Spirituality: Pearls and Roses
May 10, 2008 § 11 Comments
In today’s environment we increasingly find a new kind of believer. This believer is not religious and not exactly an atheist. They may or may not, however, be an agnostic but believe in something “greater than themselves”. This kind of believer is, for all intensive purposes, considered “spiritual”. Which essentially means that a person does not practice or partake in one particularly religion but believes there is a “transcendental reality” beyond the material world. These believers are often attracted to mysticism, often seeking the emotional experience of religious awe or reverence.
The Western world has been scared by doctrinal and dogmatic religious systems and thus many of the would be Believers coming out of the Western world are skeptical of the mature methods of faith. Often times the intention of these kind of seekers is to find plurality in faith, thus penetrating some kind of perennial or objective truth. You can find this happening daily throughout America.
In the film, My Mom’s New Boyfriend, which debuted in Spain on April 30, 2008, writer and director George Gallo portrayed a scene which is becoming all too familiar in the religious landscape of America. The setting has three of the characters sitting at the dinner table sipping wine after a meal. Meg Ryan plays Martha who after a life altering experience lost weight and became beautiful, changed her name to Marty and adopted a new outlook on life. The other two characters: Colin Hanks, plays Martha’s son and Selma Blair his fiance Emily. And when sprituality becomes the topic of discussion it mirrors the reality that is fast growing in American society, that being, “more spiritual than religious” as the screen play narrates,
Marty: It just took me a long time to realize that there was something missing inside.
Henry: Missing from inside the house?
Marty: No Henry, missing inside here, spiritually.
Marty: So started my quest for enlightenment, inner peace; inner joy. The person who’d gotten buried alive in a sea of nicotine and packaged cakes.
Emily: Yeah, this is so great.
Henry: Yeah… yeah (eyes skeptically reading the scene while nodding the affirmative).
Emily: So what did you do?
Marty: I went to India!
Henry: You went to India?
Henry: You used to never leave the house.
Marty: Then I went to Tibet and I studied Buddhism and I read the Koran and then studied Kabbala and then, I understood!
Marty: That the whole world is one truth-seeking organism and so it doesn’t matter if your science is religion or your religion is science. Because we all seek meaning; we all seek our reason for being.
Emily: That is so beautiful.
Henry: And the reason that we’re here is?
Marty: To have fun, because its all over too frickin fast (as the two women toast their wine glasses in agreement).
Although this may be a story-line for the purpose of entertainment, it is reflecting a growing culture and mentality in our society. A culture which has its good and its harm. On one hand it is waking people up to themselves but it is a path that is not sustainable for long periods of time. And the wakefulness one once found seeking the plurality of faith ends in a similar mentality as Marty’s conclusion, that the meaning of life is to have fun and enjoy yourself before you die.
This condition, that we see reflected in Gallo’s screenplay and big budget motion picture, has also been addressed by Shaykh Maulana Nazim, Grand Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order. In 2000 he toured the U.S. giving talks and holding a number of associations where he said,
I have met so many people here in the West who have delved deeply into the great traditions of the East. They have acquired wisdom through seeking it. They have read, traveled, listened and learned. The attraction for everything oriental is a divine inspiration in the hearts of Western people: even the ancient Greek philosophers took their light from the East.
But as for Westerners who often subject themselves to great hardships to travel to Tibet and India, and receive wisdom to take back with them, most are in danger losing all they gained. Why? Because they bring back loose pearls. If a lady buys pearls does she carry them loose in her pocket, or does she string them on a strong thread? People are going to great lengths to seek wisdom and are so happy with what they have gained, but all the time the pearls are falling out the holes in their pockets, because the pearls are not yet bound on a thread. What is the thread I am referring to? Wisdom pearls may only be kept with a strong faith and method. So many people have overlooked this necessity. If you have the thread, one by one you may obtain the pearls and string them.
You must follow the methods prescribed by a great religion. I am not going to tell you that you must follow this one or that; all I am saying is that making a hodge podge is useless. Why? Keeping to the precepts of a world religion, without being a fanatic, guards your string of pearls. There are many thieves at work, and you must keep it carefully lest it be stolen. Therefore, faith and wisdom need protection, and you must learn what actions or practices may protect your treasures from thieves. Who tries to go the path alone will wander into a den of thieves, or be attacked by a pack of wolve’s in no man’s land. (Sh. Nazim, In The Mystic Footsteps of Saints, Volume 1)
In summary, it could be said that the inner peace and joy, Marty mentioned is like a rose. The divine inspiration that comes to a seeker, that stirs his passion for knowledge is like that of rose’s fragrance. Through its fragrance we can sense its presence yet the fragrance is not tangible. Likewise, through divine inspiration we can sense the truth but it is unobtainable.
Shaykh Maulana Nazim has expressed that, ‘wisdom may only be obtained by faith and method’. Our way, the Naqshbandi Sufi Way, is that of association. This means that rather than searching high and low for the rose by running after its fragrance, we merely find the possessor of the rose and sit in his association. And while immersed in the fragrance of that sitting what also occurs is the splendor of witnessing “a rose”. This strengthens the faith and increases one’s knowledge of the method to protect a man’s faith.