Archive for July, 2007

Self-centred spirituality

The quest for enlightenment, or communion with God, is very altruistic. After all, if we succeed in this quest, we are of much more benefit to the world. However, many people still approach this quest from a selfish point of view. They seek their own personal enlightenment, hoping to achieve their own personal happiness. Even if our religion is geared towards altruism, if we follow it for our own personal gain then the only result will be brooding and depression.

We must remove the focus from ourselves and our own egos. Spirituality must be something that we do for others, or for God, or for the universe. We do not do it for ourselves, and we must not be proud or vain about our progress. We are not competing with others. There is no spiritual pot of gold that we can covet at the end. Spiritual progress is about releasing the ego. If we do not understand this, we will get nowhere.

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Authority

What is most important, the words themselves, or the speaker that uttered them? Do we believe something because it rings true for us, or because it was said by Jesus?

When we understand a topic well, we do not care about the credentials of the speaker. A mathematician believes a theorem if he or she can follow the steps of the proof. It does not matter who proposed it. However, for those of us who are ignorant of mathematics, we will probably believe a theorem proposed by Einstein, but will be more skeptical of a claim by a high-school dropout.

So when it comes to religion, do we wish to trust authority? The Buddha is purported to have said we should question everything, including his own words. Yet in many a theological discussion, the words of a Christ or Buddha are quoted as the absolute undeniable gospel. To my mind, this is a mistake. We cannot gain the total benefit of a teaching unless we truly understand the wisdom behind it. When we reach this level of understanding, then it is irrelevant who first uttered the words.

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