The Practice of Breslov Chassidus - Rabbi Dovid Sears
Excerpt from The Tree That Stands Beyond Space: Rebbe Nachman on the Mystical Experience (Breslov Research Institute) :
(For the sake of this posting we have made a few editorial upgrades, changed the transliterations from Sefardic to Ashkenazic Hebrew, and eliminated source references and footnotes.)
The Practice of Breslov Chassidus
Rebbe Nachman clearly states that his teachings are intended not only for b'nei aliyah, those of the highest spiritual accomplishments, but for everyone, even if you find yourself down in the trenches battling the Evil Inclination - even if you think you lost the battle long ago. This being the case, how can the non-tzaddik or average person relate to Rebbe Nachman's lofty teachings and actually apply them to everyday life? In other words, how does Breslov Chassidus "work"?
Several attempts have been made to present the Breslov path as a formal dogma and a prescription of specific spiritual practices in order to simplify what at first glance may seem to be a highly esoteric literature. First among these attempts were Reb Yitzchak Breiter's Seder HaYom and Sheva Amudim (translated into English as: A Day in the Life of a Breslover Chassid and Seven Pillars of Faith), written in Poland before the Holocaust. More recently, Rabbi Chaim Kramer wrote Crossing the Narrow Bridge, using Rabbi Breiter's works as points of departure and expanding upon them. These important books have reached many people who otherwise might not have discovered Breslov Chassidus.
However, neither Rabbi Breiter nor Rabbi Kramer would wish to limit Rebbe Nachman's awesome and wondrous path to an inventory of beliefs and practices, however skillfully presented. With all the benefits these books afford, they remain introductory works that were never meant to eclipse the core of Rebbe Nachman's teachings, his Likutey Moharan. Studying, practicing, and learning to see the world through the teachings of Likutey Moharan is how Breslov Chassidus works.
What is Likutey Moharan?
There is no polite, diplomatic way to say it: Likutey Moharan is simply incomparable to anything else in Chassidic literature -- or, for that matter, any literature. It is neither a textbook nor a commentary, but a revelatory work. The discourses or lessons (which Breslov Chassidim call "Torahs") contain Rebbe Nachman's perceptions of the essence of reality, garbed in lower levels of wisdom and packaged in a way that will enable the worthy student to gain access to these perceptions in a manner appropriate to the student's capacity and spiritual level. Thus, each discourse is a complete path, tailor-made to every student in every moment, in a manner we cannot begin to fathom.
The main prerequisite to the study of Likutey Moharan is that the student must be willing to put aside his or her own preconceptions and believe in the truth and holiness of the path of the teacher: Rebbe Nachman.
Again, one may ask. "How?"
Rebbe Nachman passed away at the age of thirty-eight in the Ukrainian city of Uman in 1810. How can you have a teacher who is no longer living as a physical presence in the world?
In fact, this question and answer are not unique to Breslover Chassidus. The Sages of the Talmud teach us that by studying the teachings of a tzaddik, "his lips murmur in the grave." Through contemplating the works of a tzaddik -- any tzaddik -- one establishes a spiritual bond with him that transcends the limits of this world. They also observe, "The tzaddikim are even greater after death than in their physical lifetime." Similarly, the Zohar states, "The tzaddikim who have died are present in this world to a greater extent than when they were alive."
This means that though his writings it is possible for Rebbe Nachman to teach those living in the world today, just as he taught his disciples in the villages of Ukraine during his physical lifetime. If approached in the proper way, the Torah discourse becomes a "merkavah," a spiritual vehicle to lift us up from the dust of this world and initiate us into an experience beyond words: the lucid perception of Godliness that Rebbe Nachman wishes to share.
Part II "How to Study Likutey Moharan" continued here.