I try to practice various principles from different religions on a daily basis. Forgiveness. Humility. Faith. Tolerance. Acceptance. To name but a few.
And I hope to deepen my existing practice.
But I will probably never subscribe to any specific religion exclusively.
I have to live a religious life because the world we have created can often be a cold and heartless place. A system of consumption without regard for life. There are many reasons not to get out of bed in the morning; destructive bombs; divisive bureaucrats; dangerous businesses.
Everyday people are sold as meat to fuel the marketplace.
So what’s the point of trying to live? We’ll just get gobbled up, spat out and buried in the ground.
Looking at the world today with open eyes, that’s often how I feel.
Despair easily follows.
So the question is: How does one look at the world for what it is, recognising the complete and utter fundamental dysfunction of our globalized civilization, and still remain positively aligned?
How does one not get overwhelmed?
How do we stay functional, working for a better world, in a dysfunctional society?
I do it by living religiously.
This is how I pull myself out of bed every morning. Religiously. I do it even if I don’t want to.
This is how I look for positivity in people and situations. Religiously. Even when I don’t think I’ll ever find anything good there.
I pray and find gratitude for everything.
If I want to live, I have to live religiously.
I have to do it without religion.
Because I can’t imagine the average Pastor encouraging his congregation to investigate the Koran or read a few ancient Buddhist texts.
Religions tend to be exclusive. Subscribing to only one religion literally means you’re only ever reading one book, while surrounded by a library of untapped wisdom.
And in a world where there is only one, religion is too often used to create false division.
I have to live without a specific religion because too often do I find that scientific, spiritual and artistic work is rejected based purely on the ground that it does not agree with religious dogma.
But I suspect that this was never part of the plan.
The original spiritual teachers, whose teachings were turned into the major religions decades and even centuries after they had passed on, these early enlightened souls had a simple desire to live a good life, in tune with the greater intelligence that surrounds us.
It was never their intention that their teachings become dogma and be used as an excuse for war.
And yet that’s what’s happened.
Over the course of centuries, the original teachings have been co-opted and turned into dogma by the egoistic human need for a stable identity.
The original teachers saw beyond the that limited egoic state. They connected with the infinite potential of the human spirit.
And they left us with teachings to reach that same potential hidden within our own awareness.
Do not retaliate. Find forgiveness. Turn the other cheek. Calm the mind. Check your desires, desires become cravings and lead to suffering. There is only one supreme creator God. Different aspects of that God does not equate different Gods. All is one. Etc., etc.
These are truly enlightened principles preached by the various original teachers.
And it’s actually very ironic that these teachings, which were formulated to help us overcome the limitations of the egoic identity, has been hijacked by that same egoic identity to reinforce itself.
The original teachers, and many new teachers since, have seen that we are willing to kill and torture one another, if we can use that suffering to give meaning to our own existence.
So they tried to teach us, to transcend mental beliefs and connect directly with the source within for a meaningful existence.
But we’ve taken those teachings and turned them into more ideas and beliefs. We’ve reduced spiritual teachings into materialistic thought.
So much so, that today any one religion has thousands upon thousands of denominations, and even within single denominations there are fractures and disagreements.
Clearly we’ve missed the point.
Just as the original teachers pointed out, we create suffering for ourselves and those around us by living within the constraints of the normal egoic identity, where we equate thoughts with truths.
We do really need to be taught how to live.
But the problem with looking to religion is that, more often that not, religion points to external material sources as the final authority. Religion creates more egoic thoughts instead of teaching us to transcend it.
We need to understand that the original teachers quoted in our religious texts, ultimately all pointed to the truth within ourselves.
The only true authority lies within our own awareness, beyond our thinking egoic identity, as we are connected to the mind of the universe.
Ultimately we’re all connected to God. And it is only there, through thoughtless meditative prayer, that we can expect to find the ultimate truth.
Everything else is just advice. Including the words of the original teachers themselves.
To live we must live religiously without religion.