Updated On — 5th Jul, 2015
What’s the best spritual practice or path?
What’s the best spiritual practice, technique or lineage?
Well, after much thought, and thirty years of experimentation, I would have to say the best spiritual practice Kasmiri Shaivism, with the practices of Naqshbandi Sufism coming in at a very close second place.
Please, I am not being serious here. (Although, I must admit some experiential familiarity with both of these appraoches).
I get asked this question often, and each time I need to redirect the questioner, to cajole her to re-frame the question a little.
I nearly always get the urge to say the best spiritual practice is the one which works for you, or better yet, the one which is working for you at this point in your life. Different approaches work best for different people at different times in their life.
I see many folks struggling with questions such as “Who’s got the whole answer, which one is the true path, which is the fastest spiritual practice?”
“Which spirtual practice one starts up where the other ones leave off?”
I don’t think that’s the real issue.
The issue is what works for you at given time. And that might change over time. It certainly has been the case with me over the course of the last 30 years.
Ok fine, you might say, but isn’t there one that is absolutely better than the rest? Or perhaps one path will take you here, but after that you need to practice this other one to take you to the next level?
Or which is the TRUE one?
A variant of this question would be “Which one did the Buddha actually teach?”
Again, pardon me for being blunt, but who cares what worked for the Buddha?
The Buddha lived in a very different time and place, and was faced with many different issues. What worked for him may not work for you. Just because it worked for him means just that. It worked for him.
The Buddha did not have your mother.
Find out what works for you.
But isn’t there a path which is absolutely better than another? After all didn’t the Budhha supposedly say (in the satipatthana sutta) that the four foundations of mindfulness is the only way for the salvation of beings?
Many high level religionists make claims like this.
Sorry to be so blunt, but I just don’t buy it.
There is a way to compare spiritual practice, but it has to be done from the inside of the spiritual practice, from the lived experience of the spiritual practice, phenomenologically, if you will. This takes courage and honestly, especially at the beginning, when you see how much psychic investment there may be in a particular practice and tradition.
What you can do is compare strengths and weaknesses of particular meditation and spiritual paths and practices from the inside. At the beginning of this process you must allow the possibility that all practices and traditions have strengths and weaknesses. Then you can make an honest comparison.
This is the first step out of the incredibly subtle grip of a pervasive fundamentalism I see in many spiritual practice circles.
Yes, even in the cool ones.
If you do this kind of honest appraisal, you just might come to see that the choice of a spiritual practice or tradition is not as important as you initially thought it was. You come to see that they all work in similar ways. Of course they emphasize different aspects of development, which is why different practices may be more relevant to you at different stages of you life.
You may even come feel comfortable with spiritual practices, traditions and world views which may have previously been seen as sexist, anachronistic, misanthropic, violent or quant. You may even feel enormous compassion and see how others get stuck in this subtle, pervasive fundamentalism, having been through that space yourself.
You see the urgent need for compasionate interspirituality.
And if you come this far, my friend, you have come a long way.