As I begin to write this, I am on the ferry from the mainland to Vancouver island where I will be spending a few days in Victoria, BC. Recalling her last ferry ride on a single level open-air boat, it is no wonder that Luna is a bit overwhelmed at the size of this behemoth!
And speaking of overwhelmed, my brief drive through Vancouver was intense! We dropped off a friend in the middle of downtown and he took us on a little tour of the city core before departing. Three weeks encapsulated in the Buddhist retreat centre within the dense mountain rainforest was calming to the senses. After resetting my system a little bit, it came as quite the shock to be surrounded by metropolis. Vancouver felt kind of like this:
[pupils dilated] Harbours! Bridges! Skyscrapers! Lights! Crowds! Wow! Cool!
Quite the reminder that it requires a certain amount of desensitization to natural rhythms to be able to live within the urban jungle. Perhaps I’m missing a key understanding, but it doesn’t seem especially healthy to have to dull the senses stay grounded within the energy of a big city. Any thoughts? Is there a way to stay aware of our physical connection to earth within the intense excitement of a busy metropolis? Or must we forget a bit of our human nature to stop from going crazy?
As predicted, my time at Sea to Sky flew by in a flurry. Three weeks is no time at all! Yet, I feel that in these three weeks my partner and I were able to contribute positively to the daily tasks and labour required at SSRC. In my free time I chose to do some reading and learned much about the core teachings of the Buddha. I was not surprised to learn that the essence of the Buddha’s teachings are, in essence, no different than those of core yogic philosophy — they bud from the same ancient branch. Non-violence, love, control over the senses, seated meditation practice, samadhi and enlightenment are key points in both Buddhism and Yoga. (I’m no scholar, but I would bet there are countless other similarities espoused in literature that could be easily found.)
The more I learn about the major religions and their core esoteric systems of practices, the more I understand that all paths are leading to the same goal.
This opinion — although not uncommon — can be hard to grasp because of the drastic differences in ritual, ceremony, dress code, methods of worship, personal conduct, and moral and ethical guidelines amounts the major religions. It is precisely these vast differences that I want to touch upon next.
Here’s a thought: I am going to go out on a limb and propose that any aspect of any spiritual path (be it religious or non-secular) that has the potential to vary drastically across belief systems is unnecessary, and further, this aspect can be eliminated without affecting the belief system’s underlying core concepts.
Fundamental aspects of all belief systems:
- Remembrance of that which is bigger than us (God, the Divine, the Void, etc).
… And coming together as community to do so.
- Cultivating love, compassion and selflessness (and most other “noble” characteristics).
- Experiential connection to that which is bigger than us, such as through meditation, prayer, trance, etc.
…And regular practice of this connection.
- ??? There are probably a few others
There’s not too much else that does NOT vary throughout today’s spiritual world.
Here is a brief list of some aspects of belief systems that DO vary drastically:
- Physical garb and appearance of “spiritual” humans (priestly garb, Brahmin string, jewels, bones, ash, blood, etc).
- Specific dates of worship, auspiciousness, and celebration.
- Specific words/lyrics/language of devotional music
- A “spiritually empowered” or “better” gender, age and skin colour
- Vastness or minuteness of religious empire
- Proselytizing and conversion techniques
- Doomsday predictions
- The use of incense
- ALL RITUAL
- ALL CEREMONY
- ??? There is definitely a ton more of these
[Those last two in caps are obviously the most important. Clearly there are aspects within ritual and ceremony that share in essentials, such as using music to raise vibration, but I am referring to the superficial ways in which these rituals are carried out.]
Right now modern spiritual society is a huge Venn diagram. A common shared core of the important spiritual essentials is being forgotten due to the spiralling and friction of the surrounding non-essentials. Why not get rid of this?
I feel that the only way humankind will progress into an era of increased harmony and peace will be to recognize the fundamental similarities amongst all major faiths, while simultaneously discarding the non-overlapping components. We are holding onto a diverse portfolio of redundant and outdated methods of finding God, and without pruning down to the agreeable essentials there will continue to be clash between belief systems.
I am not proposing that every being must conform to an identical set of practices. Rather, I am suggesting that it should become a personal endeavour to find the non-essentials that work for you. A large group spiritual following should not force anything unnecessary upon its members. If you are called to pursue Shamanic drumming rituals, please do! And share your healing work with other fortunate souls. After all, personal experience with the divine is a core aspect of all faiths and should be encouraged. All beings should be encouraged to find their own methods of achieving the core aspects of spirituality (as outlined in the first list).
Let’s not let dogmatism restrict the unlimited ways in which a human can pursue connection with something greater — excise the excess within religion.