PREFACE to Profound Writings, East & West
For many years it has been the desire of the members of the TAT Foundation to compile a book that brings into focus the great esoteric and philosophic writings of history, and of the peescnt day. We have learned, from feed-back from our books, lectures and Chautauquas, that most sincere searchers never hear of some of these valuable works until after decades of active enquiry. And even after they have heard of the titles, they often find them difficult to obtain, because books are published and advertised proportionately to the demand for them.
The demand for esoteric books may always be far below the demand for others, and among esotericists there are many disciplines and philosophies which ignore all that are not related to their own disposition or level. To find the gems of great thinking, a person may have to read scholarly works that comprise three or four hundred pages.
For instance, Evans-Wentz compiled a book called Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. In its 360 pages we find mostly instructions about right living, about yogic history and attainable powers. Yet there are pages which catch the eye and mind because of their truths. Thus, the value of taking excerpts, by which the reader may be inspired to read the whole book, or at least to amplify his desire to search further.
Another example is the Bhagavad Gita, excerpted in this book, which is itself an excerpt from the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic given in an historical style. Philosophically, it is a dissertation on action versus non-action. Esoterically, it is an instruction on "ego" as opposed to strong efforts on behalf of others, or along lines of previously accepted spiritual dedication.
We cannot claim to have reviewed all books of wisdom. There are many in which we will find, perhaps, a single quotation that lights a candle in the mind, and each solitary candle advances hope, or self-assurance that real definition of the mysteries of life is possible.
In this book we have tried to strike a balance between the wisdom of the East India, Tibet and China and the harder to find, but no less profound, enlightened thought of the West. For our eastern selections, the problem was less one of locating writings which point to the Great Self, than of selecting a few from the multitude in that tradition.
Ramana Maharshi, the serene Indian sage of our own century, was an obvious choice, for his compassionate instruction directed to disciples struggling with the demands of modern life.
The Book of the Golden Precepts was collected by Madam Helena Blavatsky, the 19th-century founder of Theosophy, from Tibetan Buddhist and pre-Buddhist sources. She has done the "selection" for us, creating a condensed guide to the deepest teachings of mankind.
There is no more direct language describing the relation between the self and the Self about man's relation to the Absolute Reality than that of the Upanishads of India. The few pages included here can be your starting point for hours of meditation.
From the source of the Ch'an (Zen) tradition comes the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch of Chinese Buddhism. Less explicit in his metaphysics than the earlier Indian and Tibetan authors, Hui-neng, the illiterate peasant who preserved the Buddha's teaching in the 7th century A.D., laid out a psychological approach to sudden enlightenment as "direct seeing of one's own original nature."
When we look to the West, the problem is not an over-abundance of mystical works; here, it has always been necessary to "read between the lines" to identify the philosophers, saints and poets who achieved and sought to express Hui-neng's "direct seeing" of Reality. This makes it appropriate to include two westerners who do not represent any particular religion or movement, but who have created their own, unique modes of expression to explain the inexplicable Mystery.
The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson, is one of the greatest accounts ever written about man's contact with the transcendent. It does not teach or engage in religious or philosophic argument. It describes the hell that precedes realization, and Thompson's intense emotional description becomes both teacher and revelation. He confers a relentless definition of the Real Self of man.
Richard Rose, born in 1917 in West Virginia, launched himself into a spiritual odyssey in his youth. After studying the world's religions, and examining innumerable cults, all of which he found lacking, he underwent a spontaneous enlightenment experience at the age of 30, which he attempted to explain in The Three Books of the Absolute.
This long poem, which Rose has said was written "automatically," moves in a relentless, almost frightening cadence, as it describes the gradual dissolution of the ego, and the pain of loss which precedes the experience of or transformation into Ultimate Reality.
Rose's mystical elegy to the transience of earthly man was originally published in The Albigen Papers, his thoroughly practical guide to the spiritual search. The flavor of his skeptical, psychological approach can be seen in his Lecture of Questions where, by an accumulation of conundrums, he takes the reader (or listener) to the limits of conceptual thinking, and points to the Thoughtless Answer beyond.
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