Spiritual knowledge could be put into 3 “containers” in the human being:
1) The intellect: Reforming religions are in this group. It is about a philosophy behind it as “how to behave,” laws, commandments, etc are included. Their knowledge is meant to reform human beings. God is used as the source of that reformation. Examples: Christianity, Islam, Brahma Kumaris, Judaism.
Their views on “laws” are balanced with love for God. Without that love, their knowledge would be dry to digest. Notice that all of those religions have a philosophical eschatology (end of times) in their views. Even Buddhism could be considered here as pointed out by Wikipedia:
2) The heart: The above religions could also fit into the heart in a way. There is that love for God. Probably Sufism is one of the higher exponents of this love to a super natural entity called God; but the “pure” path of the heart is shown by Taoism. In Taoism, it is about Nature and that love is not related with philosophical ideas or intellectual knowledge, but by observation and relation with Nature. That on going relationship brings that love with practical knowledge based on that observation. Thus, there is no philosophy about the origin of times or the end of times, nor explanations about God. It is the path of the heart because of that union experienced with everything while relating in it.
For many, God is metaphysical experience and hard to relate to. Nature however is available for all, although, most are not sensible enough to relate with it in that love. That demonstrates that our sensibility to beauty and gratitude to life is not developed.
There may be other paths as well relating with the heart.
3) The mind: This is the path of perception and deep observation of the self. Even though there may be, a philosophical belief of end of times or beginnings; the emphasis is on the mind since the mind is the filter, the lens which will connect us to our “reality.” Without a study of the mind, our perception will be colored by beliefs only. Zen is probably the highest exponent of this path. Buddhism also has the study of the mind as a main teaching.
Therefore, we have those 3 paths. All of them bring different experiences in the self. As a matter of fact, those individuals who are balanced in those 3 aspects in whatever their religion may be, are realizing wisdom. Then that wisdom will automatically take them into the ultimate “container” of knowledge; that is our ELEVATED ACTIONS. In other words, the confluence of those 3 paths should take us into our plain activity in the world. Our actions will show our spiritual level based on having walked the path of the intellect, the heart and the mind to know ourselves.
The law of karma (cause-effect) demonstrates this, for an elevated activity brings an elevated return.
“The witness of all things,
Without action, clinging or desire.
Meditate on the Self.
One without two,
Give up the illusion
Of the separate self.
Give up the feeling,
Within or without,
That you are this or that.
Because you think you are the body,
For a long time you have been bound.
Know you are pure awareness.
With this knowledge as your sword
Cut through your chains.
And be happy!
Ashtavakra Gita – The self
“Both praise and blame cause concern,
For they bring people hope and fear.
The object of hope and fear is the self –
For, without self, to whom may fortune and disaster occur?
Who distinguishes himself from the world may be given the world,
But who regards himself as the world may accept the world.”
Tao Te Ching – Ch 13- The Self
“The purpose of studying Buddhism is not to study Buddhism but to study ourselves. It is impossible to study ourselves without some teaching. If you want to know what is water, you want science, and scientist wants laboratory, and in various ways they may study what is water. So it is possible to know what kind of element water has, or when wind comes, what kind of form water takes, and what is the nature of water, but it is impossible to know water itself. It is same thing with ourselves. It is impossible to know what is “I.” That is why we have teaching. By teaching we will understand what is ourselves. But teaching is not ourselves. It is some explanation of ourselves. So if you attach to the teaching, or to the teacher, that is big mistake. To study teaching is to know yourselves — through teaching you should know yourselves. So that is why we do not attach ever to the teaching, or to the teacher. The moment you meet a teacher you should leave the teacher, and you should be independent. So that you can be independent you want teacher. So you study yourselves. You have teacher for yourselves, not for the teacher.”
From Zen Mind: Beginner’s mind by Shunryu Suzuki- Ch 12.
“If you could rid of yourself just once,
The secret of secrets
Would open to you.
The face of the unknown,
Hidden beyond the universe
Would appear on the
Mirror of your perception.”