Someone on an electronic bulletin board I frequent coined the phrase 'electronic island,' suggesting that the website it resides upon had become in a sense the cybercounterpart of the island Rama always wanted us to be able to retire to. The phrase sparked a thought in me, a thought that has been stalking me for some time now. It is a growing appreciation of the incredible variety that is represented there at that website.
It must be a challenge for drop-in visitors to the site to figure things out. They must think, "How could all of these writers be so different? Didn't they study with the same teacher?"
Well, on one level, we are all different because we are individuals, with different personal and karmic histories, different likes and dislikes, different ways of expressing that which has touched us. But there is another reason for the incredible variety of spiritual flora and fauna found on this island, and that has to do with the teacher with whom we studied.
Rama was eclectic.
There are many different pathways to enlightenment reflected in the writings there because he presented many different pathways to us. Each of us reflects, to some extent, those pathways that created a personal resonance in us.
If Rama is the only teacher with whom you have studied, this simple fact may have escaped your attention. Not all teachers work this way.
For example, if you studied with other teachers, you might easily have been presented one and only one pathway to enlightenment, the one that which gave rise to the tradition the teacher represents. In some of them, you would be looked upon askance if you showed an unhealthy interest in other pathways, to the point of being shunned or declared apostate.
Rama was different. He took us to the Best Hotel In Town and offered us a sumptuous buffet of spiritual delights. We were free to taste any of them, to sample them and decide - for ourselves - which were our favorites.
He mind-modeled many pathways for us. He sat up there onstage and flip-flopped from Zen master to occultist, from martial artist to gyana yogi, from ecstatic pilgrim to karma yogi to (rarely) just a simple heart. They were all laid out for us in the buffet; all we had to do was reach out and sample them and see if we liked the taste.
In my memory, he never really attempted to influence our choice that much. He might have said, "Try the salmon mousse...it's very good tonight," but he never seemed the least bit disappointed when we passed it by. Then again, perhaps that was because he had seen The Meaning Of Life and knew that it didn't really matter whether we tried the salmon mousse or not.
But the bottom line is that we were lucky. We got to sit there as Rama gave us (if you'll excuse me for switching metaphors in mid-stream of consciousness) a spiritual fashion show. He tried on all these cool outfits for us. We got to mentally try them on as well, check them out in the mirror of our Selves, and see which ones looked good on us.
No wonder the viewpoints presented on the website are so varied. One of us decided he looked good in Zen. The next thought occultism was just fetching on her. Another preferred gyana. Others grooved on the way devotion or martial arts brought out their highlights. Many dressed simply in karma yoga, saving their money for others.
As a result, the variety of dress at these cyberparties is nothing less than astounding. But somehow we all wound up on this same electronic island together. And sooner or later, like it or not, we will probably all wind up at the same Enlightenment Party together, despite taking completely different paths to get there. I look forward to it. I can hardly wait to run into someone I know on the beach and say, "Like your outfit. Party on, dude."