as the Spiritual Transmission of the Spiritual Master
studying these Eastern traditions, one senses that the traditional
Western religious view may be hampered by its lack of a living
Spiritual Master who can provide a present-time demonstration
of Spiritual Transmission. The Spiritual Master with whom the
West is most familiar ceased to be available "in the flesh"
two thousand years ago. Furthermore, the religion founded in the
name of that Spiritual Master also made the decision (to quash
the competing Arian view about Jesus) to make a fundamental tenet
of its creed be the declaration that that
Spiritual Master was the one and only Spiritual Master
or "Son of God" in all of human history; no other could
be his spiritual equal or better. In sharp contrast, the Indian
tradition holds that India has never experienced a time without
either a living Spiritual Master or a saint capable of serving
as a Spiritual Transmitter to those devotees who were ready to
receive his or her Transmission. The Indian culture has always
been one in which the view of the Spiritual Master as the source
of Grace is common knowledge, grounded in somewhat less common
experience. Those "in the know" are able to point newcomers
to the Spiritual Transmitters alive in their time.
from "The Calling of the Disciples"
Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1480)
What does that
less common experience look like? It certainly has the characteristic,
necessary for transformation, of being an overwhelming "outside
force". When Jesus of Nazareth approached Peter and Andrew
and said simply, "Come, follow Me", they dropped
work, family, possessions —
to do just that. Granted, the story may have been recast in a simplified,
mythic form, and its real, historical details may have included
painful goodbyes, financial re-arrangements, and what not. But the
of the response to Jesus' Spiritual Transmission is captured well
by: "they straightaway left their nets and followed Him."
They were overwhelmed
by His Transmission. Everything their lives had been about before
seemed profoundly superficial in this Revelation of a Greater Reality,
communicated by the Grace of the Spiritual Master.
Flutes Under a Tree" Rajasthan,
Kishangarh, opaque watercolor and gold on paper (c. 1690) Edwin
Binney 3rd Collection, 1990:747
The Hindu tradition
communicates a similar message through the story of Krishna and
the gopi cowherd women. Upon hearing Krishna's flute, the gopis
simply left their cattle to follow Him. Like the disciples of Jesus,
they dropped everything to follow their Spiritual Master because
of something transmitted by His presence which completely overwhelmed
them, and changed their sense of reality. Krishna's Spiritual Transmission
(symbolized by His flute-playing) made these women ecstatic.
"The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila"
Giovanni Bernini (1652)
per se is less emphasized in the stories of Jesus, the Christian
mystical tradition in toto is filled with it. Bernini's statue
Teresa of Avila in Divine Communion is a beautiful rendering
of her experience of ecstasy. Ecstasy as a result of Grace likewise
is a common theme in the reports from the Sufi and Hassidic traditions.
Transmission appears in the stories surrounding Gautama the Buddha.
On one occasion, the Buddha said no word, but simply held up a
flower. Most of His disciples were puzzled by this gesture. But
one of them, Kasyapa, smiled in response, "enlightened"
on the spot; the Buddha acknowledged that Kasyapa had indeed received
his Transmission. The point of the story is not the visible flower,
but rather, the invisible Transmission passing from Gautama to
Kasyapa, translating him (in that moment, or perhaps henceforth)
into the "enlightened state". That Transmission is said
to have initiated the Zen Buddhist tradition. The Zen teaching
has been passed on from Master to disciple by direct Transmission
ever since. The overt acts by which the Zen Master interacts with
unconventional ones such as hitting the disciple over the head
with a stick, throwing a rock at the disciple, and the like —
can be more deeply understood in the manner of Gautama's flower.
They are simply pointers or aids to the Spiritual Transmission
that is occurring.
Adi Da Samraj
and Gautama are no longer present "in the flesh". Nonetheless,
tangible Spiritual Transmission continues as a living reality.
When I found my Spiritual Master, Adi
Da Samraj, I was a university professor, living one
of the conventional lives of my time, even as Peter and Andrew
or the gopi women cowherds had been doing in their time. But when
I sat before my Master for the first time, His Transmission literally
opened up my heart —
waves of love for Him and for all beings came pouring from me
spontaneously, in response to the enormous love I tangibly felt
flowing from Him to me.
up a way of life devoted to "tuning in" on that Transmission,
my entire sense of reality gradually has been transformed. On
such a Grace-full basis (rather than on the basis of self-conscious
effort with my old sense of "material-only" reality
still intact), over time, the force of all the varieties of machine-like
patterning (emotional, mental, physical, psychic) that have placed
limits on my happiness has gradually diminished
— not by actively opposing them, but through their