Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spirituality and / or Religion

I want to briefly address an issue that seems to be a real thorn in the side of society, and that is the idea of spirituality and religion and how people seem to confuse the two - and how many people seem to think the two must of necessity go together.

If someone of a Christian background bemoans the immorality of today's world (such as Katy Perry's mom), then people shoot her down  - simply because she's Christian. What people don't seem to realise is that often, despite its bad name and devotion to dogma, the Christian faith contains many moral viewpoints that are not only shared by other faiths but remain constant from age to age.

Today's consumerist society promotes the exact opposite of spiritual satisfaction - namely, the pursuit of personal, sensual gratification at all costs. Look prettier. Eat better. Have more. All this is what the Buddha - 500 years before the Master, Jesus - called "dukkha", which simply means, the state of dissatisfaction induced by constantly trying to satisfy material desires. It's a never-ending loop from which a person never escapes - until one day they awaken and say to themselves, you know what, this is a waste of my time and of my spiritual development. It's time I renounced this constant, shallow, self-satisfying behaviour and seek something deeper.

And there's those alarms bells again - I said "spiritual", so I must mean it has something to do with religion - right? Well, maybe - but it doesn't have to mean religion at all. The Buddha showed there are certain universal human truths that exist independently of any system of thought or belief. That the pursuit of false, external happiness causes dissatisfaction (dukkha) is one of those truths, and it is this very pursuit (which the United States once called "the pursuit of happiness", pfft) which is the cause of (spiritual) suffering.

Now most people would assume, therefore, that the alternative to their decadent lifestyles is religion. Again, I say, this is not necessarily so! I am very content to live my life not being a member of any religion. I feel a deeper level of personal satisfaction than ever before - and this has indeed been my biggest challenge in life. One doesn't necessarily need conventional religion to feel in tune with oneself, happy at a deep level. You just need to ask yourself what is truly right for you - and then pay attention as the universe shows you the answers.

Why not try it. If you feel dissatsfied, pose the question to yourself - what would it take for me to be happy? Often it's a change in your thinking that can help promote happiness! But whatever it is, take a chance that the universe - aka life - will show it to you, if only you ask.

And of course the Master, Jesus, said: ask, seek, and knock. The answer will come, and the door will be opened.

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