You could even say we went all the way to its bottom.
Honestly, this was a radical endeavor.
As I mentioned in that post, it was definitely risky from my side to touch upon what I firmly believe is the fundamental and only true layer of all existence, in the way I did. Risky in the sense that I could have estranged you and made you even question my sanity as a writer and a human being.
However, and thankfully, the response was pretty encouraging. This definitely gives me the strength to continue along this way.
But, before I proceed, please take some time to read or revisit said post. I will need you to have it fresh in your mind, for what follows.
OK, here we go…
Remember? The Only Reality Is Who You Truly Are
It is the One from whom you deliberately choose to stay away, believing instead that you are the illusory mind-body complex going by the name of [insert your name here].
At this stage, it’s enough if you accept to entertain this statement as a working hypothesis. Even if your mind shouts at you, claiming that this is beyond outrageous.
Then, the key question of course is:
What do you need to do to reunite with your True Self?
To put it a bit differently (and perhaps also more accurately):
What do you need to do to dispel the illusion of who you falsely assume you are?
I would not exaggerate if I told you that I’ve spent years – scrap that, decades! – of my life, inadvertently or (more recently) deliberately trying to answer that fundamental question.
My quest has led me to the conclusion that there are only two ways to go about this.
In the present post, I will concentrate on the first way.
This way is firmly rooted in the teachings of the genuine Christian Orthodox tradition; the one which is closer than any other, both time-wise and content-wise, to the teachings of the founder of Christianity himself, Jesus Christ.
In particular, this post’s foundation is the spiritual guidance enshrined in a seminal19th century autobiographical book, written by an unknown Russian author.
The title of the book in question is:
The Way Of The Pilgrim
This is a first-person narrative of the wanderings of a mid-19th century Russian peasant throughout the vast expanses of the largest country in the world.
From Kiev, Ukraine to Irkutsk, Siberia, we follow the anonymous protagonist (the Pilgrim) in an epic spiritual quest. One that is full of wondrous encounters and transformational occurrences.
But the undisputed cornerstone of the Pilgrim’s literal and spiritual/symbolic journey, and thus also the centerpiece of the whole “Way Of The Pilgrim”, is the Jesus Prayer.
The Jesus Prayer: A Vehicle Of Constant Surrender And Transcendence
In the beginning of the book, the unnamed Pilgrim sets off on his journey, leaving behind a life of abject poverty, loss and misery.
Being a devout Orthodox Christian, he attends all church services he can, wherever he goes. In doing so, he draws the conclusion that the key for him to achieve genuine adherence to Jesus Christ’s word, and subsequent salvation, lies within constant prayer.
However, he fails to find someone to explain to him how exactly he is supposed to constantly pray.
The turning point for the Pilgrim is when he meets his starets (spiritual guide, or guru, in Russian) in a convent.
The Pilgrim’s starets introduces him to the Jesus Prayer, as taught in “Philokalia“.
“Philokalia” is an assortment of Christian Orthodox mystical and theological teachings.
These are attributed to some of the most important spiritual figures of Greek Orthodox Christianity. Covering a duration of more than 1,000 years (from the 4th to the 15th century AD), the teachings of “Philokalia” address several key spiritual topics.
These can be roughly categorized under the following (loose) thematic labels:
- The Heart (getting in touch with the true core of one’s Being)
- Prayer (in general)
- The Jesus Prayer (specifically)
- The Passions
- Theosis (i.e. deification)
In a sense, one could say that the writers of “Philokalia” (meaning “love of the beautiful” or “love of the good” in Greek) “interpret” what the Bible (especially the New Testament) says in relation to the aforementioned thematic categories. These interpretations are meant to serve as practical guidance to monks and, generally, practitioners of the Christian Orthodox faith.
It is clear that the Pilgrim’s introduction to “Philokalia”, and in particular the optimal way to pray, is the singular, most catalytic event of his life.
From this point onwards, and until the end of the book, the reader observes how the constant practice of the Jesus Prayer by the Pilgrim, and his strict, yet willful adherence to the spiritual guidance of “Philokalia”, permeate and miraculously transform his life.
How Exactly To Do The Jesus Prayer
To perform the Jesus Prayer, a worshipper is to repeatedly invoke the following words:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son Of God, Have Mercy On Me, A Sinner”.
Or in its original Greek version: “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, Υιέ Του Θεού, Ελέησόν Με, Τον Αμαρτωλό“.
In the “Way Of The Pilgrim”, the Pilgrim often mentions that he employs a shorter version of the Jesus Prayer.
Which is the following: “Lord Jesus Christ, Have Mercy On Me”.
The shortest possible version of the Jesus Prayer is the well-known “Lord, Have Mercy On Me” or Kyrie Eleison.
According to “Philokalia”, you do not need to outspokenly – loudly or whisperingly – recite the Jesus Prayer (even though this might be of help to the novice practitioner). It is sufficient that you repeat it mentally.
It is however also important that you don’t pray in a mere mechanical fashion. But, instead, do so with a true yearning to experience divine grace. Or…
With A Burning Desire To Surrender To The Ultimate, And Only, Truth Inside You
See, for the Christian Orthodox tradition (and, in general, for the one of the East), God is primarily (if not exclusively!) to be found inside one.
So the way the Jesus Prayer works is that, by means of concentrating your mind on the divine aspect within, you gradually remove all other distractive (and often also destructive) thoughts.
It will definitely take a while; however, if you persist with your Prayer and are absolutely sincere about it, you will eventually experience the True You, in all its divine glory.
And this is what the so-called “self-realization” is ultimately all about.
That’s how you remove your self-imposed veil of illusory identification with whatever you are not and could never be and just…
Be(come) Who You Truly Are And Always Have Been.
This is so simple a feat.
Yet (and also because of its simplicity) so difficult…
“Hey, Alex, Hold On A Second
This Sounds Good; However, I Happen Not To Believe In Jesus Christ / I Happen To Be Atheist”
That’s very fine.
And, please, don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to convert anybody here to one or another religion.
So, if you believe in another deity, you may very well adapt the Jesus Prayer to it.
On the other hand, if you don’t believe in any God, you can adapt the Jesus Prayer to the Force in your world in which you believe, more than anything else.
This may be Goodness. Or Beauty.
Kindness. Or Creativity.
Or… whatever notion, regardless how abstract, has the most positive connotation for you.
It can even work if you modify the Jesus Prayer so as to pray to another human being. One that you really, unquestionably, love and respect. Be they alive or not.
Be cautioned, though: the Prayer cannot work if there is any kind of malice or impurity with respect to the deity, entity or notion you associate it with.
I Now Invite You To Go Ahead And Try The Prayer During The Next Week
Try it, however it may work for you, just making sure you respect its core principles:
- Seamless Purity
- Unconditional Love
- Sweet And Complete Surrender
In the beginning, you may find that the Prayer is especially helpful if you employ it whenever you feel distressed, anxious or simply downcast.
In such moments, hold onto it as firmly as you can.
And don’t let go. At least, not until you know you are “out in the open” once again.
Then, start recalling the Prayer also in other moments. When you work. Or when you commute to and from work. When you are taking a shower or dining.
Then, in your happiest, most serene and blissful moments, sincerely thank whoever or whatever it is you have chosen to pray to.
Observe if the latter moments begin to increase.
And keep this in mind:
In the beginning, it is necessary that you try – constantly, firmly and gently – to invite the Grace of your True Self in your life
After a while, though, you will notice that, steadily but surely, it’s not any longer you who does the Prayer.
It’s rather the Prayer that does You.
Next week, we will touch upon the second way to self-realization.
That of Self-Enquiry.
Remain safe and alert; pray and rejoice!