The Art of Spiritual Reading

Roadside Musings

The Art of Spiritual Reading


After a conversation with a physician and convalescence expert, Rabbi Rami ponders the power of spiritual reading as a healing art.

In his brief book Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence, Dr. Gavin Francis includes reading as part of our journey of recovery. This is certainly true in my case.

While not everyone finds themselves convalescing from a specific illness or accident, it is my sense that all of us need to be in recovery from the existential human delusion that we are separate beings apart from the One that manifests all of reality. While there are numerous well-known healing modalities for this delusion—meditation, yoga, chi gong, and psychedelics to name but four— reading spiritual classics is one that is often overlooked.

Eknath Easwaran, one of the great spiritual teachers of the twentieth century, included reading sacred literature in his Eight Point Meditation Program, writing, “There is only one supreme reality, and there can be only one union with it. But the language, tradition, mode of expression, and cultural flavor will differ. In this lies the beauty of spiritual literature: On the one hand it reflects the fascinating diversity of life; on the other, the unchanging principles that stand behind that diversity, irrespective of time and space.”

Eknath Easwaran urges us to read the works of the great mystics and the sacred texts of many traditions. Don’t read about them—you are not looking for information but inspiration—read the books themselves. And don’t say to yourself, “How can I possibly understand these books?” Rather, remind yourself that the authors of these books wrote to be read and understood. They didn’t write for scholars or commentators. They wrote for readers like you. Read slowly, a bit at a time, and contemplate what you read. Make your reading a meditation, see what seeds are planted in your mind, and watch as a new consciousness—or rather, the timeless one—awakens within you.

Here are just some of the books I suggest you read:

  • I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman

  • Talks by Ramana Maharshi

  • Consciousness Speaks: Conversations with Ramesh Balsekar

  • The Wonder of Presence by Toni Packer

  • Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal

  • The Way of Humanity According to Chasidic Teaching by Martin Buber

  • The Gospel of Thomas: the Hidden Sayings of Jesus (Marvin Meyer’s translation)

  • The Dhammapada (Juan Mascaro’s translation)

  • Tao te Ching (David Hinton and Stephen Mitchell’s translations)

  • Bhagavad Gita (Stephen Mitchell’s translation)

  • Ecclesiastes (my own translation)

  • Ethics of the Sages (my own translation)

This is a starter list. It is not meant to be inclusive, balanced, or politically correct. It is meant to get you started on your own search for the books you need to read for the recovery you wish to make. I hope it helps.

Listen to the podcast episode that inspired this essay here.

Roadside Musings

In Roadside Musings, Rabbi Rami draws from the well of the world's religious and spiritual...
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The Art of Spiritual Reading

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