It is easy to dismiss religion as a throwback to more ignorant times when science was in its infancy and the mysterious ways of the world were explained by religious men. Today, science has come a long way to explain not only how life functions, but how the very stars themselves were created. Yet, what science has not explained is the intuitive drive in all of us that is more than the instinct of mere survival; it is the drive to create arts such as drawings, paintings, music, dance, and literature.
All religions speak of a ‘Universality’ within all of us, that being some connection that is beyond mere physical-materialistic needs and desires, a drive within for caring, love, to uphold and tend to each other. Religions tend to conjecture this universality in all of us as ‘GOD’, a crude word and often described in a patriarchal nature by more ignorant men. Yet, a deeper look into the base of all religions shows us that GOD, this universality, is immortal and non-caporal (meaning not dependent on a physical appearance). In Exodus 3:14, a base book of all the Abrahamic faiths, Moses learns that God is “I AM’, meaning transcendent, unborn, undying, free of defilements and corruption (as in this mortal world), and eternal. In the Abrahamic books, God promises ‘eternal life’ to those who join with God.
The Eastern religions such as Zen Buddhism, also speak of a Universalness in all of us that is termed as ‘True Self’, and in the Mahayana Sutras is known as ‘enlightenment’, in which those who join with enlightenment find eternity (nirvana).
In other religions we find much of the same concept of a joining, submitting, to relinquish one’s own self to the Universality that is spoken of, written about in so many different names, terms, and concepts.
When one hears of religion, the problems of dogma always come up. Simply, dogma is a worldview of the ‘Universality’ (God) that can become dominant in regions, geographical locations, and within local communities. The problem comes when it forbids any worldview other than its own. This is often on the behalf of ignorant, insecure people who have not yet found God, to yet join with the Universality, and are fearful that others may find a way to God before they do. You see this insecurity and ignorance play out all time in where someone insists you do as they do, even though what they are doing does not work! Such like that are fools and insane and are to be avoided.
Religion has been described as the last refuge for the scoundrels by those who observed insincere and delusional men press an unwanted dogma upon a people to only exact alms and material support out of them through fear and intimidation. The arguments from those who not only observed this sort of bad behavior, but lived it, are valid enough for them to leave an abusive environment, yet to throw out the religion entirely, and all religions, is akin to throwing out the baby with the dirty-stinky bathwater. The justification to ‘abandon all religions’ is that, if bad dogma can enter and take control of one religion, it can do it to all.
It is a fallacy of thinking they engage in, this idea that ‘one bad apple spoils the batch’ is an overgeneralization out of fear and dread. It is likened to seeing a broken-down white car alongside the road and then saying that ‘all white cars are faulty’. One has to realize that bad dogma comes and goes, it is just the minefield out there that if you are vigilant and alert, you can easily sidestep the minefields of bad dogma.
Taking up any religion is work, it is never easy. For those who left a religion filled with bad dogma, to reapproach the same religion or a new religion is even more so difficult, yet the vigilance is ever more so than before that will guard you against the harms of evil men and their desires over you. You see, to know that ‘YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your own spirituality is the key to success, and the key to the path of enlightenment – joining with universality, and god.
In my own religious path, that of Zen Buddhism, I found the following to be true for myself:
- An intuitive knowing deep in myself, a truth that cannot be really expressed by words, that is comforting, soothing, and calming.
- A connection with like-minded individuals who also know the same Truth,
- Identification of bad dogma and evil people who use religion for their own gains,
- A way of life that is in tune with Universality aka Enlightenment.
- A deep desire to help all others find their way to the universality of comforting soothing peace and harmony with all.
The spiritual life is open-ended, in where Truths like I found for myself, are allowed to manifest in my everyday life. This does not mean I have to run off to some monastery, shave my head and become a monk – though I could choose that if such a deed would meet the truths I found to be so. The spiritual life develops and blooms differently in all of us due to region, geography, cultural norms and values, and our own abilities and access. I have the mind of acceptance, in which I put my trust in the cosmic Bodhisattvas and look to where my own two feet are, what is right in front of me, and what I can do in the here and now.
It is easy to imagine a spiritual life that is something different than what you are doing now. Hollywood creates a lot of images and fiction of such things, TV shows like Kung-fu greatly influenced my generation into a view of Zen that is illusionary and non-existent, yet we hold these illusions in mind and are exploited by them, in not only creating a bad dogma but actually inflicting it on others! Yikes.
Some think that the spiritual life is to be a preacher or build a church or monastic center. Those things can happen, though I found if such is needed then it will happen, otherwise look to what is needed in the here and now, what is at your very feet and next to you. In this view, your spiritual life is everything you do, your ministry is your very breath and steps you take.