The Little Book of Big Questions: 200 Ways to Explore Your Spiritual Nature [NOOK Book]


A collection of perennial questions about the nature of God, the reason for evil, the meaning of death, the variety of spiritual experiences, and similar subjects offers a simple, effective tool for exploring all aspects of spirituality.

The popularity of anything celestial--miracles, angels, near-death experiences--is meaningful in a broad sense. Wanting to experience what is heavenly seems to be a natural craving for us all. The Little Book of Big Questions ...

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The Little Book of Big Questions: 200 Ways to Explore Your Spiritual Nature

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A collection of perennial questions about the nature of God, the reason for evil, the meaning of death, the variety of spiritual experiences, and similar subjects offers a simple, effective tool for exploring all aspects of spirituality.

The popularity of anything celestial--miracles, angels, near-death experiences--is meaningful in a broad sense. Wanting to experience what is heavenly seems to be a natural craving for us all. The Little Book of Big Questions invites readers and their families and friends to examine their beliefs about spirituality and discover how they can have deeper experiences of spirit.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609254810
  • Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
  • Publication date: 12/1/1995
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 648,521
  • File size: 2 MB

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By Jonathan Robinson

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 1995 Jonathan Robinson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-481-0


Why Ask Why, and How To Do It

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.

—James Thurber

Trying to have an intelligent and inspirational conversation about spirituality can be, well, trying. Case in point: For years, I tried to share with my dad some of my spiritual beliefs and experiences. For years, he, an avowed atheist, avoided such conversations. One day, I changed my approach. Instead of telling him about my beliefs, I simply asked him questions such as, "Have you ever had a really unusual or psychic experience?" and "What do you find to be mysterious or magical about life?" To my surprise, he had a lot to say. Soon we were fully engaged in a conversation about the wonders of the universe. In fact, after a while he was practically "preaching" to me about how life is so marvelously complex that there must be "something more than meets the eye" going on.

From this experience, I was abte to share a whole new level of intimacy with my father. In addition, I was exposed to some fascinating ideas that had never occurred to me before. I quickly became hooked on the value of asking people profound questions about life's greatest mysteries.

I later realized that the questions I was asking others could be used as a tool to delve more deeply into my own beliefs, understandings, and experiences. I believe that everyone has a storehouse of wisdom inside them that usually goes untapped. By asking ourselves profound questions, it's possible to discover or uncover our own illuminating answers. I like to think of each of the questions in this book as an opportunity for us to experience a deeper, more enlightened level of consciousness. As we contact our innate inner wisdom, we can positively affect the course of our lives. By asking our friends and family to explore these questions with us, we can experience a deeper level of intimacy and support than ever before.

The magical thing about love is the more you give it away, the more you end up having. The same could be said about spiritual questions. The more you offer these questions to friends and family, the more you get back. In the past, most of us have yearned to explore these profound topics with others but have not known how to ask such things without appearing "weird." With this book in hand, you now have a "legitimate" reason to explore these topics. With an open mind and a sincere desire to learn, you'll find that nuggets of wisdom can be found in the answers of every person with whom you explore these ideas.

In recent years, people in the West have displayed a growing hunger for spiritual wisdom and experiences. With increasing age, we see the limitations of trying to find fulfillment in the material world. We come to understand that our time on Earth is short. We feel in our hearts a thirst for greater meaning and purpose and a desire to share a higher love with our kids, our family, and our friends. Yet, the means for deepening our spiritual lives has not always been clear.

Perhaps we can learn from the great advancements in science over the past hundred years. What has allowed technology to accelerate has been the ability of scientists to share their discoveries with like-minded researchers throughout the world. In the same way, as we share our spiritual questions, beliefs, and experiences with each other, perhaps a great leap forward can take place in human consciousness. By asking and exploring the "big questions" together, we can inspire each other to discover our own answers to life's greatest mysteries.

My own spiritual path has taken many unexpected twists and turns. As an agnostic sixteen year old, I experienced a sudden glimpse of "another world." The ecstasy and bliss I felt were so intense that I wrote in my journal, "ten seconds of this experience is worth a lifetime of effort." I began my intensive spiritual search the following day.

Over the years, I've been led to various mentors, teachers, and spiritual methods. I've traveled to twenty-seven countries, lived in three different spiritual communes, and taken countless retreats in search of greater spiritual understanding. Then, in 1992, I began interviewing many of the foremost spiritual leaders in the world, figuring that the best way to learn any subject is to ask experts for their best ideas and techniques. Their answers to the questions I asked them were compiled in a book titled, Bridges to Heaven: How Well-Known Seekers Define and Deepen Their Connection with God.

Because I interviewed such people as Mother Teresa, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, and Ram Dass for the Bridges to Heaven book, I would often be asked what it was like to talk with such notable people. Typically, I would say how each of the interviews glistened with a sense of the sacred. At first, I thought this was because of the caliber of the people I was talking with. Yet, in my interview with actor LeVar Burton (of Roots and Star Trek fame), he said something that gave me another point of view. I had asked him how he goes about contacting God, and he said, "You know, no one has ever asked me a question like that before. I think simply asking a question like that, and talking about these subjects, helps us to contact our essence."

Indeed, I've found that asking anyone questions that explore our essence can be an aid for letting Spirit manifest. Encouraging people to talk about how they open their heart is a way of getting a foot in the door of the world of the sacred. What we focus on grows. We just need the right stimulus (that is, the right questions) to help guide us in a beneficial direction. The fact that you have this book in your hand means you long for something beyond the ordinary in life. I hope you'll continue to use this book with friends, with family, and with yourself to keep the spiritual spark in you glowing.

How to Use This Book

There are four ways to answer the questions in this book. The first is to simply say the first response that comes to mind. This method is especially useful for becoming aware of what you've believed in the past. A second way is to allow yourself to open up to a quieter, more intuitive place within. When doing this, it can be helpful to repeat the question several times to yourself, then sit silently and listen for the still, small voice within. When you get an "Aha!"—a sense that an answer feels "right"—you've got the answer you were looking for. You can also play a special game: Try pretending you're a great, enlightened being who knows the answers to all of life's mysteries. The answers you come up with may very well surprise you.

A final way to use this book is in a loose, informal manner with friends or family. Asking people around the dinner table or at a discussion group a question from this book can begin a process of inquiry that can go anywhere you want it to go. Conversations based on these questions can be quite fascinating and can lead to a deeper level of friendship and understanding. If you have kids, you'll find that they also love to be asked the "big questions," and their answers may very well be surprising and profound.

As you read through this book, you'll find that some questions affect you much more deeply than others. Perhaps they bring up an issue you need to focus on at this point in your life, or they excite your imagination in new ways. It may be helpful to circle such questions in order to easily access them for further contemplation. In addition, many people find writing their answers in a journal to be useful for exploring these questions in greater depth.

You'll notice that amid the many questions in this book, I occasionally provide stories from my life. These anecdotes serve as an introduction to the question that follows. My hope is they will remind you of meaningful moments in your own life and stimulate you to think of new and creative ways of approaching each question.

The questions and reflections in this book are like a launching pad, and you are the rocket ship. The fuel to blast off into the cosmos is provided by your sincerity, wisdom, and imagination. Once you've launched yourself into one of the book's questions, feel free to let the conversation or reflection meander toward related ideas and questions. You're also invited to skip the questions or chapters you don't care for, and go with the ones that most excite you. Follow your bliss. Follow your curiosity. Follow your sense of wonder. Happy journeying.


Who Are You?

Life is a lot like football-if you want to be the Quarterback, you first have to know where your Center is.

—Swami Beyondananda

Before commencing on any journey, it's good to first know where you currently are. The inquiries in this chapter include many of the most frequent "big questions" people have asked themselves throughout history. When athletes want to go to the next level of their sport, they frequently begin by mastering the fundamentals. You can consider the questions that follow as the fundamentals of spiritual exploration. The answers you come up with now will help lay a foundation for exploring ideas in more detail later on in the book.

Although these questions are of obvious importance, you may never have had an opportunity to tell someone your answers. You might be surprised to hear what you have to say on these topics. Unfortunately, in our consumer-oriented society, we're more likely to be asked, "Do you want fries with that?" than be asked, "What is the purpose of life?" You may feel resistance to tackling such big topics and personal issues, yet I'm sure you'll find it well worth your effort to persevere.

You may also find initial resistance to plunging into these topics when asking friends or family these questions. There's a tendency to want to stay with subjects we are fully accustomed to and comfortable with, rather than explore the unknown. Sometimes we even make fun of such questions, which allows us to avoid trying to answer them. However, if you display a sincere curiosity when asking others, you'll find there is a part in every person that yearns to explore these themes. That divine spark can be made to glow and catch fire if you can listen with a keen interest. In fact, asking people these important questions can be a great form of selfless service. It gives the people you care about an opportunity to reconsider the foundation on which they base their lives.

1. What matters most in your life?

2. What do you think is the meaning or purpose of life?

During my first trip to India, I went to visit a famous enlightened master known as Poonjaji. Poonjaji does not lecture. He only has one-on-one interactions with students while hundreds of people silently watch. One day he gestured for me to sit before him. After a minute of silence, he asked me a single question:

"Who are you?"

I innocently responded, "I'm Jonathan Robinson, from the United States."

Compassionately, Poonjaji said, "No, no, who are YOU?"

I didn't know what to say. Finally, I muttered, "I'm a soul."

Poonjaji shot back, "Show me soul."

Looking into his dancing eyes, I realized that soul was just an idea in my head, so I blurted out, "I'm an ego."

Once again, Poonjaji responded, "Show me ego."

I realized that ego was just another idea in my head, as were any other answers I might come up with. Sitting there, dropping all ideas of who I was and just being present with him, tears started streaming down my face. I suddenly felt as boundless as the sky.

Poonjaji gently said, "Now you know who you are."

3. Who are you?

4. What are the three most important things you've learned about life so far?

5. Do you think it pays to be a "good person," someone who is kind and fair? Why?

6. How can you know your higher destiny?

7. How happy or fulfilled are you at this time in your life?

8. What do you consider to be the difference between religion and spirituality?

9. What is your current notion of God? Would you say God to you is an indwelling spirit? A creator who is separate from us? A personal God? An impersonal energy? Who or what is God?

10. How do you differentiate guidance that comes from your ego from guidance that is divinely inspired?

When I was in college, my roommate, Tony, was the only freshman on the varsity basketball team. He was always envious of my grades, and I was always jealous of his athletic abilities. Whenever I'd come home with high grades, he'd jokingly say, "Before you start thinking you're hot stuff, let's play a garrfe of one-on-one basketball."

After several months of this, I finally said to him, "Okay, I'm ready for a game of basketball on one condition: I get to bring a six-inch gadget onto the court and place it wherever I want." Tony was perplexed by my request, but was not going to miss a chance to put me in my place.

When we got to the court, I took out a blindfold and announced that this was my "six-inch gadget." I proceeded to place it in a very strategic location—over Tony's eyes. Then I said, "Let the games begin!"

Admittedly, the game still ended up being somewhat close. The final score was 20 to 12. Despite my lack of ability, I learned that if you make enough shots in the right direction, eventually something will go in the basket. It just goes to show you that to reach a goal, innate talent is not as important as defining exactly what you're aiming for.

11. What does spiritual growth mean to you? What is the "goal" of your spiritual pursuits?

12. What is love to you? What does it mean to give love to another person?

13. What do you think would help make you even happier and more fulfilled?

14. What currently brings you a real sense of joy?

15. What do you think will happen to you after you die?

16. How much time do you devote to spiritual practice and exploration per week?

A Meditation on "Who Are You?"

Behind the various roles we play and desires we have is a part of ourselves that could best be described as "pure awareness." In the course of our lives, we are always identifying with the latest sense of what we're doing and who we think we are: I'm a person reading a book; I'm a person in a hurry; I'm a parent, and so on. This meditation is designed to help you go beyond all identifications and glimpse being the part of you that just "witnesses" life. When we become totally in the moment, free of all past or future ideas of who we are, we enter into a world where we are in the eternal present.

Sit in a comfortable chair, take a couple of deep breaths, and begin slowly and repetitively asking yourself the question: Who am I? If you prefer, you can ask the question: Who is in? Try to feel or sense how you are now, identifying with being a certain "somebody," such as someone who is trying a meditation exercise, or someone who is thinking about other things. As soon as you realize that you're caught up in a certain past or future identity, relax or let go of that sense of yourself and just be in the present moment. Soon you'll get caught up in more thoughts or a new identity. Once again, let the question, Who am I? or your sense of "me-ness" be a reminder to have you come back to the present moment and relax into pure awareness. Do this exercise for as long as you like. At first, don't be frustrated if you spend your whole time lost in thoughts. With practice, you'll get brief glimpses of pure, timeless awareness. Eventually, those moments can expand, and you'll realize that you are more than who you thought you were.


Personal Spiritual History

The past does not have to equal the future.

—Anthony Robbins

When someone goes to a psychotherapist to make changes in their life, the sessions frequently begin with an exploration of their past. By understanding the past, one can better face the present with an increased level of wisdom. In the same way, as we review our unique spiritual past, we are better able to heal our "spiritual wounds" and face the future with more understanding.

To a large extent, you and I are a product of our childhood conditioning, yet when we see something in ourselves that we don't like, it's easy to feel guilty and ashamed. Likewise, when other people do things that annoy us, our compassion and tolerance can go right out the window. Exploring childhood roots of behavior can bring about an increased level of compassion. It becomes clearer why we behave the way we do and why others behave the way they do. As we become more aware of our conditioning, it's easier to break free of our limiting judgments and beliefs.

Excerpted from THE LITTLE BOOK OF Big Questions by Jonathan Robinson. Copyright © 1995 Jonathan Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


1 Why Ask Why, and How to Do It          

2 Who Are You?          

3 Personal Spiritual History          

4 Why Do You Think ...          

5 Spiritual Teachers and Teachings          

6 Peak Experiences          

7 Methods of Awakening          

8 Miracles and Their Meanings          

9 Death and Beyond          

10 The Future of Spirit          

11 Moving Beyond the Mind          

12 Inspiration and Support          

13 Living from the Heart          

14 The Spiritual Intimacy Experience          

Questions to Live With          

Resources for Further Exploration          

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