A few weeks ago I sat with Nissim Amon, who is one of 40 Zen Masters in the world today. There were many moments of opening at the event. For me, my mind needs to relax to allow me to trust and surrender. The master did that by telling us about “the paths to the top of the mountain”.
In his studies of world spiritual paths, he believes there are six categogries of paths. These are not religions or practices, but characteristics of what is encountered on the paths.
1. The path of the Fakir
A fakir renounces all worldly things and forms of comfort. The purpose is to come to a place of acceptance of what is. It is easy to accept pleasure so learning acceptance through deprivation is a fast track. This was originally the path of the Buddha but did not satisfy him and he gave it up after 5 or 6 years.
2. The path of Bhakti
Bhakti is the path of love, devotion, faith and worship. In the past, this was often the love of the guru. The guru would teach and be your object of love. It teaches you to open your heart.
3. The path of Knowledge
This path is characterized by pursuing deeply hidden esoteric knowledge. It may look like the hidden meaning of numbers, working with chakras, and other hidden knowledge. Often this path has a hierarchy and initiations. There can be a commitment to be a secret keeper.
4. The path of Danger
This path is characterized by practices through which you sacrifice or risk everything. Examples can be hallucinogens, practices that challenge taboos (e.g. sex, death, total ego annihilation) and shamanic drugs. It is often the shortest path but needs a guide. Practitioners without a guide lose what they gain or don’t have a way to integrate it without strong guides.
5. The path of the Zen koan
Koans are questions or anecdotes offered to the student to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment. One learns that the answers are within us. The practitioner values the experience of the truth within the question not the explanation.
6. The way of the Tao
The tao focuses on the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way that is in harmony with the natural order. One sees how nature is a flow and reflects acceptance, even of death.
There is something to be learned from all the paths. It is not necessary to pursue all the paths.
What is so helpful to me is that I have been on a few paths, and rejected them after a time. In that rejection , I have deemed the path as lacking. In Tantra, we take about letting go of a lesson or a path once it has lost its rasa or juiciness. It isn’t bad – it’s just over.
It realized that while I accept other cultures and religions, I have a type of judgement for people on paths I have moved away from or rejected. Seeing these paths in this way helped me to release that.