Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Web of My Beliefs

I have done a lot of spiritual reading over the past few years. It began with reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelations over my first summer break when I was studying at Dalhousie University, a considerable amount on Freemasonry through the mid-late 1990's and then examining multiple Eastern works (Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) with sprinklings of Sufism and Wicca throughout since the late 1990's. I tend to consider myself a Buddhist/Taoist/Pagan/Non-Theist/Theist, but that monogram has evolved and morphed over time. I admit that I have tended to have a snobbish opinion toward Christianity throughout, but this is beginning to change according to the context in which I now consider such things.

A good friend of mine who tends to have similar spiritual leanings as myself has asked me why I do not go to the local Buddhist temple and join the sangha there. My answer has always lied in my reasoning as to why I do not attend any spiritual congregation, coven, etc. On the one hand, I can not find a place that is truly representative of my eclectic views. On the other, I have found that my experiences have left me feeling that the groups I've sampled to be lacking in substance and driven by personal agendas. This has been the case for me in both Catholic and Protestant churches of Christianity, one of the Buddhist temples I frequented for a while and through a few years of attending Masonic Lodges. All my experiences there seemed to be similar to my experiences in the Martial Arts and some Yoga studios where they have not been complete in what they offer or are lined with individuals who prevent that completion from surfacing. For example, Yoga is more than just the physical postures. Those are asanas. Yoga is more a meditative state.

I mentioned my snobbish attitude toward Christianity earlier. Perhaps I was being unfair. This was a feeling created in myself after observing fundamentalists and their sole route towards salvation, coupled by historical readings about hidden agendas, church and state, etc. Ultimately, I could not bring myself to accept the Bible as the sole word or to believe in the God represented within. I was particularly turned off by the Christian unwillingness to look elsewhere for teachings.

Fast forward to some of my Eastern readings. The commentary I am now reading on the Bhagavad Gita, for example, constantly makes cross references to the metaphors of the Bible in communicating its ideas. Numerous texts by an assortment of Buddhist writers such as Thich Nhat Hahn have also used Biblical passages to support and enrich various teachings of the Buddha. As I continue to read, I am finding many enlightening passages from the Bible which I never could truly appreciate through my initial reading of this book.

Herein lies the shortcomings, in my opinion, of most religious sects: they become insular and are filled with people seeking a teacher, but not willing to engage in the quest themselves. In fact, it is often to the contrary and detriment. It would be like saying there is only one school that can teach with any sort of validity, or there is only one form of exercise that truly benefits health, or only one effective style of Martial Arts. Such is the Christian Commandment about sole soul propriety found in a literal interpretation or the Muslim position that we see represented in our world today that comes from a particular group of Mullahs and Imams. The New Age folks are no better, weighed down in their own dogmatic notions of the world. Thus, my personal spiritual journey has become one of isolation.

I am not claiming to know the way or to have any answers. Over the multiples of readings I have done, my conclusion is that every religion, in their essences, are perpetuating the same idea. In fact, it is those who claim to know the way that turn me off the most. Life is many shades of grey, but much of that greyness is a product of the way we live. In the end, life, as far as living goes, requires that we work toward less complication and simplicity; a difficult endeavour within modern society.

Also, we need to lessen our syntactical interpretation and designation of life and become one with all as opposed to secularisation. We need to fight the internal battle against unnecessary desire and ego as opposed to killing in the name of a deity, ideology or of hatred. We are all swimming in the same pool. Therefore, we must need to do so harmoniously with each other and our environment. Christianity, Islam, Kabala, Tao, Buddha, Krishna – they all have this same message. Even a non-Theist recognises this fact. I always liked Pascal's Wager which basically states "it does not matter whether or not I believe God exists". This makes sense. It's not who or what I believe in that matters, but how I co-exist. Dogma does nothing but make us rigid and prevent harmony.

So, where am I in my own spiritual journey. I believe in energy or a life force that flows through all things. You can call this synaptic flaring, soul, karma – the label does not matter. What does matter is that all things are part of each other and that nothing can exist solely of itself. I do not believe in a paternal God per say, but do believe that "god" is in all things in the form of this collective energy – again, let's not get caught up in labels. These things are as they are, just as an apple is an apple whether you refer to if in English or French, pomme.

I believe in goodness and compassion, but realise that our notions of such things can be the source of discord and are limited to our reality. I believe that reality is one's perception of existence. Existence, from the human perspective, is essentially the fabrication of nothingness into being – a portion of the absolute. Therefore, nothing implies "no thing" and, therefore "some thing", making all we experience reminiscent of an echo.

To be a good person, we must begin on the inside. The way to looking inside is through meditation, whether in the tradition of the Yogis, Zen Buddhists, Christian prayer – it matters not. Through these meditations, we can become closer to the whole of which we are part, and begin to tackle the battles that we need to wage against desires, excess and ego. These things, in my opinion, are the sources of both suffering and disharmony in the world.

I do not believe in life and death, but rather a state where both are in constant tandem. Conventional notions of the span between birth and death, in my mind, only isolate a particular part of our being. The things of which I am made existed before my present state, and shall continue to be long after my present incarnation is no more. Certainly, to say the 6 ft. 1, 210 lb man that I am is the same as the 7 lb infant to which my mother gave birth is true insofar as my consciousness and direct line can be traced in image throughout. The simple fact remains that my life/energy is fuelled by that which I consume, and that which consumes me. I do not know if our consciousness is reincarnated through multiple "lives", but I do believe that the energy is out there. One might argue that we would remember past lives if the consciousness remains the same. My answer to this is that I have no real recollections of my life prior to the age of 6 or 7, so how can I be expected to remember past lives?

Ultimately, life and death is much like Pascal's wager – it does not matter what I believe. This is where mindfulness comes into play. The simple fact is, we are only in the moment and the moment is the only thing we can affect. This is very liberating, in my opinion. The moment is a constant evolution of who we are in the now, thus lending great importance to looking inward as we progress along in the journey of the consciousness.

Keeping in the spirit of the Buddha, I have not written these words to convert anyone over to my point of view. This is simply what I have found to be, given the journey I am on. All that I truly hope to achieve is for those who have spent times with my words to reflect on what their experience is, and not to walk blindly through the dark. The koan I have assigned myself is as follows: "what does anything matter in terms of the environment and harmony on this planet if an asteroid were to smash into the planet and the chain of all that ever was ceases to exist?". My answer was to again refer to Pascal and the Buddha: it does not matter what I think, I can not control what happens in the future; I am in the here and now….



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