What I call the “Great Tradition” is that entire mass of traditions, reflecting all of the seven stages of human existence, that is the common inheritance of all of mankind in this time of universal communication, interrelatedness, and interdependence. It is no longer appropriate or even possible for individuals, cultures, or nations to justify absolute independence from other individuals, cultures, or nations – and it is no longer appropriate or possible to grant absolute or ultimately superior status to any historical Revelation, belief system, or conception of how things work. The entire Great Tradition must be accepted as our common inheritance.
Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda,
Nirvanasara, p. 198
ACCESS TO THE GREAT TRADITION
Throughout the diverse traditions of Spiritual experience, many individuals, esoteric sects, and whole cultural movements have communicated particular aspects of the human spirit. The record of this experiment has been handed down through oral and written Teachings, practical and moral disciplines, and direct initiation. In previous eras, many of these Spiritual Teachings and practices have been hidden from the public – communicated only to a few advanced practitioners in intimate settings. Because of the intercommunicativeness of the modern world, however, Teachings that were once secret have become publicly available, if not widely known. Many Easterners have introduced their traditions into the West, because political difficulties and cultural changes are threatening these traditions in their lands of origin. Thus, the testimony of authentic practitioners and Adepts from all Spiritual traditions can now be examined.
In order to evaluate and make use of the most significant sources of Spiritual instruction, it is imperative to develop a clearly organized approach to the entire Great Tradition. To fill the need for guidance through this wilderness of apparently conflicting doctrines and claims, a number of intellectuals have stepped forward to re-present ancient Spiritual texts and practices in a contemporary psychological, sociological, and scholarly context. In this century, D. T Suzuki, Alan Watts, Fritjof Schuon, Mircea Eliade, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ken Wilber, and others have greatly advanced the West’s appreciation for the total Great Tradition and the wisdom-heritage of the East in particular.
However, a uniquely valuable and comprehensive contribution to our understanding of the Great Tradition has been made not by a scholar or critic, but by the Western-born Spiritual Adept Heart-Master Da Love- Ananda.
Since his Spiritual Re-Awakening in September 1970 and the beginning of his formal Teaching Work, Heart-Master Da has been moved not only to communicate his original insights into the Spiritual process, but also to present a comprehensive “map” of the entire Great Tradition of human and Spiritual wisdom. Heart-Master Da’s critical examination of the Great Tradition is based not on mere scholarly analysis but on familiarity with the complete range of Spiritual experience and on Realization Itself. To clarify the many streams of the Great Tradition, he has developed a unique model of human development from birth to God-Realization. This scheme of Seven Stages of Life is the structural basis for Heart-Master Da’s work-in-progress The Basket Of Tolerance, an annotated bibliography of essential texts from the Great Tradition.
Throughout his Teaching and Blessing Work, Heart-Master Da has been an advocate for a new and wide appreciation of the Great Tradition as our common human and Spiritual inheritance:
It is in our unique moment in history, when all traditions and all propositions [of religion and Spirituality] are equally visible (due to a world-wide communicativeness that is making all provincialism obsolete) that we must consider the apparent differences among the traditions with a new kind of wide intelligence. And my Work is devoted, in part, to provide the critical means for understanding and transcending these differences, so that the mass of traditions may rightly be comprehended as a single and dynamic Great Tradition.
Perhaps it would not have been possible to consider mankind’s sacred experiment in terms of a single and unified “Great Tradition” until the near-total eclipse of the sacred sphere. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an outstanding Islamic scholar and champion of the sacred traditions, has pointed out:
Until the modern era, especially prior to the age of mechanistic science beginning in the seventeenth century, man lived in worlds so impregnated with what we now call sacred traditions that they had no sense of a separate concept called tradition, as it has been necessary to define and formulate in the modern world. They had an awareness of revelation, of wisdom, and also knew of periods of decadence of their civilization and culture, but they had no experience of a totally secularized and antitraditional world.
- Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1981), p. 66.
In today’s aggressively scientific and secular world, the vision of a sacred universe must be presented consciously and clearly if that vision is to survive at all. To resurrect the Great Tradition all the means to realize the inherent freedom of the human spirit must be made culturally prominent through the communication and valuation of all that is sacred.
THE PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDYING THE GREAT TRADITION
To study the Great Tradition comprehensively is to examine every slice of human experience, from sexual and dietary practices to meditation and yogic mysticism – and to consider the wisdom that has developed among diverse individuals and cultures. As Heart-Master Da has made clear, close examination of even a few of the traditions tells us that the secrets of the Spiritual process are not contained in the doctrines of any one sect but are revealed when all are viewed together, as the many arms and legs of a single body of Spiritual wisdom. In his Work to compile a comprehensive bibliography of the Spiritual traditions, Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda has emphasized that there can be no complete description of the human spirit except by considering the Great Tradition critically and as a whole:
No one tradition among many, no one traditional text among many, and no partial (or non-inclusive) group of traditions and traditional texts is sufficient or of exclusively ultimate importance in the study of the “Great Tradition”. Only all these traditions and texts (or an inclusive and comprehensive gathering of the “Great Tradition”), taken together, as a whole, is a sufficient Revelation to the mind, and that Revelation in mind is a useful preparatory foundation (or traditional inspiration) for those who would otherwise Awaken to the Ultimate Revelation that transcends even the mind itself.
The Great Tradition describes the possibility of an extraordinary realization of human freedom and Happiness for those willing to meet the difficult demands of Spiritual practice, and it provides the wisdom that any human culture needs in order to preserve its equilibrium. Serious study may provide individuals with the understanding necessary to discriminate among Spiritual Teachings so that they may discover that sacred knowledge which is self-authenticating. Ultimately, a sophisticated understanding of the Great Tradition orients the student toward participation in the higher moral and evolutionary process of religion and Spirituality—rather than cultivating a merely detached “objectivism” or relativism.
OVERCOMING RELIGIOUS PROVINCIALISM AND INTOLERANCE
Religious provincialism is the feeling that we are obliged to align to ourselves with just one tradition or dogmatic belief, or an exclusively Western or Eastern orientation that is ours by virtue of birth, childhood training, or even free choice as an adult. Holding on to our particular belief or orientation, we condemn, disregard, or at best reluctantly tolerate all others. At this point in our cultural history, however, we can maintain these exclusive views only by an act of willful ignorance. We are increasingly confronted by the total tradition of Spiritual life. Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda has commented that study of the entire Great Tradition counteracts sectarianism and reductionism and leads to a more comprehensive and inclusive orientation. Simplyply creating access to information is a significant element in finding a “cure” for the present Spiritual malaise, as Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda points out in the following excerpt from a talk he gave on April 17, 1981:
In times like this, atheism, agnosticism, sectarianism, and fundamentalism are the same. They are stances that tend to be created as religions when people as religions when people are in information poverty regarding religion and Spirituality. These four qualities are signs of information poverty, and they need to be undone in the world. The information-poor are suffering, and in their suffering they are threatening to others.
In a talk given to students several years ago, Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda commented at length on the tendency toward religious provincialism and our unconscious presumptions (the Eastern archetype of liberation from bondage to this world through asceticism, mysticism, etc., and the Western archetype of achieving success and happiness in the material world through creative self-effort):
People today naively try to become associated with the ancient, classic systems of religion, spirituality, and philosophy, but they do not have the concentration for considering what these concepts are all about, what these motives in them are all about, what these belief systems and yogas are really all about. People today generally no longer represent the archetypal psychological dispositions that are at the root of all of these great enterprises, East and West. And unless those archetypal or psychological suppositions, presumptions, dispositions are actually true of you, you cannot fulfill them. Therefore, if you are truly moved to real or spiritual life, you have no choice but to inspect completely your own condition of existence.
You must begin to understand what the religious or spiritual life in Truth is really all about. You must be able to differentiate all your casually generated motivations that reflect old, conventional concepts, persuasions, and philosophies. You may have casually inherited your Western Judeo-Christian mind without ever having been a very profound student of it. It just filtered in, through a little bit of churchgoing, a little bit of parental and social influence. But you must become responsible for the religious conventions you represent, through a very sophisticated investigation of Judeo-Christian thought and concepts, however casual your inheritance.
Although you are nominally associated with me, you are actually trying to fulfill your destiny as Jews and Christians and Moslems and Hindus and Buddhists and so forth. The mechanical aspects of our thought, feeling, and behavior are determined by even the most casual upbringing in those traditions. My Teaching work has largely been with Westerners, and therefore it has always been associated with a very worldly level of drama. My Teaching work does not look much like the way Oriental teachers deal with their devotees, because you all are not looking to be liberated. You have different problems altogether. You are sinful people! Being sinners is what you are up to.
True spiritual life turns out to be a different kind of thing altogether from what many people come to me for. Either they come to me for the left-sided reason, thinking of me as a yogic, ascetic teacher who is simply going to lead them inward and away from things, or they come thinking I am a sort of worldly philosopher who is going to provide them with a social life and amusing talks and a rather casual orientation toward changing themselves.
The Way [of the Heart] is the influence by which interested individuals, regardless of their disposition toward West or East, right or left can make the necessary inspection of the totality of human existence.
COUNTERACTING THE PROVINCIALISM OF EAST AND WEST
Not only Westerners need to remedy the “information gap” in knowledge about the Great Tradition—individuals born in the East must close this gap as well, since Easterners may demonstrate an equally provincial ascetical or life-negative disposition. Furthermore, the popular (as opposed to the esoteric) cultures of India, China, Nepal, and Tibet no longer transmit the schools of wisdom from generation to generation with the consistency and integrity that were true of previous eras. The East is being swept up in the force of scientific materialism and technological progress, and a mono-culture is fast emerging. What the East has realized of the Great Tradition is gradually being lost.
If the Great Tradition is to be preserved as a resource for the enhancement of the human spirit, Westerners must be educated in the Eastern traditions, as well as in the esotericism of the great Western religions. It is not that oriental civilization as such can or must be preserved intact by means of communicating the Great Tradition—it will likely continue to change its character as it adapts to Western influences, and vice versa. Rather, as Heart- Master Da Love-Ananda has remarked, “What must be preserved or reintroduced is the higher culture of Spiritual life. That culture must be made accessible to everyone, not
To overcome the cultural limitations of both East and West, it is critical that we gain access to the wisdom that transcends the limitations of each historical alternative—the limited disposition of Western science that denies the spirit, as well as the limited disposition of the Eastern view that denies the world. Presently the Western view is tending to become suppressively dominant. Therefore, the imbalance in our knowledge and understanding must be redressed, so that new and higher wisdom may emerge that transcends the limitations and draws on the strengths of both cultural orientations.
Without access to and understanding of the Spiritual wisdom of the East, Western man cannot develop a comprehensive understanding of the means for enhancing the human spirit. Without such an appreciation, the political and economic power of Western man will tend to eliminate not merely the religious archetype of the Eastern man, but the higher Spiritual possibilities of humanity. Because the “culture” of materialism is already tending to displace the Spiritual traditions, it is urgent that the living experience of Eastern and Western Spiritual practitioners be fully communicated. Then Western culture may find alternatives to materialism, religious provincialism, and despair.
Resistance to the secularizing trend of Western culture has, until now, originated primarily from the fundamentalist and anti-scientific fringe of institutional religion. However, the fundamentalist movements have actually tended to accelerate the trend of desacralization in two ways: 1) by associating Spirituality with fanaticism, intolerance, and the advancement of hidden political agendas in the name of religion; and 2) by arousing public opinion against unfamiliar and non-Western Spiritual Teachings.
In order to counteract the effects of Western religious provincialism and fundamentalism, a culture of tolerance must be cultivated. The Great Tradition must be presented in an atmosphere that is free from extreme prejudice. In turn, communications of the Great Tradition should be responsive to the legitimate viewpoints of scientific intellectualism and humanism, so that mankind’s Spiritual, religious, and philosophical wisdom can be communicated in the full light of both Spiritual and scientific genius. As Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda has said:
To live a sacred life, you must be free of all automatic asanas [postures], prejudices, and habitual ways of adapting the nervous system and accumulating presumptions totally independent of clear thinking or experience. You must free the body-mind, the nervous system, the being altogether from the entire concoction of suffering that is just an obstruction even to seeing what is before your eyes at this moment. Therefore, apply the discipline of being unreservedly associated with what Is.
INTRODUCING THE BASKET OF TOLERANCE; THE WORK OF HEART-MASTE DA LOVE-ANANDA IN RELATIONSHIP TO THE GREAT TRADITION
The varied and often conflicting traditions of religion, Spirituality, and philosophical wisdom each tend to associate the Truth (or the Realization of Truth) with limited presumptions about or experiences of man’s psychophysical anatomy. Thus, ordinary (third stage) “geniuses” tend to be limited in their .vision by identification with the intellect and the will. “Saintly” (fourth stage) personalities are generally devoted to a Divine Influence, which they regard as necessarily “other” or separate, and therefore they fail to manifest the Blessing powers that are demonstrated by those who have fully Realized the Divine Reality.
Advanced practitioners of yoga and the mystical paths of the fifth stage of life often regard the Divine to be coincident with particular mystical experiences of the brain and nervous system, or with the temporary transcendence of body and mind. Sixth-stage Realizers have discovered their identity with the “Witness-Consciousness”, though they still operate under the subtle presumption that this Witness-Consciousness is separate from what is witnessed. But the Realized or Enlightened individual in the seventh stage of life transcends all the kinds of knowledge and experience that bind one’s attention to the search to be free, while preventing full Realization of Freedom itself. Such Realizers have transcended all knowledge and experience and the desire for “alternative states”. They are simply present in loving service to others, non-separate. manifesting the Blessing Power of the open heart and the Radiance of Transcendental Being. In the context of his own Work, Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda has described this form of Blessing service:
What I affirm to you is the basic force of the Great Tradition as a whole. I also demonstrate its fullness through my own life and work. And I provide a Wisdom-Teaching that is immediately useful and that is not merely a synthetic version of the Great Tradition. This Wisdom-Teaching is not compounded via scholarship, but it is a direct expression of my own life and Realization.
At the present time, Heart-Master Da is concluding the major portion of his Work to provide a structure of access to the sacred Teachings of mankind. A massive bibliography of Spiritual wisdom entitled The Basket Of Tolerance is evolving after more than a decade of Work by Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda to review and evaluate tens of thousands of volumes of traditional and modern literature. Through the creation of this selective and extensively annotated bibliography consisting of more than one thousand books (part of a longer general list of more than seven thousand volumes), Heart-Master Da is providing systematic access to the wisdom of the Great Tradition. In the Preface to The Basket Of Tolerance he says:
The Basket Of Tolerance is an essential gathering of traditional and modern literature, which I offer to all students and practitioners of Way of the Heart (and all students of the traditions of mankind) as a useful and valuable resource for study relative to the historical traditions of human culture, practical self-disciplines, religion, religious mysticism, “esoteric” Spirituality, and Transcendental Wisdom. I have selected, arranged, and annotated (or commented upon) the many books listed in order to provide a basic, inclusive, and comprehensive (but not overlong) representation (and Revelation) of the “Great Tradition” (or common Wisdom-Inheritance) of mankind.
….The order and the groupings of these various texts generate, from beginning to end, book by book, a continuous and progressive “Grand Argument”. This “Grand Argument”, followed with sensitivity and intelligent understanding, guided by a framework and the considerations developed in my own Teaching literature, should give the serious student a sufficient “basic education” in the total “Great Tradition” and all the traditional fundamentals that must be considered even by modern practitioners of the Wisdom-Way”
To conclude the Preface, Heart-Master Da calls everyone to the disposition of real tolerance in relation to all cultures and traditions and summarizes the purpose of The Basket Of Tolerance’.
By study, by practice, by “hearing”, by “seeing”, and by Realization learn the lesson of tolerance. The display of many books in this essential gathering demonstrates the traditional range of divergent views that may, each in their moment, seem to you (or to anyone) to be necessary, sufficient, and even absolute. Individuals and cultures all stand and change within a single but progressively developing range of characteristic possibilities (or “seven stages of life”). The ideas or persuasions of any individual or culture are a direct expression of the stage of life (or Realization) that is, to that moment (or in that moment), Realized. Therefore, understand. Understand yourself, understand all others, and, by your speech and activity, promote the culture of tolerance (which understands and allows all temporary views and calls everyone to self-study and constant growth and outgrowing, until the conditional self and the conditional worlds are Outshined in their Source).
Through The Basket Of Tolerance, Heart- Master Da Love-Ananda is providing a means for humanity to realize its common inheritance. And through the study of the Great Tradition, any student may be informed and inspired in the ultimate ordeal of truly human growth, Spiritual practice, and Transcendental Realization.
“Hearing” and “seeing” are technical terms used in the Way of the Heart. In The Dawn Horse Testament Heart-Master Da Love-Ananda has described them as follows:
“True ‘Hearing’ Involves Sensitivity To the conditional self, To The Point Of The Utter Conviction That the conditional self (or the conventional “I”) Is Contraction, and This To The Degree That It Is Obvious That No self-Manipulation Can Bring An End To self-Contraction. True Hearing Is Awakened When All Such Efforts Cease, and The Heart Naturally Opens Beyond self-Contraction Into The Effortless Disposition Of Love.”
“Seeing Is Spontaneous (or Heart-Moved) Devotional Sacrifice Of the self-Contraction. Seeing Is The self- Transcending Reorientation Of conditional Existence To The Transcendental and Divine Spiritual Condition In Whom conditional self and conditional worlds arise and Always Already Inhere.”