Messengers, Followers, Teachers, Edifices, Divisions
If history is correct, humans have never been content to just live in the world. They have consistently yearned for some kind of meaning in their lives. Often that pursuit of meaning has expressed itself in the form of religion.
For those who have chosen to follow groups with any kind of religious or spiritual trademark, the pattern seems to be the same. When a religion begins, one person usually has an idea or believes he (historically, mostly male) has the right message, the truth, or has a special message, powers, insights, given to him from an exterior divinity.
In ancient times spiritual teachers were often wanderers or lived in small villages or towns. Small groups gathered to hear these teachers. Over time, followers began to expand beyond these villages. Official teachings were established based on the words purported to have been said by the founders or, in some traditions, messages or rules given or spoken to an official messenger (or inspired messengers) by an exterior divinity. ( Who becomes an official messenger after the first messengers die often depends on the rules of lineage)
It didn’t take long before religious organizations began to sprout up all over the world. Centuries-old edifices and sacred centers are still standing as testaments of humans’ need for spiritual roots.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, all seem to have followed this pattern. Continue reading
A very well-known Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chogyäm Trungpa, wrote a book entitled, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. It is a book that warns its readers not to become overly attached even to our spiritual journeys.
Trungpa recognized that, given human nature, people will sometimes dive into their spiritual practices and journeys with the obsession of an addict for their booze, their sex, their food, their relationships, their cars, their houses, their clothes.
In doing so, spirituality then becomes nothing more than an out-of-control passion for some material good that will always give the first-fervor rush of satisfaction. But then, in the case of an excessive spiritual practice, the satisfaction often morphs into ritual and self-preserving affirmations divorced from any real transformations. Continue reading
Religion’s Dependence on Leaders, Credentializing Insiders, Myths
Throughout our 200,000 year existence on this planet, humans have never suffered from a lack of gurus, priests, imams, ministers, rabbis, popes, bishops, monsignors, and rinpochés. Or even, if I may be so bold, spiritual motivational speakers.
If history tells us anything, most faith-believers seem to have a need for religious leaders. They want to feel secure in a religious institution that has someone at the head of the class.
I never liked contact sports. Whenever I worked out, it was always a single-player engagement like jogging, swimming, or running frantically on a tread mill. Even today, I continue to exercise by myself, even though I am sometimes in a gym or in a park walking with others.
During my college teaching years, committees were, for me, the most difficult arenas to get anything done. Discussions were often endless, tangents seemed to be the norm, and listening levels almost non-existent.
Even my experiences with institutional religion, growing up Catholic and attending Catholic institutions right up to my Masters Degree, my notion of community was limited to Sunday services or singing in a choir. Continue reading
In my last blog essay, I attempted to unravel the many complaints of the Tea Party followers. Three issues, however, seem to stick in the craw of those who believe in their heart of hearts that America is on the road to self-destruction: (1) The continuing loss of freedom because of big government and what appears to the Tea Party followers as a move towards socialism, the inevitable political paradigm that will only exacerbate that continuing loss of freedom (2) The desire to return to a golden age of a true America (3) The end of Patriotism in America Continue reading
Because I was well into my adulthood before I began to figure out who I am, it is difficult for me to see where the desire to know about myself could ever be a bad thing. The self-knowledge journey continues and, I hope, will be with me for the rest of my life.
On the other hand, there are those who would probably stereotype me as an effete, self-indulgent dilettante wandering around the ring of shamans and spiritual teachers, decadently immersed in questions rather than answers.