Rabbi Rami: Should I Prostrate Myself to My Teacher

Rabbi Rami: Should I Prostrate Myself to My Teacher

Question: My teacher insists we prostrate ourselves to the Father and to him. As a woman, I am all too aware of how women have been made to prostrate themselves to male gods and their male hierarchies, and I find myself resisting this practice. Am I missing something?

Rabbi Rami: Let me be clear: The God I grew up with was made in my image (Genesis 1:26), was obsessed with my genitals (Genesis 17; Leviticus 21:20, 22:24; Deuteronomy 23:1), and privileged a hierarchy reflecting my likeness. That said, I am drawn to prostration practice, though I prostrate myself to the Mother rather than the Father. Stretched out on the ground, my body given to Mother Earth, my mind offered to Mother Wisdom, I feel like a cat curled up in a beloved’s lap, purring my mantra softly until surrendered at last to the infinite emptiness/fullness of Her. While I support your resistance to male gods and their male hierarchies, it may be that your teacher is the problem rather than this practice.

I will be dead before year’s end. What I want to know is this: Will I survive my dying?

When I pose the question to myself, my answer is simple: “I hope not.” The “I” I take myself to be is defined by gender, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, weight, an irrational dislike for rum raisin ice cream, and a deep attachment to my Goldendoodle, Murphy. The afterlife survival of this “I” is my definition of Hell. This “I” is a temporary manifesting of an infinite, nondual, and undefinable I’ing I call God (Ehyeh in the Bible, Exodus 3:14). While every “I” dies, I’ing itself is birthless and deathless. While every “I” has a name, I’ing is nameless. You’re not only the dying “I” but this eternal I’ing as well. If you can, seek out someone who can help you know the I’ing and release the “I.” May your dying be gentle.

I’m new to Spirituality & Health magazine but it strikes me as odd that any magazine would hire a “spiritual advice” columnist. You’re like the Dear Abby of the spiritual world. What gives you the right to meddle in my faith?

First, thanks for reading the magazine; I hope you become a subscriber. Second, thanks for comparing me to Dear Abby: I’m honored. Third, while I have no right to answer readers’ questions, I have been granted the privilege of doing so by the good people at Spirituality & Health magazine. I wonder if your upset over my sharing opinions suggests you might be harboring more doubt about your faith than you or it allows. Read my column because it is thought-provoking. Or if “thought-provoking” is a problem for you, don’t read it at all. But still subscribe to the magazine and benefit from what else it has to offer.

Our daughter has left our religion for a spiritual search of her own. Her father and I are horrified. Now she wants us to support her decision, and she is furious with us that we have yet to do so. Should we support her or should we stick to our beliefs?

You should do both: Honor her quest for truth, and rest secure in your own. Unless your faith requires you to cut all ties with those who believe differently than you do (in which case you are trapped in a cult rather than a religion), you can invite your daughter to share her journey with you by being genuinely curious regarding it. Don’t judge her journey, honor it by asking serious questions regarding it. Let her discover that while you have no intention of changing your beliefs, you can be a safe sounding board against which she can “test” her own.

My life is defined by spiritual practice and the uplift practice provides, and I’m always taking on new teachers. I find, however, that my spiritual awakening separates me from friends and family. I find myself judging them and fearing they are judging me. Is this just how life is for us spiritual types?

That’s not how it is for me. Spirituality doesn’t lift me up, it breaks me down, tears me apart, and leaves me shattered in the greater paradox of a Reality that is both awe-filled and awful. Though I do judge myself and others according to the way we treat one another, I don’t judge another’s degree of spiritual attainment. I suspect that’s because I don’t see spiritual practice attaining anything. I practice because I enjoy practicing; I don’t ask or expect anything from it. As far as practice separating you from others, I’m surprised and saddened to hear this. Your practice should widen your circle of compassionate connection, not shrink it. What you are calling spiritual awakening may in fact be ego inflation. You might be better helped by a good therapist than by yet another spiritual teacher.

The Bible says that God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). Yet there are stories of people changing God’s mind (like Abraham at Sodom, Genesis 18:23-32). So which is it? Is God changeless, or does God learn from humans and change accordingly?

God doesn’t change; God is change. And God learns from humans because humans are part of God. Think of God as an ant, and of human beings (all of nature, really) as the ant’s antennae. The ant changes and adapts based on the information fed to it by its antennae, but it is never other than an ant. God (Reality) changes based on information fed to it by its antennae (Nature), but it is never other than God. Metaphors aside, ants too are part of God, so be careful where you step. S&H

One For the Road

I’m a Hindu but my parents sent me to a Catholic school. We have many idols in our home, but I was taught that idolatry is forbidden. In a pique of rage, I smashed my mother’s favorite statue of Ganesha. I bought her another, and she forgave me. But I’m not sure about Lord Ganesha whose image I smashed, or about God who applauds my smashing of idols. Which God should I fear most? 

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