Inspirer of Faith -
O you who have attained to faith!
Remember God with unceasing remembrance,
and extol His limitless glory from morn to evening.
drink from one stream. One is hollow, the other is sugar-cane. -
your heart from heedlessness, protect your lower self from desires, guard
your intellect from ignorance, and you will be admitted into the company
of the vigilant. It is a duty for everyone to seek knowledge; that is,
knowledge of yourself. - Jafar al-Sadiq
someone remarks, "What an excellent man you are!" and this
pleases you more than his saying, "What a bad man you are!" know
that you are still a bad man. - Sufyan al-Thawri
How To Recognize A True
How does one distinguish a true spiritual
path from a fake one? How does one know whether a path is really a dead
end and one will come to regret ever following it? There are a few signs
that one can look out for.
1. A true path makes you ultimately
more independent and sensitive. True spirituality puts the
responsibility of your growth and regeneration into your hands. You
will be responsible to find your own truth, or in other words: you
will find out the truth for yourself. It won't consist in the
repetition of set words or phrases, nor in mere devotion to some guru.
Devotion to the truth as you find it can of course be expected.
2. On a true path there may be a
'teacher', but they will never teach on any other basis than on your
being ready for the teaching. Money will not be asked (other than
perhaps costs covering expenses). A poor student will be accepted if
he/she is ready for learning.
3. In true spirituality right living
is a number one consideration. Whichever list of virtues or vices is
used is hardly important. It is important though that real learning
only begins after a student has internalized them to some extent and
sees for him- or herself that they are important. A student who
doesn't see the importance of right living will have to postpone all
else to learn the basics first.
4. On a true spiritual path there
isn't any reward. The result may be enlightenment, but even that is
not gained for oneself, but as 'the power to bless and save humanity'.
Any path that promises reward in any form in this life, is partial and
5. A true spiritual leader acts on
the principles he or she teaches. He or she is chaste or at least
faithful to wife, husband or partner. There will certainly be no
sexual relations between student and teacher. This is abuse of
authority and betrays the trust between the two.
The danger of sects
Then there are of course those paths that
are dangerous for social reasons. Many lists have been made on how to
recognize a path that will not lead anywhere other than dependence and
isolation from your former friends and relatives.
1. The first one has really already
been said: in a sect you will be encouraged to let go of friends and
family. On a true path one may naturally let go of certain friends as
one has grown beyond them. A true path may make one change a lot. But
the impulse to let go friends should come from the inside, not the
outside. As for family - depending on circumstances of course - most
people will find that their relationship with their family changes as
well. For some all bitterness disappears and therefore the
relationship becomes better. In other cases the family can't accept
the changes a person goes through and will let the individual go. But
in no case will a true student let go of personal love, just for the
sake of the path. Love starts in the here and now, with the people
we've been put into this world with.
2. In a sect one will be showered
with personal attention at first. There will be a wooing period. More
than a simple friendly welcoming, there will be people who act as
though they were your friend and will 'reel you in'.
Unfortunately real and fake spirituality
have many things in common. Both will appeal to your sense of wanting to
belong to a greater whole. Both will encourage you to devote time and
energy to 'the cause'. Every organization needs people to help sustain it.
On a true spiritual path such selfless service will help to understand the
principles of right living. In a sect such service (if performed
selflessly), may in the end help to clear the mind enough to be able to
leave. The appeal of a sect is partly the fact that it perverts the true.
We sense the truth behind it and don't yet realize the false ways in which
it has been used. Sects will, for instance, often appeal to a realization
that the personality has to be let go. (Sexual) abuse will perhaps be
justified in this way. In this case what is forgotten is that when the
personality is let go, it will be replaced by a true awareness of what is
right and wrong. The body and the personality are linked, so anything that
strengthens the animal passions, will only help pervert the personality.
Sex will not help in going beyond the personality (except of course,
Back to Articles