Monday, October 6, 2014

Falling Into Grace by Adyashanti

Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering by Adyashanti is a spiritual-based book that doesn’t overly weigh in on a concept of a deity, although God and Spirit are mentioned.  The focus of the first part of the book is on suffering, interpreted and reframing more familiar Buddhist thought.  Instead of “the Wheel of Suffering” the author prefers “the Vortex of Suffering.” 

So much of what Adyashanti writes has been said before.  The author is often redundant, repeating ideas occasionally verbatim.  And anyone familiar with either Buddhist and/or Yogic philosophy will be covering familiar territory.  Which makes sense.  At the beginning of the book, the author explains that he is not trying to present any unique teachings.  Rather, it is his intention to get back to basics because “it is the fundamentals of the teaching that are the most impactful” (ix).

The emphasis throughout is on his experience and his teachings with only a few quotes from others included.  None of the quotes are specifically cited so when he says Krishnamurti says something or John of the Cross, you pretty much have to take him at his word.   This becomes problematic when he writes something like the following:
I heard a great physicist on a radio program just a few weeks ago, and he said something quite amazing for a scientist:  “You know, even in quantum mechanics, our theories don’t really tell us what’s true and what’s real.  They just explain the behaviors of things.  They’re symbols for reality.  They’re not really real.”  I was amazed!  Here’s a scientist, who spends his whole life attempting to make clear and precise concepts, and what he’s saying is none of those concepts, none of those formulas, are ultimately real.  (84)
To be fair, he isn’t going so far as to suggest that this physicist talking about quantum mechanics is proving some spiritual truth like some other authors are prone to do.  Rather, he is drawing his own inspiration from the statement to find personal meaning and relevance.

Unfortunately, as any careful reader can tell you, a text taken out of context is meaningless.  By not naming the scientist, the radio program, let alone specifically citing both of these resources, the reader is not given the opportunity to explore the meaning as the scientist himself meant for it to be understood.   I tried to look up the quote for this and another from a so-called “great Christian mystic” (88) and both quotes took me to the same primary source:  the author’s book.  In other words, there is no transcript of the radio program available and, for all we know, the author paraphrased or even rephrased what the physicist was saying.  And history is rife with “great” mystics who proved to be psychotic and manipulative and one person’s spiritual leader is another person’s manipulative Rasputin/Manson/Jim Jones. 

Over all, the book is good, not great.  Perhaps a beginning seeker who is ready to go a little deeper will find something profound or the more mature seeker who feels a little lost along the spiritual path.  And, perhaps, I was not the intended audience for this book.  I’ve seen these profound truths presented before in equally accessible forms and by teachers who take the time to specifically cite their sources.  I prefer read those for, after all, the Buddha is said to have warned his students not to believe his teachings. The only problem is, there’s no reliable source for that claim either which is why I say and continue to argue that citing quotes, research, and other resources is essential for ensuring the full exploration and appreciation of any topic even when it is a fundamental teaching, as Adyashanti presents here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...