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I’ve been reading Ram Dass’ book Be Here Now and came across this section where he recommends a daily exercise in study:
Working with one of the books containing the words of a realized being (e.g., the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, the words of Jesus in the Gospels, Sayings of Ramana Maharshi or Ramakrishna, the I Ching, etc.), take one passage -- perhaps a phrase -- certainly no more than a page. Read and re-read and re-re-read it. Then let your thoughts work around it. Paraphrase it. See how it applies to others and to yourself. Note if and how it differs from the way in which you usually think about things . . . different assumptions, etc. What are its implications regarding your own journey? Read it again. What laws of nature is it reflecting? Then, sitting quietly, let your mind associate to the passage. And then be quiet. Certainly a half hour a day is not too long to spend on this exercise.
He was talking about how to study the writings of others, and which others. It was interesting, he split the general mass of writers up into these four categories,
Realized or enlightened beings. For the most part they have written very little; often their words (e.g., Gospels) have been recorded by disciples.
Spiritual seekers who are very much on the path and are sharing their insights, methods, etc.
Pandits, intellectuals, scientists who evolve highly intellectually sophisticated subtle models and explanations of the mystical experience. (The veil for many of these writers is still heavy, though often they have had some mystical experience of their own on which to anchor their writings.)
Professional writers who write objective, superficial, and quite external accounts of mysticism. They seek the "facts."
It occurred to me that this could also be applied to writers in Buddhism. Worth thinking about, anyway, as an alternative to the way we usually approach books.