When you experience the universe’s immeasurable zest for life, longing to create, ineffable beauty, and listen to her story, you inevitably fall in love with her – a love that demands caring action.
Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), a Benedictine monk, founded Shantivanam Ashram (Forest of Peace Ashram) as he thought western Christianity was too masculine since it was built on Greek and Roman Empire models of existence. He thought it needed to discover the intuitive, contemplative, feminine spirituality of India and China: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Western youth who visited Shantivanam then took contemplation back to the west in the 1960s. This “eastern invasion” was a spiritual counterpart to the “British invasion” (rock music) and was the beginning of people becoming “spiritual but not religious” – if you could experience God directly thru meditation, why did you need organized religion?
The Catholic Inquisition was just trying to protect the Church from heresy, tried people by rational means, and punished no one – they left that to the state authorities. Stalinist and Nazi terrorism used irrational means to kill more people without trial in a few years than the Inquisition did in four hundred years. In general, secular culture sees the sins of the Church but is blind to its own sins.
The only way to understand the power of the message of Jesus is by imitating him and actually living the life of a disciple.
The problem for most of us in the spiritual life is that we want to be a saint but we also want to experience all the sensations sinners have. If we become too angelic we can be no earthly good. And if we become too focused on the body alone we can become lower than the animals. It is always difficult to keep spirit and body integrated.
The marriage of eastern and western religion may be necessary not only for the Church but also for the survival of civilization itself. Eastern religion emphasizes contemplation and western religion emphasizes social justice. Together they would keep the transcendence and immanence of God alive. Contemplation counters civilization’s obsession with consumerism and social justice counters it’s obsession with individualism.
The codependent person is often a chronic worrier, a compulsive helper, suffers from a wounded inner child, and feels shamed in his or her essence. Surrendering to the grace of God in the intimacy of prayer can heal and transform these four maladies of codependents.
The very firstliberal Protestant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, wrote in the 1800s that “Religion does not come from fear of death or fear of God, as philosophers previously thought. Religion is neither a metaphysic (a grand philosophy of what is beyond the material world) nor a morality. In its essence, religion is an intuition, feeling, or direct experience of God. Even dogmas are not religion. Dogmas derive from religious experiences.” Religions that do not give people direct experiences of God, in spite of being strong on metaphysics, dogmas and morality, will gradually lose followers. This is what has happened most mainline churches.
The Fourth Precept of Buddhism is about mindful speech. Accordingly, when it comes to conversation, we need to avoid four things: lying/exaggeration/’forked tongue’ (telling one person one thing and another person something different about the same event)/and ‘filthy talk’ (insulting or abusing others). Things haven’t changed much: politicians, lawyers, and athletes could learn a lot from Buddhism.
The problem with scientific methods is they can seduce us to think that all truth can be reduced to observable data, and therefore God and the great religious traditions of the world are irrelevant – humans are self-sufficient. However, these methods cannot penetrate the intimate, personal meaning of essential experiences of life such as suffering, sex, death, and the search for meaning itself. Nor can they give us answers to life’s biggest questions such as why are we here? where are we going? Is life and the universe essentially trustworthy?
Nine seemingly good things that can become key temptationsif you overdo them: striving for perfection (where nothing is ever good enough); helping others (to the point of burning yourself out); efficiency (when you ignore the needs of those right in front of you); authenticity (sharing too much of yourself when it is not appropriate); knowledge (dwelling only in your mind); security (being afraid to try anything new); idealism (to the point of losing touch with messy reality); striving for justice (to the point of always being angry about everything); self-deprecation (to becoming a doormat).
The Church, rather than being, as Karl Marx wrote: an “opiate of the masses,” should be a radically counter-cultural force challenging the prevailing ethic of consumption that is destroying our planet.