The Purpose of a Lineage

My own lineage is reflected in the name Ram Dass, which means “servant of God.” It’s a path of devotion to God/Guru, and the expression of that devotion is through service to all beings. Mother Teresa reflected this lineage when she spoke of serving the lepers in the streets of Calcutta as serving “Christ in all his distressing disguises.”

Ultimately each person finds his or her own lineage or route through. And when you reach the stage of asking, “God, know me,” or “Let me be enlightened,” or “I want Nirvana,” or however you’ve said it, at that moment you call forth your spiritual guide or Guru, whom you may not know and may never know until the moment of your enlightenment. That may be Christ, it may be any one of a number of beings, not necessarily on the physical plane. In fact, for most of us, our real Guru, or Sat Guru, is not on the physical plane. Our Guru will guide us, to the extent that we are asking purely, through one teaching after another. Some of those teachings will be in the form of teachers or situations or experiences. And when we trust that we are in a relationship to our Guru, we will constantly learn how to ask our Guru inside, and listen, and tune to the awareness of the presence of our guide, and allow our Guru to guide us, and we will begin to see how each situation is being presented by our Guru to bring us home.

Our Guru or guide represents a unique and specific lineage. Christ represents a lineage. Padmasambhava represents a lineage. Mohammed represents a lineage. Abraham represents a lineage. Maharaj-ji represents a lineage. Not all lineages are necessarily identified with any specific religion. Many of the highest beings have incarnated across time and across religions. Others have come down as a lineage within a religious tradition like a line of tulkus in Tibetan Buddhism, or a line of gurus within Hinduism, rabbis within Judaism, monastic lines within Christianity. Just as Luke is different from John, is different from Paul, is different from Peter, so Milarepa is different from Tilopa. Yellow Cloud is different from Cochise in the Native American tradition. The different Tzaddiks in the mystic tradition of Judaism each represent different lineages. We may ultimately make it through on a specific lineage. We may not have a guide in form, we might be advait, meaning nondualistic, the formless, which would attract us to perhaps Zen Buddhism or Jnana Yoga. Ultimately, we start to fall into a lineage, not because it’s the hip thing to do, not because our intellect tells us it’s interesting, not because it’s a nice community and we like the way they dress, but because that way pulls us and it’s our way through.

As we tune to that lineage, our perception shifts, and we begin to notice changes in the figure/ground relationship. We notice teachers we never noticed before; we notice people to be with we never noticed before. The whole process starts to narrow in perceptually, and we start to go directly on what the theosophists call a “ray” coming from God. Even working devotionally with the concept of God is a ray, because merging with God takes you beyond the concept of God. But to know that all ways lead to the end does not nullify the requirement that, sooner or later, we will have to make some sort of commitment or other. A process of surrender is required.

And we go through the lineage. A lineage that is pure is one that catapults us ultimately out the other end; it isn’t designed to make us followers of the lineage. It is designed to take us through itself and free us at the other end.

– Excerpt from Grist for the Mill: Awakening to Oneness by Ram Dass.

Photo by San Jose Library via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.

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