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The Tradition of the Heart

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The Tradition of the Heart

Underlying all the great religious traditions is a universal process. The complete description of this process is what some call the way of the Heart. The way of the Heart is the culmination of the great tradition of spiritual teachings and represents the most advanced and direct school of spiritual teachings. It is the instruction in and practice of the highest forms of sadhana, which means true action. The sadhana of the Heart is the greatest form of purification. Instruction in the way of the Heart ultimately leads to the final stages of gnosis within the tradition of transcendentalism.

All human experience ultimately leads to the realization of the Heart. The Heart itself is realization. It is this Heart that resonates at the core of all existence. The legacy of realization has been a powerful inspiration for the creation of many great traditions and religions. Throughout history, the tradition of realization has been referred to as the Way, the Path and even the process of Alchemy. Over the centuries, this realization has been the inspiration for countless institutions and different ideological interpretations. Conventional spirituality and religion tend to imply, an ultimate goal to be achieved. In the way of the Heart, there is nothing to be accumulated or attained, there is only a principle to be understood. Unfortunately, as a result of power and ideology, few schools today represent this tradition. Traces of this tradition can only be found in spiritual teachings that are free from the rigidity of ideology.

One tradition that is similar to the way of the heart, is Vedanta. Vedanta is a school of philosophy within Hinduism which addresses the nature of reality. Vedanta can be interpreted to mean the completion or essence of the Vedas. One of the greatest teachers of Vedanta was Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Maharshi taught one of the purest and most popular forms of Vedanta, Advaita Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta essentially refers to the self (atman) and the whole (Brahman) as one. This can be interpreted to mean that only the absolute exists. According to the school of Advaita Vedanta, God or Brahman is the true reality and cannot be said to have any attributes or qualities. The world as it arises is an impermanent illusion, the illusory power of Brahman often referred to as Maya causes the world to appear as it does. Only through real understanding of Brahman, the unchanging essential truth, can liberation be realized.

Ignorance of the true nature of reality is the cause all of the suffering in the world. For one seeks to know Brahman through motivation or desire, sufferring is their continual experience. In realty there is no difference between the individual, the universal soul (Atman) and God (Brahman). Essentially, the concept of separation between man and God is imaginary so to behave as if it were true is a classic error of judgment within the great traditions.

In the last century, their has been significant contributions to providing proof of the reality described in the way of the Heart. Consider the relationships between frequency, energy and mass that has been observed in modern physics. These observed relationships formalized as equations by Albert Einstein among others, suggest that the whole substance of the universe is one force exhibiting itself as infinite forms. In essence, everything is made up of the same material or force. These physical observations, are supportive of the view in Advaita that everything in the universe is an aspect of the one great force or power.

Ultimately, science has confirmed what enlightened masters have been saying for centuries: that we can name things, but we don’t know what they are. We can call it a tree, but it is essentially energy or atoms in the form of something we call a tree. The very naming of an object in some cases implies that it is independent and different. Truth is often lost in naming, as everything is one energy and nothing is separate. All form is ultimately a modification of the Heart.

All religious traditions perform a valuable role in the ultimate process of enlightenment. If they weren’t serving a purpose within the great process, they wouldn’t exist. Sengstan in the Hsin Hsin Ming describes this process clearly, “At the moment of inner enlightenment there is a going beyond appearances and emptiness. The changes that appear to occur in the empty world we call real only because of our ignorance. Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.“ This quote summarizes the same process within the Buddhist tradition that someone may find within Taoism and other great traditions. Traces of this teaching can be found within all of the world’s great religions, to a greater or lesser degree depending upon institutional influences. In fact, the tradition of true God realization can be traced all the way back to the beginning of civilization. The Egyptian God Thoth, or Tahuti later know as Hermes Trismagistus, was one of the original representations of the esoteric teachings which underlie all of the great systems of religion and spirituality today.

One of the most amazing representations of the Way of the Heart in many of these great traditions is the principle of non-duality. All of the non-dualistic spiritual traditions with their obvious differences, can be interpreted as similar to Monism in their essential meaning. Monism is the metaphysical and theological conception that all is one. In Monism, there is no fundamental divisions as a unified principle of law governs all of nature. These concepts, monism and non-dualism, are essentially different perceptions of the same consciousness, like two sides of the same coin.

In the Way of The Heart, what is needed in order to grasp the nature of consciousness is not merely a comprehension that the world is an illusion, but a true understanding of the nature of the human condition. In the Way of the Heart, ancient concepts of suffering and separation are described in terms of principles that represent the modalities of human unconsciousness. The principles described in the Way of The Heart when comprehended in relation to the Truth can produce radical awakenings. This process of conversion from the usual principle of suffering and unconscious life, to consciousness can be found at the core of all human experience. Radical awakenings, or religious experiences, are the foundation of all religion and spirituality, and  represents a transformation of mans individual relationship to the Divine.

In many conventional religions, the principle religious or spiritual conversion is represented by the process of initiation into the godhood. Religious and spiritual conversion in the Way of the Heart is considered to be a deceptive principle because it implies that there is a separate individual existence from god. A person’s desire to have this religious conversion experience is generally motivated by a state of being in which they feel separate from themselves or God. In the way of the Heart, this is regarded as the search for enlightenment. The very motive behind seeking is rooted in a sense of separateness. In the Way of the Heart it is understood that man assumes the identity of a separate individual unconsciously by reacting to his subtle sensations of emptiness and separation. When the attention of the individual is not free, or liberated it tends to turn back on itself. We could compare this to a knot of energy. The manifestations that result from this self absorbed state normally appear in the form of different variations of fear, doubt, sorrow and anger. Generally, this form of suffering is a fundamental sign of unhappiness. In the teachings of the Heart, this is called self-meditation or self-contraction. In the Way of the Heart it is regarded that man makes the presumption that his sensations of suffering are real either out of ignorance or a lack of knowledge. This means to a certain extent, that we are in fact what we know or what we perceive ourselves to be. If you believe yourself to be a limited form, you will feel inhibited or stagnant. Based on this convention, any carelessly made presumptions about the nature of realty can be costly to the happiness and health of the individual who is making and living there life based on these presumptions or errors of judgment.

The realization of the Heart cannot be attained by the one who is suffering. The nature of this understanding happens only by the grace of divine circumstance. The Heart is understood through knowledge, honesty, objectivity, observation and compassion. The Teaching of the Heart is a spontaneous and paradoxical communication focused on the undoing, or freeing of the mind from ridged belief systems and limited perceptions. These limited qualities reinforce the tendency to seek outside or inside for what can only be found through transcendence. “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” This statement by Aristotle is reminiscent of the state of consciousness the way of the Heart represents. The mind cannot conceive of the Heart. The surrendering of conflict, duality and ideology is a reflection of this understanding taking place prior to the arising of thought or effort. The inclination to conceptualize or compartmentalize reality ideologically must ultimately be surrendered to the prior nature of what is already our native condition of enjoyment.


  1. says:

    This article is a general summary of the underlining tradition of realization. It is meant to give the reader a sense of the greatness of the tradition of actual realization within the historical human experience.

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