Turning point of my life? A Buddhist path dilemma

Hello everybody.

I have been mulling over this subject for months now and I feel that I need to do it and talk about it now.
Please note that my mother language is not English hence my choice of words may not be as precise and exact as needed to convey my points clealy. I will try nonetheless.

First off, I think a bit background about me is due:
I am a single man from Iran in my late thirties. I am an ex-muslim which does not believe in a single religion but I cannot deny them either, be it abrahamic or Indian or Iranian. I have been searching for a religion on and off ever since I left Islam years ago. Also whether important or now, I was diagnosed with anxiety and mild depression in the past.

Secondly, a bit about how I got to know Buddhism:
I have been meditating mindfulness for about a year now and I got to know Buddhism via Persian translated books years ago, but it did not become a serious subject until about two years ago during a joblessness experience that I had. As I am from Iran, I do not have access to Buddhist monks and temples as guidance and all that I have learned comes from mediocre translated Persian books which are mainly compositions containing references to various canonical sources rather than a coherent text . I do have a book though that is titled Awakening of Faith in Mahayana which is the only coherent and canonical textbook that I have.
As I explored Buddhism further, I also started to become more intimate and involved with classical Persian poems that I had only become barely familiar with during the school years. It increasingly occured (and still does) to me as I explore it further, that there is a lot of similarity in some fundamental themes between Buddhism (particularly Mahayana) and Sufism. That led me to see and understand some themes and concepts of Buddhism through the eyes of Iranian thought tradition, although there are differences too which seems to me not to be in principles, rather in cultural backgrounds and manifestations.
Part of this process seems involuntary , perhaps even all of it. I mean, well I am from Iran, and from a traditional family background and the mystic Sufist tradition attracts me. But maybe it is partly voluntary? This becomes a bit clearer in the following lines.

Main theme:
Now, with that brief background in mind, let me try to explain what has happened to me, particularly in the last few months.

As I continued my practice of mindfulness and made it a bit deeper and focused on some occasions, and as I delved deeper (still not deep enough!) into Sufism literature and into Buddhist idea of co-dependent origination, my understanding and perception of my surroundings and my mind became all in all, let’s say, unusual. At times it takes an extreme turn, when I seem like a mesmerized person because of heavy mindfulness. I see all these streams of thought and feeling occuring every moment and there’s nothing stopping them. It is just like wind blowing through plants and those plants reacting involuntarily by moving (or dancing) back and forth. On rare moments I feel locked up and unable to act (react) particularly when I am alone and mindful, because, I notice that almost everything that I do is just a mere reaction to external forces, whether apprent or hidden. Even the idea of marriage (an old dillema of mine) has become alot more challenging. I grapple with it everyday, every hour.
It feels scary honestly, with all such metaphors from both Sufism and Buddhism: like a feather in the wind (part of a poem by Rumi), like notes of music falling and rising (a Buddhist metaphor that I read in a book, apparenly attributed to Buddaghosa) etc. Sometimes it results in a contradictory state when I lose my mind and go mad, even as much as to disregard my beloved parents. Put simply, on those occasions I do not seem to know who I am anymore.
I feel sometimes that there is no way out of this deadend except for taking the plunge and leaving everything and everyone behind, and find a template in India for instance, when I can be guided and not wander around. But I can’t do this, not now anyways. But what do I do now that I have reached this state and experience?With Buddhism being banned in Iran and difficult to understand, another way would be to understand our tradition better, wherein all we have all these great poets and mystics who - despite their poems full of monk-like themes- somehow, kinda strange to me at this stage, could live apprently normally among people, even with families. This has become a serious diellema for me. One solution for me is to take my tradition route. I know that the oneness idea was a major factor in tradition of Sufism, thereby they held this idea of an omnipresent thing which is apparently in one aspect a kind of god, but it goes by the name of The Love in our literature which sounds very much like Buddha-nature of Zen or Atman of Upanishads. By taking this kind of idea, it becomes kinda easier for me to live among people (not equal to socializing though). This path seems in practice very much like the Loving-kindness principle that I have read about in Buddhism. Our tradition also has similarities with the 8fold path, with lots of advice on right speech and action and life among others. Though it is not as systematic and scholastic as classical Buddhism. Being intertwined with poems, it has a more free flowing style.

I don’t know. It seems to me that despite sounding very much like the ultimate truth, going down this Buddhism route further without a master or teacher, and disregarding our tradition, is highly likely to yield a negative and contradictory result, opposite of Buddhism ideals.

I am not sure what to do. Should I visit a therapist? Should I just do light mindfulness practice and stop going deep into Buddhist philosophy on my own? Should I disregard it all and live like “illusioned” people? Should I take the plunge and visit a trustworthy monk? Should I stick with exploring Persian Sufist tradition (with its affinity to Buddhism)?

I know it is a bit unreasonable to ask given a shallow understanding of my situation, but hopefully there will be replies that can at least partly shed light on my path.

  • With mehr (or Mithra, Persian word for Metta with same root) :slight_smile:

It’s hard to gauge your practice like this. I certainly recommend face-to-face with a teacher. It’s not that hard to travel abroad for a week or 2 and visit forest monastics for advice.

I wonder if the following matches your experiences, read from this paragraph onwards:

The fact of the matter is that there is a place in your mind which is absolutely and completely inviolable. Which cannot be hurt by any factor of experience whatsoever, no matter how traumatic it would be to the other places in your mind

It’s not nibbāna, don’t worry, the author is wrong on that, but it’s contains experiences which doesn’t construct an ego. I wonder if this is what you are talking about when you say you don’t know who you are anymore.

Anyway, this forum has a thing about not talking about personal practise. So just in case your topic gets taken down, you can pm me to discuss further.

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The first thought that comes to mind after reading this is, “slow down!”

It is wonderful that you are exploring the dhamma and finding connections between dhamma and your local faith or tradition, but I’d hesitate to ascribe any special meaning to your meditative experiences. Better to just let them be and not invest any special passion in whatever meaning your mind conjures?

As far as my limited mind understands, generally speaking you are making progress when your mind becomes more calm, clear, peaceful and sober. The experience you describe seems to me one of agitation and confusion rather than calm clarity? You describe it as inspiring fear and anxiety, not peace and soberness and that seems concerning.

Switching religions late in life and in cultural milieu you find yourself in might be quite difficult? Further, Buddhists generally do not proselytize and are not looking to convert anyone. Is there any pressing reason why you feel you need to make a decision about this? Would it be possible to just continue studying slowly slowly?

From what I can tell, the way you’d actually know you’re “Buddhist” is by personally taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha and looking to no other higher person/medicine/community when seeking refuge. Do you find yourself doing this?

Anyway, I’m just generally trying to parrot the advice my teacher has given me in the past and the advice I’ve seen them give others. Usually they tell me “slowly, slowly, slowly, but don’t give up” just about every time I come to them with a pressing problem about my relation to dhamma :slight_smile: :pray:

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I can only share something from my own experience: Having too many things in one’s mind at the same time is not healthy. In fact I believe it has the potential to lead to dangerous consequences.

I can only offer you the humble advice to not ponder many things at the same time. Focus, decide, take one step at a time. If you invest your time in this way, you will at the end have made better use of it.

Descartes has a famous simile concerning this. If a man is lost in a jungle, and he can’t make up his mind on where to go, he will walk in a circle and be totally lost. If however, he follows one path and decides not to divert, he will eventually get out of the jungle. If he does not like the village where he now is, he can still travel on.

Considering what @yeshe.tenley said, I can only second this. The nature of the refuge we are taking in the Dhamma is that we find what we understand of it convincing and decide to follow this way. It seems to me that the central points of the Dhamma are clear, even with all the different lineages. If you bring in to many foreign elements, it loses it’s character of a refuge, and you are only back in the jungle.

So yes, slow down ! Lunky

Edit: I cannot judge the way of the conditions of life in Iran. But from what I know, have you considered that following Sufi would probably be an advantage because that is somehow more in line with the general belief of your people and leaders?

Hi,

I think you should be OK, because you seem to understand your experience and have articulated it well.

However, if you can access a good therapist, probably you should, and continue with that care as a good support. There is nothing wrong with going to a therapist and you don’t need a dramatic reason to do so.

I wouldn’t place any time limits on therapy. You may be surprised to find what a good one can help you discover or be more comfortable about recognizing and expressing. Additionally, a therapist should be able to discuss with you the option of, and refer (if not maybe your doctor has to become involved) you for, a psychiatric evaluation to make sure that there’s nothing physiological going on that may have been missed. If you decide that you need further supports that psychiatric care can provide, your therapist should be able to protectively lead you through all that, because it is a completely different regime.

I don’t think you should do anything to endanger yourself in terms of the laws there. From the outside it seems things have gotten quite severe.

There’s a Muslim Upanisad, Allopanishad. I have never read it and don’t know much about it, except that it exists.

There’s stuff written about the connections between Indian and Muslim thought, as well as how important Muslim texts were in transmitting Indian though to the West.

Maybe you can sign up to jstor for a free account and read something like this to pursue your interests in comparative studies?

Searching for the Hidden “One”: Muslim and Early European Interpretations of the Indian Upaniṣads. Franz Winter. Numen, Vol. 65, No. 1 (2018), pp. 28-61 (34 pages)

https://www.jstor.org/stable/26566243

Probably certain things in Mahayana are a better connection to Muslim thought. Or thereabouts, such as, even the Tang poets. I have a friend who “goes to church in his garage,” so we have no sense here in the need to follow institutionalized religion, mostly have no desire for it, and are free to do what we want. We would like this choice to be available to everyone in the world, so I wish you the best of luck.

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You are correct about the calmness benefit of meditation and I still do experience it during sitting meditation. But after that, particularly while socializing , being mindful becomes very difficult at times because I have to somehow live and still “see” the stream of consciousness. It’s kinda like two persons in one body if that makes sense. One is reacting to the stimulus of the six senses while the other one is watching the former. Now the question arises, who is this latter one? Is it just another stream of consciousness? Is it just as made-up and unreal as the former? But that is probably a separate topic.

That said, I’m not sure if this total peace is an ultimate goal or part of the process? Again, with reference to our classical Sufi poems, it seems that it has to be a very difficult path to the ultimate truth and peace. Though I should not be making it as though I am on the right path because of difficulties.

No, that’s the unfortunate part probably. That I do not still have faith in almost anything, which is a prerequisite to a straight and confident walk on a path which would prevent faltering and wandering.

And yes, I definitely need to be patient and not rush it, I should try anyhow even if tough.

I am not against it. Let’s see how things develop and unfold. And I skimmed over that blog, it was interesting and yes similar to those moments of experience.

@ Meggers
Yes in fact I have been mulling over visiting a therapist but I worry I wouldn’t be understood and my experience might be called a medical condition when in fact it does not sound like that.

About the Muslin and Sufi connections, yes, in fact I already have a book by a Persian author about comparative study of Sufism and Buddhism which goes over the similarities and differences. I do have a summary book of the Upanishads as well but I have barely read it. I also have a Mahayana text titled Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana which I am in the process of reading. It does indeed sound similar to Sufi thought from what I can tell, but then I need to study Sufism more. (So far I know that Sufism is an curious blend of Pre-Islamic Iranian religions and Indian religions, plus Islam)
As a sidenote, this might be interesting to you : Ibrahim ibn Adham - Wikipedia
As well as this:
Merv - Wikipedia

Merv was a major city of Buddhist learning, with Buddhist monastery temples for many centuries until its Islamisation.[22][23] At the site of Gyaur Kala and Baýramaly, Buddhism was followed and practised often at the local Buddhist stupas.[24]

Those are just some hints as to why I am trying to see and understand Buddhism from the perspective of our tradition first and foremost , and one reason for my dilemma.

@ Malunkyaputta
You are totally right. That is a problem. I seem to be lost amid all these seemingly similar traditions and religions and it is rather difficult to find one’s way around without a proper teacher or guidance. Though I have already embarked upon finding knowledgeable people and resources in Iran as far as Sufism goes (mind you, even Sufism, in its traditional form, is not recognized formally by the government as a sect).

All in all, I have read all these kind replies of you all and I am going to ponder them again. I am grateful for that. Really. Thank you. :slight_smile:
I hope I can find my way one day (assuming there is no fate).

Merv looks like a very interesting place.

I read that the Tocharians who lived in oases around the Tarim Basin and had a Buddhist culture were likely Persian. Finding frescos portraying blue eyed red haired people was a shocker, and their art contains striking motifs familiar to Europeans, such as fleur de lys. So they are an enigma. But apparently someone analyzed the motifs to be Persian. Could be Mede too I suppose.

Likely your hunting will take you to follow “the old Silk Road.”

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I recommend you read the favour of liberation by Burgs: Shop Books, Music, Guided Meditations & More | The Art of Meditation

wow, available for free here: Flavour of Liberation Volume One — Advanced Vipassana

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I liked this post, and felt it could also be a good answer to my situation. So there it is.

Do you undertake something like the Ten Commandments or the Five Precepts or is there something similar in your tradition? Pure ethical conduct is the beginning - it can be practiced quite objectively and the suttas state one accomplished with it experiences freedom from regret and blameless happiness!
If there is no blameless happiness, one can investigate what is the cause, is there a regret, is there guilt? - there is confession and commitment to restrain in future in this case. Then there are suttas which teach what is blameless and what is not.

An10.2

Mendicants, an ethical person, who has fulfilled ethical conduct, need not make a wish: ‘May I have no regrets!’
It’s only natural that an ethical person has no regrets.
When you have no regrets you need not make a wish: ‘May I feel joy!’
It’s only natural that joy springs up when you have no regrets.
When you feel joy you need not make a wish: ‘May I experience rapture!’
It’s only natural that rapture arises when you’re joyful.
When your mind is full of rapture you need not make a wish: ‘May my body become tranquil!’

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eonian life?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good?
there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said,
Thou shalt do no murder,
Thou shalt not commit adultery,
Thou shalt not steal,
Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Honour thy father and thy mother: and,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Matthew 19:16

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You can combine. I say because I’ve done it, and btw; Sufism has great wisdom/poetry teachings.

If it leads to Love, how can it be wrong?

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wrong view that attaining Jhāna, meeting brahma is ultimate love, thus ultimate liberation from all suffering, leads to wrong liberation, not liberated, thinking one is liberated.

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Thank you, Brother Mehrdad. It seems that we have the same religious background. Wish that we always find peace within.

Mettacittena

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It is important to think of Buddhist practice as the whole eightfold path, not just mindfulness and especially not just trying to see the stream of consciousness.
When you are out with people have some basic situational awareness (What am I doing? Why am I doing it? How am I doing it?). This is the kind of mindfulness required to make sure that you are keeping the 5 precepts, practicing right-speech and coming from a place of right-intention. This is the kind of mindfulness which is required outside of meditation.

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Maybe, and if so, what does it mean to me?

Everybody is talking about the exit-point according to their personal style, and few agree about this, So I think one have to lift ones neck out of the sand and just stick it out. Scripture can’t save you, and to get to the best teachers, your wallet need to be one of a King.

A steady stream of monks picking up the robe meets the steady stream of monks disrobing

Meanwhile the fight goes on in the streets

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As a matter of fact, we do have ethical guidelines, both in tradition and in religion precepts.
For instance, in Zoroastrianism:

Same for Islam.

However, I admit that I do not undertake all of those all the time (particularly right speech), hence regrets and guilt feeling. Though, since practicing mindfulness, my understanding of emotions have become clearer hence quite a bit more self-control though still a long way to go.

The thing is, I need to understand whether undertaking those ethical guidelines such as the 5 precepts are realized after practicing mindfulness, though according to you it’s the initial stage (As I have too read in the description of the noble path). My experience, notwithstanding those problems mentioned before, has been that I could “manage” “my” emotions better after kind of realizing they are not mine.

I read in a Buddhist textbook (written by Schumann), that even though reaching for Brahma or ultimate love (as a concept) would not equal liberation, still it makes one closer to it in next life.

Don’t waste time on wrong goal. Jhānas are just a stepping stone.

Strive for at least stream winner to get security.

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Banthe you are a “man of iron”, positively speaking :slightly_smiling_face:

All of it applies. Behavioural and cognitive aspects support each other.

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