Two weeks into this blog and it’s clear to me that the issue of spirituality is going to come up time and again in my posts, so I need to provide some context.
First, I should say that I am a Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist. In some ways, that’s a lot to keep straight. In other ways, it’s all very clear, simple, unified and practicable.
I’m no expert, but it seems to me that spirituality in the West developed through mass movements, chronologically and – most importantly – through a series of binary oppositions. The Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Greeks codified certain structures of belief. Then there were the Romans (pagans) vs. the Israelites. Then Christians emerged on the scene, sharing the same Old Testament with Jews, but believing that the Messiah had arrived in the person of Jesus – the birth of anti-Semitism. Building on Christ’s story, the Koran codified Islam in the Middle East in the eighth century – setting the stage for the Crusades, then the Reformation and all the attendant isms and schisms Western history records. In the West, therefore, it’s necessary to consider one’s self one thing or the other: Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Suni, Shiite, on and on. From this perspective, I consider myself a Unitarian Universalist because the tradition allows space for all gods and beliefs to co-exist.
Eastern spiritual practices developed much differently – regionally, geographically and with a kind of migratory synchronicity. While the Old Testament was being written and Homer was at work (5000-850 BC), Hindu traditions were being recorded in the Upanishads, the Rig Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu scriptures. These emphasized an undefinable One – captured in the Hindu word Om – that resides in the same way within all people, all beings and all things. Later, Buddha’s teachings adumbrated a practice of meditation to bring a person into contact with The One. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu takes a different approach. Confucius developed his own path. Through millennia of cultural/spiritual importations and integrations, it turns out today that many Asians comfortably practice multiple religions at the same time. I seem to be in that group!
My readings and, most recently, my yoga practice have left me with a bottom-line spiritual belief … that all things – no matter how small, how large, how beautiful or how horrible – are manifestations of the marvelous whole, the One, god, the Creator, the Divine Mother, whatever name He or She is called.
I am not in the category of people who think that all religions are the basically same because they point to the Golden Rule or to Love as a hallmark endpoint. Religions, their doctrine and their practice – especially between East and West – are very different. What most hope to provide is a guide to living in peace and harmony. If I’ve done my job well, I’ve injected something of this attitude into In Mr. Handsome’s Garden.