FR: What you say here totally resonates with me Leone. Before I 'MET' The Master (within my own BEing), I had no idea why I even needed them or how truly important they were... it was only after the Grace Bestowing Master Awakened my own dormant Kundalini energy that I realized how important THE Master actually is... and what their actual function is... which is not heaven but SELF Realization.
It has been said that we are all UNLIT Candles..., we carry this dormant divine Kundalini energy within us (at the base of the subtle spine), and that until we come into contact with a "LIT" Candle... in the form of The Grace Bestowing Master... our own divine power will remain dormant and unrealized.
This was my own experience... I was Awakened while in the physical presence of The Master, in a way which is unique to The True Master... and can not be duplicated by anyone who is NOT The Master. So Grace / Shaktipat Innitiaton IS the way... to far more than Heaven. In one divine moment I GOT what Gandhi meant when he said that he wished that more "Christians" understood just how great Jesus REALLY is... because they do not. I wholeheartedly agree.
Grace can be transferred from the Master to the Disciple in a number of ways... through the Mantra, through Direct Touch, or through the Master's Sankalpa (their will). Though it is most helpful to be in the physical presence of The Master, it is not necessary. The Master can Awaken a True Seeker from the other side of the world.
To underscore the importance of The Grace Bestowing Master it has been said by the great mystics that it would be easier to empty all the oceans of the world ... with a teaspoon... than to Realize what the True Master can grant in one Divine Instant.
For myself.. as I sat before The Master ... having no idea why I was really there... then in one instant I understood The Master, my own True SELF, and who/what Jesus, The Buddha, and Krishna actually were. The phrase ~ I AM The ONE ~ took on a whole new meaning which the finite dualistic mind could NEVER fathom by its own intellectual processing. This was true Revelation.
At first The Master let me believe that I had found them... it was not until later that it became clear that it was The Master's call .... who was simply waiting for the right moment to appear.
Leone says: My Sufi tradition is not a religion that one converts to; it's a state of being that one discovers -- some earlier than others. We're mystics of a particular orientation to God (or whatever term a person uses to mean "God" -- for us, the term is "Beloved"), and mystics are born mystics, just like creative people of other areas are born with their creative perspectives.
FR: Again we agree. My own non-dual spiritual path, Siddha Yoga, is a path of Grace which encompasses all the various yoga's within it ... Jnana, karma, kriya, hatha, kundalini, and bhakti ... so it is a Raja or all inclusive path. Siddha itself references a Perfected Being.
Such a path is not a religion or a belief system, but rather a non-dual path of Grace which reveals TRUTH Absolute, and deals with Transcendent Reality... so VERY different from dualistic religions.
My own Living Master, like Her own Master, draws from a number of different disciplines but mostly from non-dual Kashmir Shaivism.. (The Trika School) , as well as some non-dual Vedantic teachings.
Both these schools bring one, eventually, to the same place.... but while Vedantic goes 'over' the mountain.. Shaivism tends to go 'Through' the mountain. : ) Each Student then finds The Master which is correct for them.
The teachings of many non-dual Saints are embraced by more than one tradition... such as the great Sufi Master Hafiz..... who brings me to a state of shear ecstasy every time I Enter His Divine Tavern <VBG> . Jnaneshwar Maharaj, Patanjali, and Sai Baba of Shirdi (who left His body in 1918, and was claimed by both Moslem and Hindu followers), amongst others. Of course then we have Krishna... Aaaahhh Krishna...I AM such a Bhakti! If I were a Gopi I would assuradly by Radha. : )
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A few of the "Heavy Hitters" in my own spiritual library are: Shankara's ~Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, (Vedanta Press),
The Sacred Power - A Seeker's Guide to Kundalini by Swami Kripananda, (SYDA),
The Triadic Heart of Siva by Paul Muller-Ortega (SUNY),
Nothing Exists That Is Not Siva ~ Commentaries on the Siva Sutra, Vijnanabhairava, The Gurugita, and Other Sacred Texts ~ by S. Muktananda (SYDA),
Spanda-Karikas ~The Divine Creative Pulsation ~ Translated by: Jaideva Singh (Motilal Banrsidass Publ. Delhi),
The Philosophy of Sadhana by Deba Brata SenSharma (forward by Paul Muller-Ortega (SUNY),
The Concise Yoga Vasistha by Swami Venkatesananda (SUNY) * The Yoga Vasistha is a unique work of Indian philosophy. It is highly respected for its practical mysticism.*
Then there is my personal favorite PLAY OF CONSCIOUSNESS ... the spiritual autobiography of Swami Muktananda. (SYDA) This was the book that literally spoke to me and brought "God" ALIVE for me, making "God" my constant companion.
What Muktananda is most known for is His Meditation Revelution. He has shown so many, both Western and Eastern how to Meditate on the Divine SELF.... and also shows how Grace is the key to Meditation.
Until The Master's Grace my meditations continually hit this wall. I could go so far, but no farther... THEN Grace changed everything, that wall fell away and Truth Absolute was Realized. Truly there is nothing like the Grace Bestowing Master.