The spirit of Great Doubt is the spirit of great devotion to our spirit of inquiry, to the great mystery itself showing us the way to self realization. Great Doubt is deeply doubting the actual substance of all of our ideas about reality, including our ideas about devotion. Deeply doubting the own being, the separate existence of all of our ideas, allows the opening of the heart to pour forth the aliveness of spirit living through us. We learn to practice offering all of our ideas to the aliveness of our spiritual heart, witnessing them being dissolved again and again. This process of surrender allows us to use our thought energy in the service of our inquiry into the truth of our actual being, rather than wasting energy on trying to control the direction and results of our devotion.
Freed from the confines of ideas and beliefs, our devotion naturally goes much deeper over time. We begin to deeply sense and intuit our intrinsic union with the great mystery. This arises together with our realizing the infinite support of spirit in our welcoming the challenges of human life in its most fundamental motivations. We begin to trust the fullness of our very being, and we spontaneously begin the process of surrender, wanting more and more to bow down to the great mystery we can’t comprehend.
One of our most fundamental needs as human beings is our relationship to a higher power. As children our parents ideally serve as the higher power we are most intimately connected to, and are almost totally dependent on. Though this relationship changes as we grow more independent, this fundamental need remains with us, and in its most evolved forms to date it expresses itself in our spirit of inquiry into the actual nature of our existence. Martin Buber called this the I – Thou relationship. In the context of spiritual practice, ‘I’ refers to the idea of a separate self, and ‘Thou’ refers to the infinite mystery of our source. The I – Thou relationship is an inherent part of any spiritual path, though perhaps not by the same name, as it is an inherent part of being human and living our lives with other beings.
Ken Wilber says some Eastern traditions seem to repress the I – Thou relationship, particularly some Buddhists. He uses the terms God in the first person, and God in the second person. The Great I AM is God in the first person – “I AM That I AM,” God’s answer to Moses. The great I AM has no other. All things are a manifestation of the supreme identity. You are God, and I am not is God in the second person. This is the I – Thou relationship, the separate self relating to God as other. Wilber states, “God in the second person is very important, for it is the relational aspect of spirit.
It’s harmful to repress our innate need for the relational aspect of spirit, just as it is harmful for a young child to be forced to repress their natural urge for the closest most intimate bond with their mother. It’s also harmful to cling to the conceptual form of spirit’s relational aspect, and to ignore the wisdom component. Wisdom shows us all things are free of our thinking, so our true identity is nothing, no-thing. Love shows us we are everything, as Christ said, “the greatest of the two is love”, but we need wisdom to fully enter the depths of love, to fully enter our being no-thing as the expression of everything.
Willingness to not find anything is one with the willingness to give up everything that interferes with merging with the true beloved, our true identity that is all things. And this willingness is the willingness to agree to be guided from within, to let spirit itself do our work. We’re learning to be willing to be participants in spirit’s work, while realizing that it is God or spirit that is actually doing the work. We care less and less about taking any personal credit for the work being done.
So we use the I-Thou relationship to let go of all attachments, including the attachment to the idea of the relational aspect of spirit, the personal story about our spiritual awakening. We learn not to close around, and not to solidify God in the first person, The Great I AM, and also learn not to close around or solidify God in the second person, ‘you are God, and I’m not. We are moving more freely with the life of spirit, free to immerse ourselves in the depths of our longing and joy, and free to immerse ourselves in the wisdom of letting it all go.
There has been more of a movement in contemporary Buddhist practice to embrace the more traditional forms of prayer. The Tibetan Buddhist master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche expresses the essence of devotional inquiry that uses all of our senses and our entire mind. Here I interpret the guru as God’s presence or universal mind, which can include the manifestation of the human guru.
“Devotion is the essence of the path, and if we have in mind nothing but the guru and feel nothing but fervent devotion, whatever occurs is perceived as his blessing. If we simply practice with this constantly present devotion, this is prayer itself.
When all thoughts are imbued with devotion to the guru, there is a natural confidence that this will take care of whatever may happen. All forms are the guru, all sounds are prayer and all gross and subtle thoughts arise as devotion. Everything is spontaneously liberated in the absolute nature, like knots untied in the sky.”
Sometimes our relationship with a pet can serve as a constant reminder to express our deepest devotion to spirit by Just Being Loving Awareness. Rumi wrote a very deeply heart felt poem expressing the wonder, agony, and divine joy of our yearning for truth.
One night a man was crying,
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said, “So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer for that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage, “Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing you express
is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection
There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.