One of the main reasons for my intellectual and spiritual fascination with (Chabad) Hasidism is the Book of Tanya, which is a class of Chabad Hasidism "compiled" by its founder Shneur Zalman of Liadi ("The Alter Rebbe") more than 200 years ago. I got acquainted with what I can now see as an ultimate guide to self life coaching not only for Chabad hasidim but also for other hasidim and non-hasidic Jews as well as even non-Jews when one Chabad emissary I had become acquainted with one year before in the Jewish Community of Kansai (and Chabad of Kansai) in Kobe, Japan several years ago took me to Ohel Chabad at the Rebbe's Ohel when I visited New York City for some international conference on Hebrew language and literature held there.
It took me several years since them until I became ready for opening myself both intellectually and spiritually to this book and its teachings with eternal and universal relevance to anyone who is seeking for their soul purpose in life and struggling to liberate their soul from the control of their ego in their thoughts, emotions and actions.
I started reading books about Tanya, including introductions to it, in September as a preparation for studying it. After about four years of intensive self-study I started studying Tanya itself at long last last week both by myself and in my weekly pair study ("khavruse") with my hasidic-born but currently non-hasidic haredi "rebbe".
In the last of my weekly visits to Heichal Menachem, a Chabad bookstore in Hebrew and English near Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, I encountered what seemed (and still seem) to be the ultimate guide to this ultimate guide to self life coaching - The Practical Tanya 1, The Practical Tanya 2 and The Practical Tanya 3 by Rabbi Chaim Miller (cf. Not Just for Hasidim Anymore by Rishe Groner (Tablet Magazine 2017-05-22).
Since I purchased this set and started using it for my new daily study of Tanya, the book has started to look totally different - without these guides Tanya looked like a mysterious abyss refusing my access to it, but now it reveals itself more transparently as a collection of layers of Jewish classical sources as well as elucitations and original additions by the "compiler". Rabbi Miller has done an amazing job of making this barely accessible Chabad classic easily accessible to modern readers even with little or no background in the teachings of Chabad Hasidism. The table of contents augmented with the titles added to most of the original titleless chapters by Rabbi Miller as follows shows how relevant this book can be no less relevant to us in the 21st century:
- 1 Am I good or bad?
- 2 The place of G-d in you
- 3 Your three brains
- 4 Your inner/outer selves
- 5 Total immersion in the Divine
- 6 The darker side
- 7 Negative energy (I)
- 8 Negative energy (II)
Your Inner Struggle
- 9 The war inside you
- 10 The tzadik
- 11 The rasha
- 12 The "inbetweens"
- 13 The beinoni's complex life
- 14 Living in the "now"
- 15 The best version of yourself
- 16 When meditation fails
- 17 What is within reach?
- 18 Dormant love in your soul
- 19 What your chochmah feels like
- 20 Nondual Judaism (I)
- 21 Nundual Judaism (II)
- 22 Denying that G-d is within you
- 23 Nondual Torah
- 24 Don't be delusional
- 25 Recalling your soul's devotion
- 26 Handling negative emotions
- 27 You're wonderfully imperfect
- 28 When your mind wanders
- 29 Spiritual insensitivity
- 30 How not to judge others
- 31 From depression to joy
- 32 Love your fellow as yourself
- 33 Feeling G-d; feeling joy
- 34 You can be a "temple" for G-d
The Power of Action
- 35 Why your struggle is worth it (I)
- 36 Why your struggle is worth it (II) / The purpose of creation
- 37 Why your struggle is worth it (III) / Reward for a mitzvah / Importance of the body
The Power of Kavanah
Reverence and Love
- 41 A crash course in emotions
- 42 On the path to reverence
- 43 The full spectrum of emotions
- 44 More love meditations
- 45 Worship through compassion
- 46 How to mirror G-d's love
- 47 Your daily Exodus from Egypt
- 48 The paradox of the tzimtzum
- 49 Love and transcendence
- 50 Love from the "Left Side"
Now I face the same challenge that the Chabad rabbi faced when tried to "infect" me with his enthusiasm with Tanya at the Ohel several years ago. Every time I try to share my new enthusiasm with it with other people who are unfamiliar with it and often even antagonistic to Hasidism in general and Chabad in particular, I hit the brick wall of indifference, if not hostility. But I've already learned that nobody can't be truly convinced and changed by others. The only thing I can think of now to arouse others' interest in Tanya is for me to continue studying it and start incorporating its teachings in my life so that these people may notice my positive change and start asking me what I have done.