Am I Rendering, Or Surrendering?

Little-Free-Library Am I rendering, or surrendering?I consider the growth of Little Free Libraries to be a wholesome development in a troubled world. They give people a chance to start an exchanging flow by sowing the seed of a book without demanding recompense. They give people a chance to get their hands on a book that they might not be able to find or afford otherwise. It is my sincere hope that this idea will continue to prosper.

Am I rendering, or surrendering?

Mentioning the Little Free Libraries is my way of offering gratitude for a book I found in a Little Free Library this past weekend. It was the book “I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy” This is a book of poetry by the 14th-Century Persian poet Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. I have shared poems and quotes by Rumi and poems by Kabir. On further review, I consider not sharing any poems by Hafiz to be an omission on my part. It is my sincere hope that Hafiz will become better known in the western world.

Hafiz of Shiraz. Am I rendering, or surrendering?Am I rendering, or surrendering? I have mentioned how Coleman Barks became the go-to Rumi translator for late-20th-early-21st-century America. I have mentioned how Anita Barrows and Joanne Macy are emerging as go-to Rilke translators. I believe that Daniel Ladinsky is emerging as a go-to translator for Hafiz.

Daniel Ladinsky. Am I rendering, or surrendering?

Am I rendering, or surrendering? Daniel Ladinsky has freely admitted that his translations of Hafiz are not exact translations, but attempts to capture the spirit of the author. He wrote something in this book that got my attention. I’m not quoting it exactly, because I gave the book to one of my children to read. But he said something to the effect that rendering an English translation of one of Hafiz’s poems involves a certain surrendering to the material, a certain surrendering to the greater context of Hafiz’s life and work.

Am I rendering, or surrendering? Why did this get my attention? Because Steps to Knowledge, the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God, uses the phrase “render your gifts” to describe some of the acts and processes of fulfilling one’s purpose in the world. Apparently the rendering of one’s gifts has a certain disruptive influence, especially without a certain preparation:

“Accept the restraint and development that are called for now, for they will protect you and enable you to render your gifts with a minimum of discord and personal risk. They will guarantee the wholeness and worthiness of your contribution, for it will be untainted by selfish motives.” (Step 269, “The power of Knowledge will extend itself from me.”)

Am I rendering, or surrendering? Am I translating the poem that is my gift into a language some people in my world can understand? If so, it would seem I need to surrender to it. It would seem I need to surrender to its greater context, just as Daniel Ladinsky is doing in his surrenderings of Hafiz. What will my surrenderings look like?

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

An Unseen Inner Work

Bono and The Edge. An unseen inner workWhy don’t some people see what you see? Why don’t you see what other people see? There must be more to it than just someone telling someone something. It is as if there is an unseen inner work going on as well. The New Message from God speaks of this unseen inner work in the revelation “The Rays of Initiation,” received by Marshall Vian Summers in July of 2012.

An unseen inner work

The Angelic Assembly is looking for a particular kind of person. A kind of person who has undergone a certain ripening. Not everyone has undergone, or even desired, this ripening. It seems like a good idea to take Rainer Maria Rilke, and some other poets, as companions on this journey. Rilke draws a distinction:

They wanted to bloom
and to bloom is to be beautiful.
But we want to ripen,
and for that we open ourselves to darkness and travail.

How do the Angelic Orders find such a person? By the response to the spirit of the quest, and the readiness to respond to a greater purpose and a greater calling in life.

How does a person develop the readiness to respond to a greater purpose and a greater calling in life? They recognize there is more to life than satisfying the cravings of the animal soul. They are calling for something more permanent and essential to their true nature. As Rachel of old cried out to her husband Jacob “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1, New International Version), these people cry out “Give me the truth of my life, give me my real life, or I’ll die!”

What do the Angelic Hierarchies do when they find such a ripened person? They shine Great Rays. Great Rays of light and power. Great Rays which start reckoning and evaluation, many stages of initiation, a great turning point. Great Rays which are shined on the changeless part of a person, bypassing the intellect.

And what happens after that? It’s a long and winding road. Many changes, many reevaluations of things. I imagine that Jacob had an experience such as this during his night of wrestling. Rilke wrote of that night:

What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

There is more that could be said about “The Rays of Initiation,” but I believe I have made a proper introduction of an unseen inner work.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Happy Guru Nanak Gurparab!

454px-Sikh_Gurus_with_Bhai_Bala_and_Bhai_Mardana Happy Guru Nanak Gurpurab

Very few people in my world ever mention Guru Nanak.  Even less people in my world say “Happy Guru Nanak Gurpurab!”  I consider that to be evidence that I need to get out more.

Who is Guru Nanak?  The founder of the Sikh religion.  There are roughly 30 million Sikhs worldwide, and 250,000 Sikhs in the United States.

Happy Guru Nanak Gurpurab

I discovered that today was the day his birthday is commemorated, because I learned of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper extending greetings to the Canadian and worldwide Sikh communities.

President Obama offered similar greetings.

The last time Sikhs where mentioned in my world was the tragic incident at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August of 2012.  In my experience, the American Sikh community dropped off the media radar very shortly after the shooting. The media was provided with very little whining, drama or victim narratives, and as such, found the Sikhs very unworthy of news coverage.  Here are a few basic facts about Sikhism.  Mitt Romney was mercilessly mocked over the temple garments of his Mormon faith, but it so happens that the Sikhs have ritual undergarments as well.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Guru Nanak’s birthday, or Guru Nanak Gurpurab, is generally celebrated in November, but the day changes from year to year, based on traditional dates of the Indian calendar.  Next year it will be celebrated on November 6, 2014.

I’m not trying to promote Sikhism.  I’m just trying to be reasonably polite. I’m trying to cultivate the politeness necessary for a world full of different tribes to get along. The poet Kabir is considered a holy man by the Sikhs, and some of his writing is included in the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib.  Perhaps I have more affinity with the Sikhs than I thought.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Better Yet, There Is A Way To Knowledge For Me

Is This The Way To Knowledge

Step 38 of Steps to Knowledge “God knows the way to Knowledge” inspired a similar response in me to the one inspired by step 37 “There is a way to Knowledge.” God had darn well better know the way to Knowledge!  But step 38 added something in which I took comfort; the idea that other people had found and taken a successful way to Knowledge for them.

The Kabir poem “Music” gives the idea that there are people who undertake certain sets of practices because someone else did in some time and some place, and were successful. Are they engaging in something that is necessary, but not sufficient, or is the whole enterprise doomed from the beginning because they are imitating someone else instead of exploring the mystery of their own life?

Someone reading this just thought “Well, what about atheists?  Are they just out of luck with this Knowledge thing?”  Atheists can experience things as self-evident, in a way that inspires consistent action.

Thinking about step 38 encourages me to think that one inner meaning of step 37 is “There is a way to Knowledge for me.”  Thinking about step 38 encourages me to think that one inner meaning of step 38 is “God knows the way to Knowledge for me (and He’s not hiding it from me, either.)”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Music by Kabir, Translated by Robert Bly

Kabir Weaving

Kabir is the one doing the weaving in this picture.  We know he was raised by a Muslim family who worked as weavers in the Indian city of Varanasi (also called Benares).

Robert Bly

Robert Bly translated 44 of Kabir’s poems in 1993.

Have you heard the music no fingers enter into?
Far inside the house
entangled music –
What is the sense of leaving your house?

Suppose you scrub your ethical skin
until it shines –
but inside there is no music,
then what?

Mohammad’s son pores over words,
and points out this
and that
but if his chest is not soaked dark with love,
then what?

The Yogi comes along in his famous orange,
But if inside he is colorless,
then what?

Kabir says: Every instant that the sun is risen,
if I stand in the temple, or on a balcony,
in the hot fields, or in a walled garden,
my own Lord is making love with me.

 

I read this poem, and I cry out “Let the music play within me!”  I read this poem, and I cry out “Let my chest be soaked dark with love!”  I read this poem, and I cry out, “Let me be as colorful on the inside as the Yogi is on the outside!”

This poem can be found in The Kabir Book

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Oh, What Did You See?

“Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”

Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

Step 14 of Steps to Knowledge is a review of all the previous lessons.  (Someone wondered, “Including the Step 7 Review?”  Yes.).  A new component which is being introduced is the examination of one’s practice, and the examination of the results of one’s practice.  Did I have a preference or an aversion for a particular practice?  Did I follow the directions as given, or did I fudge and smudge them?  What happened as a result of my practice?  On the one hand, I believe I followed the directions as given when I did these steps.  On the other hand, it didn’t even occur to me to start writing anything down about my experience of a given step until I got to step 22.  I suppose you and I will just have to take my word for it.

Here is a word cloud of the first 13 steps.

I am amused that “KNOWLEDGE” and “assumptions” are on opposite ends of the cloud.  I see this cloud saying “If you want Knowledge, practice today, think today, understand today,” in much the same spirit as Kabir’s poem which opens with the line “O, FRIEND! hope for him whilst you live, know whilst you live, understand whilst you live, for in life deliverance abides.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Be Still And Know

When a student of Steps to Knowledge gets to step 8, she might be thinking “Ok, I get the point.  Knowledge is a big deal.  They’ve called it a Big Deal by speaking of it in three distinct Uncommonly Capitalized terms in two of the seven steps I’ve taken already (Step 1 and Step 2).  They said the point of the first six steps was to hammer home the ideas that Knowledge is something different than what I think or want or believe, and that it is something of which I am in need.  Fine.  What do I do to get it?”

To me, it’s as if step 8, “I will be still today,” answers that question “Glad you asked, friend, glad you asked!”  There are various techniques in the world for stilling the wanderings of the mind, for rescuing the lambkins of one’s thoughts, lost in the wilderness of restlessness.  One of them is introduced in this step.

Some people say “Thus-and-such technique of attaining stillness is surely the greatest technique ever devised!”  Others say “On the contrary, this alternative technique of stilling one’s mind I am using must surely become the technique used by all mankind!”  Kabir says “Don’t get hung up on any particular technique, but instead focus on one’s motivation.”

O, FRIEND!  hope for him whilst you live, know whilst you live, understand whilst you live, for in life deliverance abides.
If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?
It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him because it has passed from the body;
If He is found now, He is found then
If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.
Bathe in the truth, know the true Guru, have faith in the true Name!
Kabir says “It is the Spirit of the quest which helps; I am the slave of this Spirit of the quest.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

And Where Are These “Few” To Be Found?

I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” (David in Psalm 16:3, New International Version (NIV))

“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (God speaking to Elijah in I Kings 19:18, NIV)

When Jesus heard this [from the Roman centurion], he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:10-11, NIV)

I say that those who find the road that leads to life, like nuggets of precious gold, are where you find them.  I say those who find the true path come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  I say there must be fifty ways for saints to become saints.  I have only written of Christian saints up to now, as that is my faith tradition.  But studying Steps to Knowledge is enlarging my opinions:

“Life is kind to you, for it offers not only the reward but the way to the reward. If it were left up to you, it would be cruel indeed, for you would have to attempt every single possibility that you could conceive of, and then you would have the possibilities that others have conceived of and even the opportunities to reach Knowledge that others have used successfully but which may not in fact work well for you. In your brief span of time in the world, how can you accomplish all of these and still maintain your vitality? How can you maintain your encouragement for Knowledge when so many ways will disappoint you?” (Steps to Knowledge, Step 38, “God knows the way to Knowledge.”)

I studied this particular step in September of 2011, and as I did, I heard a voice in my mind’s ear, asking “Aren’t there any Muslims who have reached Knowledge?”  I thought there must be.  While there is no official sainthood in Islam like there is in Catholicism, people such as Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, (author of the poem “The Animal Soul“) Shams Tabrizi (Rumi’s teacher and close friend), and Kabir (already introduced here, and whose presence hovers over this thread).

I have been impressed with Paramahansa Yogananda and his spiritual upline. I’m not literate with Buddhist saints, but I believe they’re out there.  I say, and I say it again, those who find the road that leads to life, like nuggets of precious gold, are where you find them.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

“Few” Is Not “None,” “Rarely” Is Not “Never”

I confess discomfort with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, a section of a group of teachings commonly known as “the Sermon on the Mount:”

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14, New International Version)

While other Bible translations may tweak the words slightly, the common-sense meanings of the passage in different translations are very similar.  I have found the Matthew Henry Commentary (written in 1710) to be nourishing to my soul.

His commentary on this passage is too long to quote, but could be summarized as saying, “The wide gate doesn’t require you to restrain your appetites.  The broad road doesn’t require you to control your impulses.  If you knew where the crowd was headed, you wouldn’t follow the crowd.  There’s no point in trying to blink the fact or dodge the issue. Do you want life?  Jesus tells you how to find it.  The multitudes unwilling (for whatever reason) to follow his instructions are making an insane, unfortunate choice.”

There is a similar idea in this poem of Kabir, 15th Century poet of India, translated by Rabindranath Tagore:

TELL me, Brother, how can I renounce Maya?
When I give up the tying of ribbons, still I tied my garment about me:
When I gave up tying my garment, still I covered my body in its folds.
So, when I give up passion, I see that anger remains;
And when I renounce anger, greed is with me still;
And when greed is vanquished, pride and vainglory remain;
When the mind is detached and casts Maya away, still it clings to the letter.
Kabir says, “Listen to me, dear Sadhu!  the true path is rarely found.”

My discomfort comes from the word “few” in “only a few find it” in Matthew 7:14.  I have a similar discomfort from the word “rarely” in “the true path is rarely found.”  Matthew Henry tells me to get over it, saying “This [the idea that only a few find the road that leads to life] discourages many: they are loath to be singular, to be solitary; but instead of stumbling at this, say rather, If so few are going to heaven, there shall be one the more for me.”

I take comfort in the fact that over the course of human history, there seem to be people who have found the road that leads to life.  There seem to be people who have found the true path.  These people are often called saints.  Steps to Knowledge calls them “people who have reached Knowledge.”

“There is a way to Knowledge. It requires skill and desire. Both will take time to develop.You must learn to value the true and not to value the false, and it takes time to learn to separate the two and to recognize them. It takes time to learn that the false does not satisfy you and that the true does satisfy you. This must be learned through trial and error and through contrast. As you approach Knowledge, your life becomes more full, more certain and more direct. As you go away from it, you reenter confusion, frustration and anger.” (Steps to Knowledge, Step 37, “There is a way to Knowledge”)

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.