måndag 5 maj 2014

Belief And Faith

This is an article by a monk of the Integral Monastery, who would like to remain anonymous.


Belief and Faith

Today I would like to talk about belief and faith.

When people hear the word “faith,” most immediately jump to the irrational, baseless faith exhibited by the adherents of any number of religions; I think that this is an incorrect understanding.

Faith is the currency of the world; we run on faith, whether we realize it or not. We have faith that we will wake up in the morning, faith that we will survive the trip to work, faith that the world is a good and just place and eventually people receive what they deserve. Without this faith, society on scales both grand and minute would cease to function. Faith, I would posit, is most frequently wholly unrelated to religion. Religion is the realm of belief.

Belief is an academic exercise; we believe that finding a new job is difficult, and stay in one that is stifling. We believe that having an education is paramount, so we go to school even if we aren’t sure of what we want out of life. We believe that happiness is a fat bank account and we toil ourselves into an early grave. This is the realm that traditional religion belongs to; accepting that there is something more, even if don’t understand what it is. Thinking that only we have access to the truth, and feeling pity or disdain for everyone else.

Humans have spent millennia building theodicies and developing theologies that seek to explain the inexplicable, provide a stable platform for recruitment and a comfortable surface to land on if and when we fall. Belief has its place, and traditional religion has its place. But it isn’t the only place.

Jesus, Shakyamuni, Mohammad—these men were not traditional. Firmly grounded in the beliefs of the cultures from whence they came, each realized that there was something more. Each left the comfortable bed of complacent belief and sought to find out the answer to the Great Question, for themselves and the benefit of all. Each faced trials along the way, each had ample opportunity to fall back in line, but they were driven on by faith; faith that this long and hard road leads to something truly worth having. Faith that there is an Answer. And now, so many years later, that faith is still felt by millions the world over.

Many, when presented with this choice—the choice of learning the Answer personally or following the group—understandably shrink away from long and difficult path of knowledge. The cost may be too great, the person may be afraid, or the person may not even be aware of the choice that she or he faces. For reasons, known and unknown to them, the majority continue to be lead by belief.

The mystic, however, chooses faith.

This individual, a member of society but quite apart from it, has the courage to follow faith; to strike out into the wilderness of the soul and face the trials, make the sacrifices, and come to personal knowledge. For the mystic, the seeker, the lover of Truth, faith is the road; it is the road that we walk upon, stumble upon, fall upon, bleed upon. It is the road that takes us through thickets of doubt and fear, across uncertain oceans and even leads us away from our very notion of a separate self. It is a road that strips us of all that we are, and were, and will be, and presents us at our destination naked and unafraid, in the full presence of the Answer and the full glory and ecstasy of knowledge.

This is what being an Integral Monk means to me; it is making the commitment that I will find out for myself; that I will strike out from my beliefs down the road of faith until I arrive at knowledge. In being an Integral Monk, I allow the path that I walk to burn away all that I was—the desire and determination for the Answer is all that is left. Committing to turning away from myself, and instead embracing service to others, life, and the Answer itself as the heart of the Way. It is freedom to engage in society even as I seek to change society; to freedom to express my own understanding of the Way as each moment demands. It is the freedom and privilege to become a vessel for the benefit of others. For those who answer the call of the mystic, there is an emergent understanding that Self and Other are neither same nor different, and that in helping one you help all. This, then, is my belief and faith.

lördag 28 december 2013

Romuald, Founder of the Camaldolese Order

St. Romuald's Brief Rule For Camaldolese Monks

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

tisdag 20 augusti 2013

The Mystical Burial

Surge, qui dormis, et exsurge a mortuis, et illuminabit te Christus.

A monastic postulant is about to submit his final monastic vows. He prostrates, and as funeral bells ring out, a cloth laid over him. 

This, a monastic ritual known as the mystical burial, is to symbolize that the individual person dies, to be resurrected as a monk, fully consecrated to God. These words are then read to the postulant by the abbot of the monastery:

Arise, you who sleep, and rise up from death, and Christ shall enlighten you.

tisdag 16 juli 2013