Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Journey Thus Far: Part 2- On Messengers, Texts, and Religion

As I progress along my spiritual journey I have introduced myself to a wide range of ideas, thoughts, and concepts so that I may understand and love my fellow man. In celebration of my approaching 100th post I thought I would review my spiritual growth over these last few months. I had made a similar post once before when I started this blog and even though it does not outwardly appear that I've experienced any spiritual growth, I am beginning to internalize what I've learned.

The Messengers

I believe that throughout history there have been important figures that seem to live in a plane beyond our understanding where they embody knowledge that seems to only be able to originate from a Divine source. Similar to shamans, these prophets, or messengers, are able to bring humanity teachings that is necessary for our progression. As humans we may not be able to comprehend or even accept these messages because they "rock the boat". Jesus rocked the boat when he taught the people they can peacefully resist their Roman oppressors while reinterpreting the scriptures to bring the populace back to God. Muhammad rocked the boat when he challenged the mistreatment of the elderly, women, and the poor by the Quraysh saying that the One God created us as equals even though we have differences. Siddhārtha Gautama rocked the boat when he challenged the Hindu class system by saying anyone can attain enlightenment and are not bound to their class. The Old Testament prophets like Micah rocked the boat when they challenged the priest system by saying that all that God wants from us is to be a Just, Loving, and Merciful people (Micah 6:8). The Western and Eastern religious explanation for these men agree that they were in communication with the divine. But the Eastern religions go a bit further and say that these Avatars, manifestations of God, came to remind us of our own divinity within, our atman, and act as guides to instruct us how to do so.

The Holy Texts

The community of believers make a text holy, not the text itself. The Qur'an is sacred to Muslim but not to others. The Talmud is sacred to Jews but not to others. It is tribal man that elevates the text, and because of tribalism we root for and defend our texts. Furthermore because of our tribalism we gravitate towards the differences that separate us rather than on what unites us. Yes, the holy books of the world do make contradictory statements but this is just focusing on the branches instead of the tree. There is a universal message buried beneath and behind the cacophony of debaters, apologetics, contradictions, evidence, and cultural differences that I believe is the heart of the Divine. The universal message is not a mish-mash smorgasbord all-you-can-eat buffet of different beliefs and traditions because that would imply competing universal messages. That which is truly universal can be found across all religious traditions. This universal spiritual vein of truth is what I seek; I am looking for the tree and not the branches.


Religion is the package/language/expression of the universal truths that the messengers reveal to humanity. Some religions focus on different elements on these universal truths but I believe they branch from the same foundation. Like the holy text, religions are molded by the culture in which they were born. It contains the imagery, language, and myth of that time and place. Its practices and rituals flower into an expression of the message. When Muslims participate in the Hajj they are participating in rituals established centuries ago that are meant to be an expression of the souls urge to commune with God. Likewise as Christians participate in the Eucharist this is to remind them of the gift of Christ's sacrifice, Christ dwelling in them, and their unity in Christ. Both are an expression to connect with the Divine. I can not believe that any religion is entirely true and all others false and if this were the case the true religion would have been discovered by now. Let's say there is a true religion it would be impossible to pick it out among the thousands of combinations of beliefs in the world because of Man's fallible nature. Western and Eastern thought deals with this in two ways. In the western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i, etc.), Man's sinful nature is dealt by judging the soul/ego. Depending on how you led your life, what you believed, and your treatment of your fellow man you will be judged accordingly. In some of the eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.), Man's sinful nature is dealt by removing the ego. This is done differently in these two religions (I have yet to study the other eastern religions and philosophies) but is focused on being released from "the suffering and limitations of worldly existence." Once you reach this state than all the worries, troubles, and pain in the world can not afflict you. In both East and West the practitioner is wrestling with its own fallible self in an attempt to transform themselves. All religions are attempts at reforming Man's nature, and even though we don't agree on the method of reform we all yearn for it.

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