One of the earliest 'philosophical" ideas came when I was no more than 8 or 9 years old. It occurred to me that just because I and my friend both called the same color crayon "red", did not mean that we both "saw" the same color. His view of red might be what I see as green, just as his perception of green might be what I perceive as red. But we both use the same color "names", so we assume we both see the same color. And more perplexing still, we will never know the answer, as we can not "see" for each other. No outside person can tell us, as they too live in a world of their own color perception.
This is much like it is on the "search". We all "seek" in a way that works for us. If we try to follow a "path", it must be our own. We would be unwise to ignore the paths that have gone before, but we must not try to imitate or "re-live" lives past.
As a Christian seeking monastic formation, one follows rules. First rules of the Church, then rules of an order, and immediately, the rules and instructions of your superior. These include instructions from what to clean to how to contemplate. Some are good and some are bad, but the institution requires they be followed.
The "belief" system also requires following dogma. How to pray, how to "envision" the Trinity, how to think of heaven and hell, and all the rest of it. This is where I broke down. I reached a point where I no longer believed in the part of the Creed that calls Christ "Our only mediator and advocate." I saw infinite possibilities. It was here I found Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Advaita.
One of the things I have felt called to do is try to break the fear that causes seekers not to go on beyond the confines of what they know, or feel they should. Christians fear Hell if they fail to see Jesus as "Lord". Fundamentalists feel they must find some approval in the words of the Bible. They will go to the extreme of doubting
I find "fundamentalists" in Advaita as well. Not just the "Neo-Advaitins", but many who follow a "stricter", more traditional path.
I recently used a word in a blog that is not the usual word used for describing the indescribable. I was told "the 'realized' use a different word as a reference." This is a way of appealing to authority. This reference to the "realized" is no different than referring to The Roman Catholic Church's Magisterium, or referencing the Bible itself. It is fine to read and learn, and the Masters from Buddha, Christ, Sankara, to Ramana and Nisargadatta, have much to teach, and it is do as I do, not just follow words. All the above, from Buddha to Nisargadatta, were different. Different from society, and different from each other. They all had a slightly different message, resulting in the same Awareness.
Each Master, each one of us, has an ongoing "connection" to the ultimate reality. Most of us have a "hallway" full of "junk" in our spiritual house that blocks the view, but it's there. Only we can clean our hallway. It's our junk. Sometimes someone comes along to "help" in the cleaning. Not in the cleaning itself, but in the "organization" of the effort. Some will find Christ is the one to sort out the situation. Others will not like his methods, and turn to Buddha, or Ramana. The sheep know the shepherd, and the shepherd knows the sheep. The important point here is that each "realized" being interprets the message differently. Each has his references, and his body/mind's conditioning, so different words will be used, different concepts employed. So we must be very careful in quoting "the realized", just as we should things from the Bible, or any text.
But really, the important thing is openness. If we restrict our "path" to awareness only to those things, ideas, experiences, and practices recommended by others, we may miss our "salvation".
There is a story I heard long ago, about a man who was sure he could trust God. He know that God would create a miracle, if only he needed one. One day, while crossing a high bridge over a bay, the man fell in. The water was swift, and the man was immediately in trouble. The man went into deep prayer, "only God can save me now", he thought.
Just then, he was spotted by a ship passing by. But he was lost in prayer and deep meditation, and the ship could not reach him without his cooperation.
An airplane spotted him next, and tried to contact him, but by this time, he was lost in prayer and beseeching, and he heard nothing. Next a helicopter flew over, and even let down a net, but even though he saw it this time, he was going to leave it to "trust" in the lord to save him. He drowned.
Upon arriving in Heaven, and being introduced to God, the man asked God why he had not saved him. God scratched his head, and said, "I don't know what happened, didn't you see the ship, plane and helicopter I sent?
We don't want to miss something because someone, no matter who, disagrees. We all "arrive" at Awareness in a unique way. Christ in his, Ramana in his. "Yours" too, will be unique.
This is where trust, and what Nisargadatta calls absolute fearlessness, come into play. Being bound by the restraints of a church doctrine, a Bible or the writings of the Masters will not let us find Awareness in our "selves". While the writings and words of the Masters are our guides, we may be given a different path, and their words may be stumbling blocks in it's way.
To step beyond the teaching, beyond the gate of fear and the comfortable, allows you to be the teaching.