Beyond Words

-by Alan Friedman

I count myself very lucky to have known Robert Daniel Ennis, and I credit him with putting me firmly onto the Path that I'm still following today.

Robert 'blew my mind' every week for two years. I would walk out of the weekly meetings shaking my head and drive home in stunned silence. Even inwardly silent. His sparse choice of precise words, his timing, and especially his insights were so precise, so revealing that I was simply left speechless.

Robert seemed to have all the answers, and I wanted to know them as well.

Time and again, I thought I knew what he would say, or what the 'right' response would be. Instead, his advice or suggestion would be off perpendicular in some dimension of which I'd been totally unaware.

Being with Robert wasn't always fun. He could be darned irritating, but his every action seemed just right to create the conditions for rapid growth in one's Work.

Also, Robert instinctively knew that many questions are priceless treasures for the student only so long as they remain unanswered.

I still enjoy and learn from tapes of his public talks, but I marvel at the memory of how much more potent still were the private weekly discussions about the practice of each individual student.

Robert insisted that one could do everything without thinking. "What about chess?" I once asked, "Doesn't one need to think through all the possible moves and counter moves?" But he would demonstrate by his insights and his timing that he relied on something more potent than thoughts to arrive at his speech and actions.

He was very sharp, but I don't think he relied on his intellect in these meetings. Instead, it seemed that he was very well connected to a higher source. One might say that he knew how to get out of the way and let God speak through him.

Sometimes now I feel that I briefly achieve such a state myself, and it is at those times when my words and actions seem most perfect for the moment. Not calculated, and not retrieved from some vast storehouse of rules, but simply expressed through me at that moment. Only then do I feel capable of expressing the Teaching.

I've come to realize that that is why true spiritual teaching cannot be fully expressed by words and generally cannot be fully transmitted without one's being in the presence of a Teacher.

The words were only one of the modes of communication, and they fell to irrelevance as soon as the moment was past. For example, I could tell you now with perfect accuracy that it is Wednesday, but of what use will that be when you read it?

Herein lies the difference, in my opinion, between religion and spirituality. Religion, as I've experienced it, is a snapshot, a record of written words and choreographed actions of what was once appropriate, while spirituality is a willingness, a sensitivity, an attunement, to realizing and embodying the appropriate action in each moment.

Robert first demonstrated to me, and his successors helped me to grasp, that the real source of understanding in a teaching is beyond any fixed set of words or rules but instead lies in creating and nurturing an opening such that the Teaching can express itself. Thank you, Robert.