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The Importance of Critical Analysis

By Dhammaccariya Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
154th day of a solo wilderness retreat
Inyo National Forest
October 4, 2005

(copyright 2005 all rights reserved)

As you may know critical analysis, discernment, discrimination, exegesis and insight are essential cognitive tools that any contemplative wanting enlightenment in this very lifetime will have to develop.  It is of course important at the same time to avoid being captious, censorious, faultfinding and hypercritical.  But just because one is engaged in a critical analysis of contemplative traditions does not mean one is hypercritical. However, if one is not discerning in one's embrace of philosophies one is likely to naively be led astray.  Thus the need to always maintain some discrimination and discernment, especially when one is a contemplative.  

Discrimination, or otherwise known as critical analysis, is indispensable on the journey to enlightenment.  On this journey of enlightenment one must learn to embrace what constitutes a skilful contemplative life verses what is not.  A skilful contemplative life leads to gnosis.  Those who have gnosis are called mystics.  Moses, Siddhartha Gotama, Patanjali, Jesus of Nazareth, Francis of Assisi, Rumi, Sañkhara, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Kabir, and Sri Ramakrishna had gnosis, therefore they can be called 'mystics.'

I was raised in a Protestant Christian faith.  On my journey to enlightenment I had to discern that the Protestant Christian faiths had for the most part rejected the contemplative life for a life of faith, thus I had to reject Protestant Christianity.  I next embraced Catholicism because I found the books written by and about Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross, etc., were brilliant examples of enlightened literature.  I had to later reject Catholicism because I did not find a living contemplative within the Catholic faith that understood the contemplative life in the way of the above mentioned mystics.

I then embraced the Yogas, because I read the books by and about Patanjali, Kabir, Sañkhara and Sri Ramakrishna, etc.  However, I had to reject the yogas and Hinduism after about 15 years of study because I did not find a living contemplative who understood the contemplative life in the way Patanjali, Kabir, Sañkhara and Sri Ramakrishna had.

Then I embraced Buddhism for about 15 years and read the Discourses of the Buddha, and found a wealth of information about the contemplative ways of the mystic that were very compatible with the books by and about Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross, Patanjali, Kabir, Sañkhara and Sri Ramakrishna, however I did not find a living person who understood the contemplative ways of the mystic within the three vehicles of Buddhism.

I am now 52 years old and I have led a rigorous contemplative life for over 30 years, which has born the fruit of gnosis.  I have given up on the idea of meeting someone within any religious institution who understands the contemplative ways of the mystics.  Instead now I teach for those who are interested in hearing, those who are not interested need not listen.

Just because the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church has some mystics in its history, does not mean that the Pope understands the contemplative ways of the mystics.  Just because the Dalai Lama is the head of Tibetan Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism has some mystics, and I am sure the Dalai Lama is a very nice guy, but that does not mean he understands the contemplative ways of the mystics. Just because Zen Buddhism has produced some mystics in its past, does not mean that Zen Buddhism today has any mystics among its recognized teachers.

Just because there are some western scientists who claim to be conducting research on meditation does not mean that they understands the contemplative ways of the mystics.



critical adj. Abbr. crit.
1. Inclined to judge severely and find fault.
2. Characterized by careful, exact evaluation and judgment: a critical reading.
3. Of, relating to, or characteristic of critics or criticism: critical acclaim; a critical analysis of Melville's writings.
4. Forming or having the nature of a turning point; crucial or decisive: a critical point in the campaign.
5.a. Of or relating to a medical crisis: an illness at the critical stage. b. Being or relating to a grave physical condition especially of a patient.
6. Indispensable; essential: a critical element of the plan; a second income that is critical to the family's well-being.
— critically adv. — criticalness n.
SYNONYMS: critical, captious, censorious, faultfinding, hypercritical. The central meaning shared by these adjectives is "tending or marked by a tendency to find and call attention to errors and flaws": a critical attitude; a captious pedant; censorious of petty failings; an excessively demanding and faultfinding tutor; hypercritical of colloquial speech.
discernment n.
1. The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.
2. Keenness of insight and judgment.
discrimination n.
1. The act of discriminating.
2. The ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment.
3. Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice: "It's necessary to eliminate all forms of sexual discrimination" (Jimmy Carter). See Usage Note at bias. — discriminational adj.
exegesis n.
Critical explanation or analysis, especially of a text. [Greek exégésis, from exégeisthai, to interpret : ex-, ex- + hégeisthai, to lead.]
insight n.
1. The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation; penetration.
2. The act or outcome of grasping the inward or hidden nature of things or of perceiving in an intuitive manner.
- American Heritage Dictionary -


I can only hope this writing has served to inspire and direct skillfully.

May you be enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)

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