Jewish Mystic Analysis

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A Comparative look at Jewish Mystics and Buddhist Mystics

If mysticism is as Carmody suggests ‘a direct experience of ultimate reality’, how does the Jewish idea of what this is compare to that of the Buddhists? Although these two mystical traditions have a vastly different idea of what ultimate reality should look and feel like both employ the structural technique of re-telling of mystical narratives in order to inspire the devotion needed to reach a mystical state. According to Carmody and Carmody, ‘The Buddhist mystics regularly recapitulate the enlightenment of Gautama…they replay the realization of the Four Noble Truths or The Noble Eightfold Path…or Gautama’s victory under the bodhi tree” (Carmody,1996:69). Much like the Jewish mystics
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In this way, the Jewish god is able to show kindness and become like a friend to the believer. For the Jewish mystic, mystical union with ultimate reality/god is a deeply passionate and affective experience; one gets the sense of a fiery fevered desire and love.
Buddhist nature, in sharp contrast to this, maintains that the more impersonal the better. The mystic must remain detached and unaffected; he or she must see the truth of nothingness, pierce the void with the sword of prajna and experience the cool freedom of a dispassionate engagement with the transience of reality. This is the path to ‘the ultimate’.
Both Buddhist and Jewish mystics incorporate symbolism as vehicles to pursue the mystical. In fact these symbols can be a direct means for accessing the mystical state or as Carmody terms it, symbols entreat the mystic to have ‘direct experience with ultimate reality’ (Carmody &
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This call to action is a guiding motive for Jewish mystics to actively seek the nature of god. In this call we glean a sense of the fire and rapture found in the embrace of such a humanistic god, albeit with some dread for what touching god’s face might then mean for the mystic. The sharp contrast to the Buddhists search for ‘a direct experience with ultimate reality’ that of nothingness of complete freedom from desire, is nun more clear to see than right here. The Buddhist mystic seeks a cool detachment perfectly described in an oxymoron by Trungpa, ‘Seek a cool boredom’. This is the ultimate state.
But even though the notion of the ultimate, which mystic from each of these traditions are searching for is different, the way they are doing it is the same. Both are using different types of intense devotional study, re-telling significant narratives, seeking refuge in a different state of consciousness- those advocated in the Kabbalah and the eight fold path. What is sought appears different but the affects of this ‘ultimate reality’ is the same; expanded consciousness an increase of knowledge, bliss, nirvana, enlightenment and
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