Five traditions of mystiism - Concepts and terminology

Krumpos, R.

These paragraphs were extracted from “the greatest achievement in life,” my free ebook on comparative mysticism. They include some key concepts and terminology used by the traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

Reality is One

Using Allah, (celestial) Buddha, God, ha-Shem, Ishvara, or other words does not change the divine essence. Preeminent Reality is the holy One in All and All in the wholly One. Soul is simply a word for our spiritual essence, now separated from the ocean of Reality by a cloud of ignorance. Like rain, it does come from that ocean and it will eventually return to it. The billions of souls on Earth are just as surface ripples in the vastness of the universal One.


The personal, yet transcendent, divine which we worship is also immanent in all existence. The word Godhead, used by Christians in English, is al-Haqq in Islam, Brahman in Hinduism, Dharmakaya or Nirvana in Buddhism, and Ein Sof in the Kabbalah of Judaism. These are some words for the essence of the divine One, which both penetrates and exceeds everything. Mystics unite with eternal Reality which is; mysticism speculates on why, how or what it is.

Note: The “celestial” Buddha, or “Sambhogakaya,” is a Mahayana concept somewhat similar to “God” in other religions.

The Divine is Not

Avidya, non-knowledge in Sanskrit, is used in Buddhism for our “spiritual ignorance” of the true nature of Reality. Bila kaif, without knowing how in Arabic, is Islam’s term for “without comparison” to describe Allah. Ein Sof, without end in Hebrew, is the “infinite beyond description” in the Kabbalah. Neti, neti, not this, not this in Sanskrit, refers to “unreality of appearances” to define Brahman. In via negativa, the way of negation in Latin, God is “not open to observation or description.”

Mysticism emphasizes spiritual knowing, which is not rational and is independent of reason, logic or images. Da`at is Hebrew for “the secret sphere of knowledge on the cosmic tree.” Gnosis is Greek for the “intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths.” Jnana is Sanskrit for “knowledge of the way” to approach Brahman. Ma`rifa in Arabic is “knowledge of the inner truth.” Panna in Pali is “direct awareness”; perfect wisdom. These modes of suprarational knowing, perhaps described as complete intuitive insight, are not divine oneness; they are actualizing our inherent abilities to come closer to the goal. It is consummate cognition, unmediated discernment, with certainty.

Direct experience in the divine essence also has various names. Devekut, cleaving or being joined in Hebrew, is the immediate state of attachment or adhesion to God. Realizing the Dharmakaya, dharma-body in Buddhist Sanskrit, is a consciousness of ultimate Reality void of dualities. Fana, annihilation or dissolution in Arabic, is achieved by extinguishing selfhood until all is Allah. Samadhi, putting together or union in Sanskrit, is the absorption of consciousness in Brahman. Unio mystica, mystical union in Latin, is an experience in which the soul of a human is said to enter into unity with God. These are the supreme experiences in this life; there are also alternate definitions and terms.

What happens when our performance in this play of life is over? Life after death was a subject for some scriptures and theologians, although religious leaders usually avoid commenting. The goal of most mystics - some say the eventual goal of all humanity - has a variety of names. Baqa, remaining in God in Arabic, is eternal life. Moksha, release from the cycle of birth and rebirth in Sanskrit, is total spiritual liberation. Nirvana, complete cessation of desires and attachment, is the final exit from this world of becoming. Few of the mystics of Christianity and Judaism use their orthodox religion’s concepts of immortality or resurrection. It is return to the source. The names may vary; the Reality does not.

Love and Knowledge

Seekers of spiritual knowledge might ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” Devotees of devotion reply, “Divine love is everything.” In mystical “marriage,” divine union, you can’t have one without the other. Divine Love and divine Truth are One in divine Reality.

In Sufism of Islam, knowledge is the key which opens the lock of love. Ma`rifa, spiritual knowledge, is essential to properly guide those who are intoxicated with mahabba, love for the divine. They are two of the last stations on the mystical path. Sufism often uses exquisite poetry to convey our longing for the divine. Some of the verses were considered too erotic by orthodox Muslim clerics. Sufis say that they are just allegories to express the inexpressible.

In Hinduism, bhakti is our devotion in love and adoration of the divine. Jnana is knowledge of the way to approach the divine. Both are considered paths to realize divine union and to be released from samsara, the cycle of birth and rebirth. The way of devotion is the preferred path of most Hindu movements, as in many orthodox religions; the way of knowledge is emphasized in Vedanta; preferred and emphasized, perhaps, but they are not mutually exclusive.

The “Song of Songs” (Song of Solomon) in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, are a series of love poems which may appear to be secular. Both Jewish and Christian mystics, however, interpret them as love between God and us. The “mystical marriage” is mentioned frequently in the Kabbalah of Judaism and by Christian mystics, although the latter often allude to love between Jesus and his faithful. Divine union is the joining of the lover and beloved; it is also the unity of knower and known. Love and knowledge are coequal and complementary.

All Buddhists are devoted to the Buddha; many may also worship celestial bodhisattvas and/or devas (deities). They do not “love the divine” in the common, theistic sense, but that which is found in highest spiritual experience. Sanskrit prajna, the direct awareness of sunyata, emptiness of self, is the perfect wisdom. Love is usually expressed as loving kindness, universal love for all beings...a concept and virtue shared by the traditions of mysticism in all religions.

Divine Triads

Mahayana and Vajrayana vehicles of Buddhism speak of Trikaya, or three bodies: Nirmanakaya is the Buddha in human form, Sambhogakaya is celestial Buddha and Dharmakaya is the formless essence, or Buddha-nature. The Theravada primarily addresses the historic Buddha. The “Three Jewels” are the Buddha, the dharma (his teachings) and the sangha (the community of monks and nuns).

Christianity has its Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit referring to God, Jesus Christ and their bond of unity (some say the Godhead). Interpretation of the essential nature of each, and their relationship, differed among the churches. In Christian mysticism, the three ways of the spiritual life are the purgative in being purified from sin, the illuminative in true understanding of created things, and the unitive in which the soul unites with God by love.

In the Kabbalah of Judaism, sefirot - sparks from the divine - have three fulcrums to balance the horizontal levels of the Tree of Life: Da`at (a quasi-sefirot) is knowledge combining understanding and wisdom; Tiferet is beauty, the midpoint of judgment and loving kindness; Yesod is the foundation for empathy and endurance. They also vertically connect through Keter, the supreme crown, the infinite and transcendent Ein Sof with its kingdom in the immanent Shekhinah.

Hinduism’s trimurti are the threefold activities of Brahman: in Brahma as creator, in Vishnu as sustainer and in Shiva as destroyer. Saccidananda are the triune attributes or essence of Brahman: sat, being, cit, consciousness and ananda, bliss. The three major schools of yoga are bhakti, devotion, and jnana, knowledge - both described above - and karma, the way of selfless action. Raja yoga can apply to, and integrate, all three in mental and spiritual concentration.

In Islam, nafs is the ego-soul, qalb is heart and ruh is spirit. Heart is the inner self, hardened when it is turned toward ego and softened when it is polished by dhikr, remembrance of the spirit of Allah. This is a three-part foundation for Sufi psychology. Initiation guides them from shari`a, religious law, along tariqa, the spiritual path, to haqiqa, interior reality. It is a gradual unveiling of the Real.

Divine Oneness

Deep meditation can result in the absence of any sense of self and other, which Hindus and Buddhists may call samadhi. Most true mystics feel that eternal union is assured when you give up self during this lifetime. Sufis say, “to die before one dies.” The Christian mystics call it “death to self.” Kabbalists refer to it as bittul ha-yesh, “annihilation of the desiring self.” Whenever there is no observing “self” then, in transpersonal actuality, there is no “other.” In self-less living, all is experienced as unity in essence. The greatest achievement in life is maintaining that realization.

Note: The 120 Quotations of Mystics provide comparisons using the words of some prominent mystics of all five faiths.

suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf
 



(My publication)Posted:Jul 01 2018, 12:00 AM by Ron Krumpos
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