The question takes on even more importance when we ask the question of ourselves. Often a simple incident will cause us to reassess our lives in a careful manner. Since the values that come into play during this kind of reflection are usually deeper than the ones used in academic settings, we often find unexpected insights and compensations during this process. What at first might appear to be successful or important might turn out to be limited or trivial, and vice versa. Education is driven by this dynamic of self assessment. Various cultures have created tools to facilitate this process.
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The question takes on even more importance when we ask the question of ourselves. Often a simple incident will cause us to reassess our lives in a careful manner. Since the values that come into play during this kind of reflection are usually deeper than the ones used in academic settings, we often find unexpected insights and compensations during this process. What at first might appear to be successful or important might turn out to be limited or trivial, and vice versa.
Education is driven by this dynamic of self assessment. Various cultures have created tools to facilitate this process. In this article we will examine several methods of self assessment that have been used in the Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian traditions.
Following the work of Carolyn Myss , we will use the image of the Tree of Life to integrate these insights. We will begin with the Sufis, a group of Islamic teachers who are well known for their aphorisms and stories. When people are raw , they are undeveloped and unrefined, lacking skill and grace.
If it is true that small people talk about others, mediocre people talk about themselves, and big people talk about ideas, then raw people are small and mediocre. They gossip, exaggerate, spread rumors, and sow conflict, destroying the peace of families and society. Attempting to raise themselves up by bringing other people down, raw people dominate the conversation, constantly update their image on Facebook, bore you with their stories, their pets, their woes, their hurts, their grades, their awards, their jobs, their spouses, their children, and their fears.
Skillful at monopolizing, they are the guests whom every host dreads. Can this raw state be transformed? Sufi masters say that it can. What is required is the spark of knowledge, which initiates the long process of cooking. This is a large order. It usually takes two parents, several brothers and sisters, many school mates, dozens of teachers, a good and patient spouse, several mishaps, and about five decades of trial and error, before the cooking really begins.
The result? Sufi masters say that the result is a modest, caring, responsible human being, whose awareness, common sense, and poise produce knowledge, responsibility, and happiness. No one person can take credit for this achievement, for there are many cooks at work at one time or another.
And whatever the virtues of each of the cooks, it makes no difference in the end, for it is the fire that does the transforming work. The final stage, according to Sufi masters, appears only after prolonged cooking. Cooking eliminates excessive ego--called egotism.
The heat must be turned up and held there, against all the rules of ordinary cooking, until the student disciple is burnt. Being burnt means that all traces of egotism are consumed in the fire of service and love. However, the ego, which expresses our individuality and our unique perspective, remains.
A time-honored exercise to "turn up the heat" is to avoid using the word "I" in your conversation, first, for a day, then for several days. Next, avoid using the word "I" in your thought Then, when you have mastered that, use the word "I" when necessary Sufi masters say that those who are burnt leave no trace of egotism. They walk through a room and do not leave a "trail of smoke"--a trail of self concern, hunger for approval, or discord. Self fulfilled" Poem 2. Using these three stages--raw, cooked, and burnt--is a simple way to begin the process of self assessment.
As a matter of fact, almost every culture that we know has elaborated them into several more stages. The Jewish tradition. Since Consciousness is reflected in the human mind, the ten Sefirot are also mirrors of self development and attainment, which can also be used for self assessment and understanding. The Tree of Life with its ten Sefirot is usually arranged into seven planes, as illustrated above. Modern anthropological research indicates that the Tree of Life symbol reaches far back into prehistory.
Almost every tradition that we know of has mandalas or sacred diagrams yantras that include or suggest it. As illustrated in the diagram above, all mandalas have a borderline that separates the outside the profane from the inside the sacred.
The sacred space inside can be accessed only through special portals or doorways, which are guarded by protective deities that are often are portrayed as angels, demons, or animals. Once a doorway has been crossed, a labyrinthine path tao, Chinese, or marga, Sanskrit opens before the viewer.
Only when we see that life is a mandala, a cosmos Greek, "a jewel or radiant work of art" does the first doorway appear, signaling that we are ready to enter its depth. That is, only after "the doors of perception have been cleansed" Blake, Marriage of Heaven and Hell can we understand the first level of life.
The first portal symbolizes the transformation that occurs when we come face to face with the Holy. A momentous change in perception occurs when World is transformed into Universe. No longer do we simply see matter. Instead, we see the Spiritual Reality behind Creation, which is the Great Family--dust particles, stones, plants, animals, humans, sky, water, stars, galaxies--all of which are interconnected, each a pearl strung on an infinite, luminous web.
The portal opens--and we enter-- in our own landscape, at our own time, unique to us all. This is the gate that is represented by the outside border of all mandalas. The first wood block is called Seeking the Ox , the preliminary stage that begins when an individual genuinely asks the philosophic question, "What is Real?
What is True? What is Permanent? The second woodblock in this series is called Finding the Tracks , which connotes partial discernment of the Truth, which is approached through scripture, teaching, instruction, and preliminary insight.
The individual does not have knowledge, but only opinion and belief. The third woodblock is known as First Glimpse of the Ox , a state akin to entering the mandala, when the Source of Creation is intuitively glimpsed through an epiphany.
This is the portal to Level One Shekinah. It occurs through an intuitive experience--by seeing what cannot be seen, by touching what cannot be felt, by hearing what cannot be heard Tao. All teachers say that the experience of the door opening occurs, not at our bidding, but when the time comes, when the time is right, when we have been made ready for it. These portals being opened, at least in virtual reality, let us briefly look at what can be seen.
What is involved at this stage is accepting and respecting all life forms as having equal dignity and importance in the Family of Creation. Honoring the Family has may dimensions. At its deepest level, it means honoring all forms of life. In a more limited sense, it means that all children, not just "ours", deserve equal respect, nurture, and attention.
Each human being is the inheritor of a rich collective experience, and it is the responsibility of each generation to educate and train all of its young to understand and appreciate that human heritage. Honoring the Family means that all Tribes--nations, languages, ethnic groups, and religious communities--deserve to be treated with equal respect, for each is an indispensable part of the whole.
Non injury is the gateway to this level of consciousness, which corresponds to the sacrament of Baptism in Christianity and to the first chakra of Yoga. The first chakra controls the propensities of physical desire kama , wealth and the search for meaning artha , the search for righteousness dharma , and the search for permanent liberation, salvation moksa.
Physically, the first chakra is reflected in the structural support system, the base of the spine, the bones, the feet, and the immune system. Physical dysfunctions of this chakra involve lower back pain, rectal and immune disorders, and depression. Psychologically, it is expressed in the issues of safety and security Myss, Pride is the major obstacle to this gateway.
In the Zen tradition, this portal corresponds to Catching the Ox. We are beginning to see the whole picture, not only metaphysically, but physically, socially, and politically as well. What is involved at this stage is honoring male and female--through sacred union and covenant. Since sex, like fire, is an expression of the divine energy and creativity, it should be honored and respected. Like fire, sex is best respected by building a proper shelter for it, by giving it a container, so it remains positive, not a consuming or destructive force.
Male and female power are honored through chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage, which occurs by exchanging vows made in the presence of a community. Honor is the gateway to this level of reality, which corresponds to the sacrament of Communion in Christianity. It also corresponds to the second chakra of Yoga and the Eastern tradition of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism.
Physically, the second chakra expresses itself in the sexual organs, the large intestine, pelvis, lower vertebrae, appendix, bladder, and hip. Physical dysfunctions of this chakra involve the lower back, male and female reproductive problems, sexual potency, and urinary problems. Indulgence, lack of common sense, lust, cruelty, and shame are the major obstacles to this gateway. At the center of this level of consciousness, when it has been expanded through deep meditation, is "the feeling that the Supreme Consciousness is present, is here with me" Anandamurti, , p.
This is the first stage of samadhi, of divine ecstasy. In the Zen tradition, this portal is corresponds to Taming the Ox.
The sexual instinct is enormously powerful. Its current must be channeled upwards to the higher chakras and thus tamed. It must not be eradicated, repressed, or suppressed. What is involved at this stage is personal power, the ability to survive and thrive. Personal power is actually chastity at a higher level. Personal power means the ability to contain oneself in self-respect, without giving into--or lashing out against--negative forces, both inside and outside.
Hod means "integrity, a sense inner worth that leads to appreciation and gratitude. Hod means the ability to focus on what is available, not what is missing.
At its deepest level, Nezah means "sticking to life"--no matter what the odds. It means to persevere, to endure--not to leave a task Path, Work, Life before it is completed. Dignity is the gateway to this level of consciousness, which corresponds to the sacrament of Confirmation in Christianity.
The names of the ten Sefirot are:. Everything that happens in the spiritual worlds takes place through the medium of the Sefirot. You are exalted above all the exalted ones, hidden from all the hidden ones; no thought can grasp You at all. You are He who binds them together and unites them; and inasmuch as You are within them, whoever separates one from another of these ten Sefirot , it is considered as if he had effected a separation in You. Each of these worlds has a spiritual infrastructure, the most basic component being the Sefirot. A sapphire is a gemstone that is brilliant and illuminating, implying that the function of a Sefirah is to give Light. Combining these two concepts, one may say that the Sefirot have two basic functions, one as lights or luminaries that serve to reveal and express, and another as Vessels that limit and define the Light so that specific qualities are manifest.
What Are the Sefirot?
Alternative configurations of the sefirot are given by different schools in the historical development of Kabbalah, with each articulating different spiritual aspects. The tradition of enumerating 10 is stated in the Sefer Yetzirah , "Ten sefirot of nothingness, ten and not nine, ten and not eleven". As altogether eleven sefirot are listed across the different schemes, two Keter and Da'at are seen as unconscious and conscious manifestations of the same principle, conserving the ten categories. The first sefirah, Keter, describes the Divine superconscious Will that is beyond conscious intellect. The next three sefirot Chokhmah , Binah and Da'at describe three levels of conscious Divine Intellect. Two sefirot Binah and Malkuth are feminine, as the female principle in Kabbalah describes a vessel that receives the outward male light , then inwardly nurtures and gives birth to lower sefirot.