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Follow your own spiritual path
Seeking our own spirituality.
It is a worrying thought that many of us go to a place of worship in the first place simply to conform, to be seen to be doing what is socially acceptable for our ’tribe’ if you like.
This of course has very little to do with religion and everything to do with trying to look good or ‘right’.
When this is how we follow a religion we are unlikely to find any of the solace or comfort that true believers find in their chosen belief system. If attending a religious service of any sort does not comfort or inspire you then it is time to look for a spiritual path that will bring you these things.
The search for this may well mean stepping outside the organised religions that most people follow as, whilst these religions do bring succour to some of us who still need the rigidity of a formally structured belief system, they cannot always guarantee to bring a spiritual outlook to all of us.
The Compassion Component.
I suspect there are many of us who know the person that practically inhabits their church but shows little compassion for the afflicted.
Such people often assert that those unfortunates 'deserved it’ or brought their misfortune on themselves, usually because they did not conform to the same belief system as themselves.
I would like to think this is an extreme example but I know someone who, despite being an extremely well-off and upright pillar of the local community, will never give money to charity believing it will only fall into the wrong hands.
Now, we all know that this can happen but sometimes you just have to trust that the charity you have given so willingly does reach the people that truly need it.
Compassion must always be a significant component of spirituality whereas the official trappings of religious ceremony can never be.
Is formal religion no longer necessary?
I realise that many of my comments may seem to be against formal religion but that is not so and I do genuinely believe there is still a place for the big, world religions.
There are still many people who are consoled by belonging to an identifiable group and who need the ritual and ceremony to aid their communion with whatever higher spirit they wish to contact.
That is their choice and provided it hurts no-one, which is sadly often the debatable point, there can be no harm in it.
The dangers of being judgmental.
There is harm in it however when such people start judging others by what they believe are the only standards possible, the correct standards, as they see it.
Such judgments lead to the dangerous state of fundamentalism which leads to intolerance and in extreme cases, as we all know, this can mutate into the extreme of violence.
Judgmentalism is rampant hypocrisy, a parading of one's own apparent goodness and conformity to some ancient, often ambiguous, principles as an example to others who are judged as lesser mortals.
Such hypocrisy is all around us whether it is the regular churchgoer bad mouthing those they see as feckless, or the fundamentalist killing people they see as infidels against the specific strictures of their own particular prophet.
It is much harder to be a hypocrite if you strive simply for spirituality.
Being spiritually independent.
For many people today disillusionment with the hypocrisy and violence of the historic world religions encourages them to look for a new ‘religion', or perhaps 'belief system' would be a more accurate term. Could it now be time to drop that contentious word, religion?
I realise I am not positing anything new here but it seems a good time to have an all out push towards a more compassionate way of seeing others given the wars, tortures and general turmoil created in the name of most formalised religions.
Buddhism - a 21st century belief system.
I except Buddhism here of course as it has had no wars fought in an attempt to spread its name, being as it is, notably non-evangelical.
Buddhism is in fact the perfect model for 21st century spirituality despite being 2500 years old because it is a belief system, a way of living, rather than a religion.
The Buddha himself only ever believed he was a teacher, a facilitator, steadfastly refusing to allow anyone to treat him as a god. He insisted his students question everything, even his own words, and go by their own experience instead.
So perhaps Buddhism is the perfect place to start formulating your own independent spiritual practice.
This following quotation from the Kalama Sutta of The Buddha does rather seem to point the way:
'Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it'.
This could almost come from an anarchist's own instruction manual.
Take what is good from all religions ...
So, where does that leave the rest of us, the lapsed, the unsure, the disillusioned, the uncommitted and quite possibly, the lazy?
For sure it is certainly helpful for us all to have some sort of spiritual practice that comforts us, that offers us support and a peaceful heart, even if we do not call it by that name.
It can embrace ritual … or not. We can choose to build into it all the best bits of organised religion … or not. We can follow a deity … or not. But what all new-found spirituality must always incorporate is compassion for our fellow man.
And cheerfully, gently, firmly, we should allow no-one else to dictate to us just how or what we worship.
As long as we do no harm to any other sentient creature it really is that simple. Or at least it will be if we could just keep away from others who would try to manipulate us back into their particular fold.
When it comes right down to it all one ever needs to remember are the words of that other great teacher/healer, Jesus Christ.
'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.
Another peaceful option for a spiritual practice.
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