Although I struggle regularly with "organized" religion (no offense to those who it works for) I do believe in the community it builds.
As a Jew, when I sit in services singing songs and reciting Hebrew prayers of my lineage and heritage, I have a different sense of belonging than the sense I have in my outside community.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I do not live in a predominately Jewish community so it is one more place that I feel like I belong. A blood line connection, if you will.
In the book The Jew in The Lotus, HH The Daila Lama asks this question to a group of rabbis who have come to Darmsala at his request, "What is the Jewish secret of survival". The answer, in short; To never forget.
I believe that our religious institutions provide for us all a place to remember who we are, a space to connect and a different dynamic of community than we experience in our daily lives.
I also chair an annual interfaith weekend of community service where we reach out to the religious institutions for volunteers. There is a lot to be said about finding masses under one roof who all conform to their higher and deeper values at one time.
Now, if every one on every day would walk and talk as if they were in church, maybe my answer would be different!
Love and Blessings,
A dear friend, Tibetan Monk Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen, and I had just this conversation. I loved what he said about this. " It's like when you invite all your friends from far and wide to come to a celebrate with you at your house. Each comeing from their different place needs different directions to get them there safely. If you told each, "Go six blocks and turn left, then five blocks an turn right, then go 2 mile to red house on the left", only one or two could find you. Similarly even though we are all going to the same place spiritually, we are all coming from different places so we need different direction to get there. But it is most important for us not to mistake the directions for the destination."
Thank you Geshe Tashi!
Blessings - Doug
In regard to whether we need Churches and or Religious Institutions
This is a bit like asking ourselves how we might go about discerning the difference between a Path and a Movement. A path being analogous to a person and a movement to many. A recent post from Maynard Riley touched on this subject by raising the concept of Geometric Metaphors. A Geometric Metaphor is a great concept, thank you Maynard. See http://www.meru.org His reference neatly identified for me that all roads lead to Rome, yet leaves unstated how many lifetimes any particular path might take someone to arrive. Also, in the light of the theories that abound in relation to this, it begs the question here ‘How does human understanding inform us?’ The simple answer is easy; the big question is not so simple.
Simple understanding at a material level informs us through our environment and the choices we make in this world. It is apparent that we all share one nervous system and are all part of one humanity. There is only one humanity isn’t there? If so, our choices determine whether we will take the high road or the low road. This leaves me little doubt that acceptance of the other guy’s path and his business in it is only his business. Our duty toward him is to cherish his life and ensure he’s free to follow his path - provided he isn’t an axe murderer or something equally devastating to society. This is why there are so many communities that share good intent toward human beings. I find problems occur when my cage is rattled.
Now we’re on the subject of the big question. When another guy disturbs my cage, there is only my understanding to guide me. So how do I handle cage rattlers? I can choose a weapon and do him in or, I can seek to understand his motivation before decide how I’ll deal with him; or I can follow my intuition. How well I manage to do that is dependent on the values I’ve adopted during my time in this world. To me, this suggests only my understanding of human values guide my result; that human understanding is quite independent of my principles and the path(s) I’ve chosen. This really excludes understanding’s origin coming from a particular path because that’s where a lot of the world’s cage rattling emanates from - that and axe murderers etc. So, if I can understand and my connection to this quality is intact it doesn’t matter a fig which path I take, it only matters that my understanding is maintained. And what of Movements and how they influence how we proceed?
If human beings are one species, and it certainly looks as though we are, what is the source of human understanding? Could it be that this very real human value has only one source, and that it is the same quality that informs all paths? So what could it be that resides within human beings who find this possibility so unfathomable?
Many people have problems with other faiths. I take the view that the real issue is who interprets and records the theology and with what degree of understanding. A common edict amongst religious is ‘knock and the door will open, don’t knock and there is no door.’ It is apparent that much remains unsaid with proclamations like that. Such edicts can fly up the nose of almost anyone, religious included. Such sayings do have something fundamental to say that can’t be further expressed without error. That particular one is because of the premise that suggests that what’s right or wrong in the world is a black and white issue. This is truly fallacious.
Any study of human motivational factors will reveal how difficult it is to determine how and when positive thinking is more beneficial to a given situation than raw emotion and or animal aggression. Most of what’s expressed about reality is like that. I believe the whole truth is only accessible to those who’ve achieved a superior understanding of reality; then those people shut up because a lot of what they understand about reality will be misinterpreted by the rest of us. So, for me what distinguishes those holy ones from the rest of us is just their understanding of reality. That understanding is not something that’s dependent on theology.
Could it be that adopted principles are valued more by some than their own human understanding? Yes? No? How does a human being seek to discover what human understanding is? How do understanding and truth manifest? Can we effectively pursue any of these questions without we first apply ourselves to the task in harmony?
And are not Movements also a means of enabling disparate paths to work in Harmony or do Movements seek to serve only one particular path? Surely the answer to these questions lie in how each Movement manifests in society. Do they seek to control? What qualities do they demonstrate? How do they go about achieving their objectives? How does an individual exercise sufficient understanding to discern the difference between theory and reality in their attempt to decide these things?
For me theologies are coded messages delivered within a given specific cultural settings which are commonly meaningless to people outside a particular culture; and which change internally within people as time passes. I take the view that it’s best to leave other peoples’ cultures to them and concentrate on understanding your own. Without people put human understanding on their personal agenda as a goal they will, if they open they mouth - or write, end up doing something similar what I did recently - deliver something incomplete - because their understanding is incomplete.
This happened to me because of what was not included by me, could not and should not have been included by me in what I wrote. So, I offer my apologies here for the incompleteness of that expression of mine and the inevitability of my wrong action. The misunderstandings I caused were fundamentally because what I was trying to express can’t be publicly expressed. It can only be understood, which is why I was wrong to say what I did; I just didn’t foresee my error.
I’m aware there are people in this world that only ever use their intellect sparingly, who don’t have any defined path, whose capacity to fix their focus makes it difficult for them to relate to others. Unless I have the special skills that are needed to include people who have any particular deficit I can’t meet their needs. I maintain we are all in that boat; unless our perception has already become God-like. I am not like that. I just feel bad when I begin to realise that I got it wrong. Are we not all like me? Or do we all have the required powers of discernment already developed and ready to help such people? In which other way could any of us be entirely inclusive?
I do admire the inclusiveness of the various descriptions and tags I’ve seen used to address issues here but. I’m going to bow out of PeaceNext, not because it isn’t interesting - it is - it’s extremely interesting. My problem is it’s consuming time I don’t have to spare; and there’s the gob-stopping email load. My primary interest is in how to act responsibly and to achieve my objective and I need to devote a lot more of my time to activities that will achieve that end. I have benefited from my time here; I’ve learnt some lessons. Sorry about the hornets nest. My apologies to all.
My Dear Anand,
In response to your question, I'll humbly offer some examples of the excellent uses of Churches.
Humanitarian work of all variety is presently provided in significant quantity, and quality, by Churches. Of course, this effort isn't and shouldn't be exclusive to Churches, but it is something which Churches are inclined or driven to do.
Fellowship is something which I suspect is responsible for the formation of Churches in the first place. Within that fellowship we find social and emotional support, and also intellectual and spiritual exploration, the consequence of which provides a place for searchers to inquire.
Churches become valuable repositories for Sacred things, including revelation, ceremony, and others.
I'm pretty confident that human societies "invented" if you will, Churches; and that Churches will cease to exist when they are abandoned; no legislation or force required. (or welcome)
I don't think that Churches monopolize religious teachings, though perhaps some may mistakenly think that they do, but they never really have, have they?
I do hope that these considerations ease your pain on this matter which may be troubling you. It is my belief that every individual does also have their own personalized custom organization of their spiritual lives, in addition to any groups which they share with others.
Peace my friend,
With your clarification of "Churches with[out] the agenda to convert" ,
we are very much on a common page. Quite probably this agenda has brought more misery than benefit upon its targets, and is surely the shining example of failure to listen and observe in those environments and with those individuals with which we seek to commune.
I intend soon to research evangelism and discipleship in the Christian tradition, wondering if the directive was to proclaim Christ or salvation or something, or a directive to live by his principles. I wonder, and hereby inquire, to what degree other religious traditions engage in the Christian degree of proselytization.
Thank you again my friend.
Hadrian Judge started me thinking when he said, "I believe the whole truth is only accessible to those who’ve achieved a superior understanding of reality; then those people shut up because a lot of what they understand about reality will be misinterpreted by the rest of us".
This made me think about the nature of truth. Pondering this I had a few thoughts about truth that I would like to share. These ideas were and are radical to me and so I hope that people won't fine reason for offense but will consider what I say and help me think about this.
It seems to me that no other word or concept has caused more suffering and harm then the word "Truth". Every war and conflict has had as it's support the idea of truth. Each religion has used this idea of truth as the bull-work of their exclusive claim to the superior knowledge. Neighbor fights neighbor in the name of truth, families are divided in the name of it, and Churches, synagogs, temples and mosques are burned down in the name of truth.
The idea of truth is so important in the affairs of humanity that we have even created a hierarchy of truth to insure that our' or someone's truth is superior to the other persons truth. We have labeled these, Ultimate Truth and Relative Truth. An endless number of speculations, philosophies, theologies, dogmas and scientific discoveries have extolled the latest and greatest "Ultimate truth" only to be replaced by one higher, better or more ultimate.
So I have a thought which I will put forward, not as a Truth but as something to consider, to think about, and ponder. What if the truth about truth is that it is a product of Humanity's Primal Insecurity? What if it has arisen in the sphere of human consciousness as a result of the simple fact that we humans find ourselves adrift in an infinitely huge ocean of change, an enormous cosmos that is completely beyond our control and that scares the heck out of us. Like person a who has fallen in a raging river we scramble and clutch at anything (any truth) that can make us feel safe?
Is the Idea behind truth Safety? Is this why people are willing to fight and die in order to maintain their idea of truth at all cost.
What would the world be like if we could all just dropped the whole idea of truth and just let go and float in trust in the unknown and unknowing? And who is this self that could possibly know the truth for everyone and all times anyway.
Knowing truth is not necessary in order to live from values. Values arise from within each of us from the knowing of what feels right and good to us and knowing that this must be so for others. No one teaches us that a sunset is beautiful, yet it is universally beautiful. We instinctually know the value of beauty and just the same with all other values. But often our idea of truth trumps values and when it does we create a hell on earth. Could we simply choose to let go and trust in not knowing? What might our world be like if we could? Anand asked "Do we really need Churches anyway?" that is a great question. Do we? The question behind that is, Do we really need truth anyway? What do you say?
Just some random thoughts.
Blessings - Doug