Thursday, October 13, 2011

PART 3: Why I am not a Christian, a Buddhist, a Moslem ... whatever

While my life journey has stripped me of belief as a basis for living, this does not mean that I am a "materialist" or that my life is devoid of spirtuality.  Far from it.

From time to time, the universe reveals glimpses of itself to me in moments of deep religious experience.  Ordinary people can have extraordinary experiences and awareness, and sometimes these come to me, but not at my bidding and they are always unexpected.

I try not to use the word "God" as people tend to think immediately of some kind of superior being that is separate from us, such as the Christian concept of a father God.  All I can say is that in my spiritual wanderings I have never encountered such a being, but I have from time to time connected with a "greater reality" which many people may call God.  In any case, my declaring that "God exists" (or God doesn't exist) would be of no value to anyone as it is my conviction that each of us must discover "what is" for ourselves.  No-one else, whether priest, pope or dalai lama, can make that discovery on our behalf.

My journey of discovery sometimes takes me into places I do not expect (or wish) to find.  For example, I had never understood why people perform rituals.  It always looked so meaningless and boring to me, and people seemed to repeat them mindlessly simply because they had been taught to do them or because they thought they would obtain some merit.  If you had asked me to describe my ideal world, I would certainly have envisaged one that was ritual free.  So, when ritual "came" to me one day without my ever having sought it, I was quite surprised, not to mention a bit annoyed at having to let go one of my pet hates.

It is hard to describe in words what happened, but I will try.  A meditation came upon me that filled me with solemnity.  I was drawn to enter a nearby dam where I cupped water into my hands and let it fall down my face - a very simple movement which was imbued with feelings of holiness.  On another occasion I had a similar feeling while making the bed, although not as intense.

Many wondrous things have come and gone.  I have seen/felt pure love emanating from an ordinary person and heard music through what I can only describe as heavenly ears.  And yes, without drugs.  There is certainly "more than can be dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio".  But I've learnt that one cannot rush the "process" or direct it where you will.  Life has its own agenda and I defer to its wisdom.

My mother had a saying which sort of sums up my spiritual attitude and which has helped me a lot along the way:

"We shall see what we shall see."


PART 2: Why I am not a Christian, a Buddhist, a Moslem ... whatever

When I was very young I had an innate "feel" for the nature of the universe, which was free of concepts about God or whatever.  I simply "knew" that we were all disconnected from the greater reality and that the only valid purpose in life was to become re-connected.

Later in childhood, I was introduced to the Christian concept of a father God, a superior being who watched over us and who would eventually judge us as worthy of heaven or not.  I accepted this belief for several years and felt that the reconnection with the universe would happen by receiving the holy spirit.

To my mind, the holy spirit coming into one's life would be real and an unmistakeable transformation would take place.  This was the only way to become a Christian and one certainly could not be "saved" merely by believing Jesus' teaching and trying to be a good person.

The holy spirit never did touch me, so, in the absence of  personal conversion, I drifted away from the Christian church during my late teens.  A religious crisis and spiritual experiences during my late 20s took me back in briefly, and then out again after having seen clearly into the shortcomings of belief and faith as a basis for life.  Also, I realised that I had interpreted my spiritual experiences in accordance with my Christian background - Buddhists interpret their experiences in the light of Buddhist theory; Christians in the light of Christian teaching; and so on.  We all carry a lot of cultural/religious baggage and it is important to be aware of this.

I could no longer believe in a so-called God of Love who could condemn even an ant to hell.  I didn't know much, but I sure knew this was not how love behaved.  This creates a fear relationship from which love can never grow.  I am constantly astounded when I hear people talk about their "love of God".  I wonder what they really mean.

My rejection of Christianity led to the rejection of all belief systems that are based on the premise:  "Believe this and you will receive something in return.  Don't believe this and you will suffer for it."

I could see that the world's religions seemed to be putting the cart before the horse, i.e. starting off with a concept of "God", an idea, and then attempting to get close to that concept.  Clearly, concepts only get in the way of the real thing.

J. Krishnamurti puts it into words much better than me:

"I am not denying God - it would be foolish to do so ....  Belief is a denial of truth, belief hinders truth; to believe in God is not to find God.  Neither the believer nor the non-believer will find God because reality is the unknown, and your belief or non-belief in the unknown is merely a self projection and therefore not real ....

First of all, why do you believe?  You believe because it gives you satisfaction, consolation, hope, and you say it gives significance to life ....  Only when the mind is completely silent, not only on the upper level but fundamentally right through, on both the superficial and the deeper levels of consciousness - only then can the unknown come into being.

Now, what is reality?  What is God?  God is not the word, the word is not the thing.  To know that which is immeasurable which is not of time, the mind must be free of time, which means the mind must be free from all thought, from all ideas about God ...."

My journey has been a rocky one, but every time I've fallen into a pile of manure, I've come up smelling of roses.  This process may not have been obvious to the casual observer, but it is certainly what I have experienced on the inside.  My ability to see into the nature of things, an incapacity for self-deception and a desire for the authentic have led to most of the markers that people use to quantify the success of a person's life - marriage, children, career, and so on - being absent from my life.  But, for me, success is not to be found in these things but in certain intangibles which I find hard to describe.

This is how I see things, and often I see them in the same way as that little boy who proclaimed that the king was indeed not wearing fine new clothes, but was parading himself in the nude.

At odd and unexpected moments, the otherness has come, suddenly and unexpectedly and went its way, without invitation and without need.  All need and demand must wholly cease for it to be.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, that otherness came with such intense tenderness and beauty that one's body and brain became motionless .... thought and speech were gone and there was peculiar joy and clarity ....  It was a benediction that was beyond all image and thoughts.

J. Krishnamurti
"Krishnamurti's Notebook"
 (continued in PART 3)

PART 1: Why I am not a Christian, Buddhist, Moslem ... whatever

If you adhere to a given set of beliefs which have been organised into what is called "a religion", it is fairly easy to convey to others where you stand in spiritual matters. For example, if you tell someone "I'm an Anglican" or "I'm a Catholic" or "I'm a Buddhist", they will instantly have a fairly good idea of your belief system. It would take a bit more questioning to find out your spiritual idiosyncracies or what kind of Anglican or whatever you were.

When you are on an individual spiritual journal which is free of beliefs and which moves and changes every day, it becomes much harder to explain where you have come from and where you are now in your spiritual life. My "religion" has nothing to offer another person except the truth as I see it. But a truth communicated to another person always becomes mere second hand knowledge, which is of limited value to them. Of necessity, therefore, it is a private journey.

In any case, I find that most people aren't interested in my "way" as it offers no promises, no security, no conveyable answers to the big picture, absolutely nothing except, for me, a wonderful feeling of integrity. I live happily with the unknown and have no desire to "fill in the gaps" prematurely.

Organised religion, or any form of belief for that matter, tries to turn the unknown into the known by filling in the gaps with belief and faith. To me, this is like a child colouring in by numbers. A picture will emerge, but it sure ain't art.

Real art comes into being through a clear seeing and a movement of the creative spirit. In the meantime, living with a blank canvas is an authentic thing to do.

In my experience, most people seem more interested in security blankets than spiritual maturity. I remember one young man, dependent on alcohol and drugs, telling me that I was "spiritually desolate" as I didn't "represent" anything. I suspect that it was the desolation in his own soul that he was feeling and I wonder if he realised what he was actually saying when he used the word "re-present" - a re-hashing of someone else's ideas.

He was so upset by my lack of a belief system that he became physically violent, but I managed to herd him out the door and lock it before he started smashing my louvres and throwing things at me through the gap, while threatening to kill me. He calmed down after a little while and picked up the broken bits of glass very carefully. I had no more trouble from him except for stealing some of my food and trying to scare me with his pale, laughable attempts at black magic. This story is indicative of a sometimes hostile reaction to my lack of a belief system, although this was the only time I was physically threatened.

(continued in PART 2)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Winter haiku

Stepping out
morning cold
kisses my face

Overcast morning
my walk begins with
springy steps

Muddy river
memories of this year's flood
slowly receding

The old house
winter winds
rattling its bones

Sunny kitchen
the open recipe book
splattered with batter

Through the small window
a shaft of morning sunlight
sparkling bath water

Tamarillo harvest
hot jars lined up on the bench
my home-made chutney

Soft winter sunshine
a cold westerly blowing
its misery


As I walk by the river or sit in my tiny garden, not thinking of anything in particular, thoughts sometimes seep into my brain. If you'd like to read my seepage, here it is ...