth to you are stealing your birthright and trying to sell
it back to you.
A good way to learn anything is from someone who is already a
master, and this is, of course, true of spirituality. But genuine
teachers are interested in seeing their pupils graduate, not staying
perpetual students. In dubious spiritual groups, however, disciples
are left forever subservient to the master who is elevated to
such an extent that he or she has godlike absolute authority.
This does not set seekers free to realize their own unique spiritual
potential by moving on from the particular group if they feel
they need to do so. Rather it builds a fanatical group of devotees
around a megalomaniac. Those that do leave the fold are branded
as failures or traitors rather than being allowed to follow their
hearts and encouraged to find their own way, whatever that may
‘To have friends in need is sweet, and to share happiness,
and to have done something good before leaving this life is sweet,
and to let go of sorrow.’
Dhammapada, Buddhist Scripture
each person that way is the best way that appears easiest and
Ramana Maharshi, Hindu Sage
your own guru - your own teacher. You have the lamp within you.
Light it and march on without fear.’
Sai Baba, Hindu Sage
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