By way of contrast, “Try not to be an arsehole” seems to me to be a clear and worthwhile aim, and spiritual in nature. It’s easy to understand and of practical value in daily life. It might not sound that inspiring or enlightened, but it’s direct and explanatory, and seems to appeal to and embody some of the best aspects of our character and relations with others. Our guru, however, would never get away with it.
We cannot replace ideas with imagery, no matter how pretty and inspiring. Loftiness, in and of itself, does not seem to have bothered That Guy in the Bible very much, for instance. Whether he was our Lord and Savior or the Son of God I don’t know, but enough independent record exists to be able to assert that Jesus of Nazareth was a real and important historical figure. He was certainly a profound and in many ways revolutionary thinker, and many of the biblical quotes attributed to him and other disciples have become spiritual and humanist axioms. “Do unto others and you would have them do unto you,” “Seek and you shall find,” “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone,” are all simple and clear exhortations. It is not necessary for me to believe in God to acknowledge their worth or their nobility. More pertinently, I understand them. None are remotely vague or difficult to understand, even taking into account all the thee’s and thou’s. There is no wildly fanciful symbolism, nonsensical mysticism, or irrelevant imagery in any of it – even the parables are succinct, direct, and instructive. I would contend that it is not a matter of faith, nor should it be, for me to assess whether any spiritual axiom has an inherent logic and sense to it. Even if I chose to not be swayed or convinced by what is espoused, as is my right, should I not at least be able to understand it? If some guru has built a comprehensive system of spiritual thought, should it not be able to explain, or at least express coherently, that philosophy in a meaningful and rational way?