The Shift From Religious to Spiritual is Happening Too Slowly

Posted on November 10, 2009. Filed under: Spiritual Teachers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Over the weekend I was involved in several diverse and lengthy discussions about the needed shift from religious to spiritual (Shifting trom Religious to Spiritual). During these discussions there were two themes that had general agreement. The first was that this shift is imperative because the lack of this shift is producing severe threats that are imminent to humanity and even the environment of life on our planet. The second was that making the necessary shift is very difficult to do and is happening much too slowly to address the dire problems that we face. Everybody in these discussions agreed on these main issues. I am happy to establish why these points are true and to deal with disagreement to them in the comments section. This post will address the question of how to effect this change more quickly.

Change comes from within. When change is attempted only externally it does not work. This is why dealing with global climate change is so difficult to deal with. It requires us to each change how we relate to ourselves and the way we each live our lives. It requires us each to change to become more ethical in our own lives when it is easier not to do the right thing. This requires internal change. When this problem is approached with from an external solution point of view it is not even clear what to do to solve the problem. There are some general ideas, maybe even some general agreement on a good day, but no clear path out of the mess. This paradigm can be applied to any of the imminent problems facing humanity. This is because the solutions that are proposed for these problems attempt to impose change from outside on the problem, rather than approaching the issue as needing deeper spiritual responsibility and development from within. These exterior solutions have the effect of medicating the symptoms of the problems but never getting to or dealing with the root of the problem.

Blogs about global climate change: Top 10 worst effects of global warming, Vancouver Unitarians for Climate Change, Eating and Climate Change, Pachauri claims Indian scientific position arrogant, A World War II-Scale Effort

The war in Afghanistan is a prime example of how solutions that are imposed from outside do not fix the problems within. There are huge problems with the way that the folks within Afghanistan have in dealing with each other involving everything from violence to corruption. Until those issues are dealt with by them, no solution that is applied from an exterior source will work. Where they are not taking responsibility for their own problems no outside aid or force will work. David Rohde is very articulate on this topic also (Spiritual Conflict Resolution).

Blogs about David Rohde: A war reporter’s story, One Journalist’s Capture and Escape from the Taliban, An Element of Danger, A Taliban haven inside Pakistan?, Are we there yet?

How to develop the spiritual growth needed in these cases is the realm of expertise of Spiritual Teachers. Spiritual Teachers are those rare individuals among us that have learned to address their own internal corruption and manipulative behaviors and understand that serving this spiritual growth in others is the path of their lives. In this day and age Spiritual Teachers tend to be objects of suspicion and mistrust. This is because  no distinction is made between them and religious leaders and they are therefore considered to be as corrupt as their religious counterparts. The big distinction betwen the two is that the job of a Spiritual Teacher is to take the student to the point of spiritual independence while the religious leader is continually tries to increase their own authority and that of their religion. While Spiritual Teachers can be affiliated with a religion, they recognize that religion is just a vehicle to present spirituality. The Spiritual Teacher’s responsibility is to the development of spiritual understanding and not to the religious participation of the students.

Another misconception is that Spiritual Teachers are considered to have lived long ago and are not thought to be around today. Religions revere Spiritual Teachers like Moses, Buddha, Yeshua (Jesus), the Prophet Mohammad, and the Sikh Gurus religiously and mostly ignore the presence of Spiritual Teachers in our own time. To confuse things even worse, posers promote themselves as Spiritual Teachers which makes it seems as if true Spiritual Teachers are the same as these posers. They are not.

What makes Spiritual Teachers so vital for us at this time is that they alone have the understanding of the spiritual changes that we each need to go through individually, and teaching others who are then capable of teaching others is the only feasible way to multiply the numbers needed to have sufficient impact on our most serious problems.

In order to help validate that real Spiritual Teachers are with us today there is a page on this blog entitled “How I Met My Teacher” that contains real life experiences of people meeting Spiritual Teachers. This page is for everyone to post in the comment box their own story of how they recognized their Teacher as a Spiritual Master. It is also OK to challenge the validity of these experiences and the Spiritual Teachers associated with them in the spirit of investigating and actually defining what a Spiritual Teacher really is and is not.

Spiritual Teachers that I have personally identified in this lifetime are:

Yogi Bhajan

blogs: Kundalini Connection, Kundalininow’s Blog, Who is Yogi Bhajan?, Recipe by Yogi Bhajan, Be the Lighthouse

Sant Guru Dev Singh

blogs: Sat Nam Rasayan Canada, Guru Dev is in Town!, Healing and Shuniya,

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

blogs: Tibetreport’s Blog, The most important thing we can do, Chinese angry on India, Pay it Forward, The Buddhist Tradition, Khamerlogue

Thich Nhat Hanh

blogs: On Technology as the Solution, Meditations on Anger, my time?, Crossing A Channel, A Gift of Dharma for 11.9.09

Preah Maha Ghosananda

blogs: The Gods Drink Whiskey, Making Peace, The rising of the light, Democratic Peace

Eckhart Tolle

blogs: JasonGarcia’s Blog, I smoke, Christianity vs. Islam, I Totally Blame Eckhart Tolle

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Spiritual Conflict Resolution

Posted on November 2, 2009. Filed under: How Spirituality Works | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Over the weekend I heard part of a Fresh Air interview by Terry Gross of David Rohde (broadcast, transcript) on NPR  that was rebroadcast from last Tuesday. David Rohde is a NYT reporter that was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for 7 months before he escaped (blogs about: Politics, Religion, and Family, Suz says: Read This, Therearenosunglasses, Open Doors, Loosen Chains, Stranger’s Words, What Motivates the Taliban, Sylvia’s Journal, David Rohde’s series on being held by the Taliban, Held by the Taliban). Things I found remarkable about his story were how well he was treated by his captors, and the discussions that he had with them.

At the end of the Fresh Air interview Terry Gross asked Rohde about how to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan:

‘GROSS: My impression is that you don’t like to give opinions about policy. You want to report of not being an opinion person. But I am wondering how this experience changed your sense of what’s going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan and what the U.S. might do – I mean, and what the U.S. can do and what maybe it can’t do.

Mr. ROHDE: I think the vital thing remains to empower moderate Afghans and Pakistanis to confront this threat. I mean, Americans can’t solve these problems. We also can’t just sort of walk away from the region. One of the main things that shouldn’t happen, I think – I mean, is to -you know, the United States and moderate Muslims cannot sort of cede Islam to the Taliban. I mean, the Islam they practiced that I saw, you know, is a just completely distorted version of the religion. And they shouldn’t be allowed to sort of portray themselves as the true defenders of that faith.

I mean, constant statements and reactions I had from Afghan and Pakistani friends was we’re so sorry you were kidnapped. You know, kidnapping civilians, you know, and sending suicide bombers into mosques, you know, that is not jihad. That is not Islam. And so it’s vital to sort of, you know, for the United States to remain committed in the region, but to let, you know, Afghans and Pakistanis to take the lead in confronting this problem politically and militarily and in other ways. And another big take away was the sense that corruption is just a cancer on particularly the Afghan government, but also the Pakistani government.

The Taliban sort of promise rule of law and a lack of corruption among local police and officials, and that’s, in a sense, why they’re popular in some areas. I think average Afghans just want for stability and an effective government, and whoever produces that, in the sense, will win their loyalties. And again, I – there is a base. A vast majority of Afghans and Pakistanis are moderates. It’s not too late to stabilize both countries, but it is going to take time. And I – you know, I think a tremendous amount of training and support to the Afghans, who – and Pakistanis who so desperately oppose the Taliban, as well.’

This is a very valid and important concept that demonstrates the spiritual approach to conflict resolution.

I was once conducting interviews and collecting footage for a documentary (that I never finished) to compare religious and spiritual concepts and perceptions. Actually that is not really honest. What I was really trying to do with the documentary was to expose how beliefs are too rigid and inflexible to be wide enough and open enough to include the spirituality of the interconnected Universe. At this time I attended a press conference that the Dalai Lama gave. (blogs about the Dalai Lama: Nonduality blog, Burma Review, Culture Broker’s Musings, A critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Mr S N Goenka, Violence and Fearlessness, Losing my religion, China censors beyond its borders) Rather than speaking about any political agenda that he might have, the Dalai Lama took it as an opportunity to speak to the press about the way that news is presented and broadcast in our time. He tried to teach the assembled press how to cover the news more spiritually. He said it was understandable that when some shocking event takes place that the press needs to report it but they also need to report the motivation for the shocking behavior so that there can be understanding. He said that it was this understanding is what is needed to develop the correct response to the shocking behavior. Since it is the motivation that causes the shocking behavior, that behavior cannot be controlled until what motivated it has been addressed. He pointed out that there is a lack of media coverage of the motivation behind shocking behavior, and this deprived the general public from developing needed understanding. He also made it quite clear that profit driven news cycles that only go from one shocking event to the next without ever reporting on motivation created a public appetite for this kind of stimulation that actually prevents the understanding necessary to actually resolve conflict from ever developing. The Dalai Lama gave that press conference in the early 90’s, before suicide bombers and 9/11.

When what motivates a conflict is not understood the conflict cannot be resolved. Conflicts that are not resolved worsen until the issues behind the conflict are dealt with.

When the motivations of the support of the Taliban that David Rohde articulates are examined, it is clear that some of these motivations are based on misconceptions and a lack of understanding. The obvious question is how can the misunderstanding be addressed. Mr. Rohde gives at least part of that answer in his response to Terri Gross. He points out that much of the misunderstanding that exists within the forces that support the Taliban is based on religious misinterpretations of the spiritual teaching of Islam. Although he does not make the point in this interview Mr. Rohde alludes to the fact that because folks that hold extreme religious points of view interpret everything in terms of their own religious framework it is not possible for those outside those religious beliefs to address them. A religious extremist that is Christian interprets information in the context of their Christian beliefs. A Muslim religious extremist does the same thing. When we interpret information only in our religious terms it becomes easier to marginalize those that do not share our religious views.

This is the reason that religious extremists do not listen to those who are outside their religions. Religious extremism puts everything into religious context and anyone that does not understand that context and is unable to speak in that understanding is marginalized as not important enough for their opinion to matter. A Christian that believes that abortion is murder and therefore condones the murder of doctors that perform abortions has a religious framework of thought that is used to justify the murder of these doctors. In order to alter this justification it is necessary to communicate in the terms of the framework of the Christian belief. Only people that practice the same religion can speak to spiritual misinterpretations within a religion. Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu can speak to a lack of Christian spirituality in Christian religious extremism and have a validity that those who are not Christian or religious cannot.

(blogs about Jimmy Carter: Hey The South, Come Join The Rest Of Us In 2009, Voting and Christian Citizenship, Listen to your Elders, O Solo Mama, Patrick Buchanan is an Idiot-Part 2, )

(recent blogs about Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Either/Or, Freemuse, All Saints, MCC Church, Aung San Suu Kyi, What is wrong with the church?, The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Program)

In dealing with religious extremism and violence the value of validating what more spiritually oriented members of religions have to say has been overlooked. David Rohde says there is a need for these religious moderates to take the lead in confronting religious extremism in their own religions. I point out that among those that are called moderates are people that have a more developed spiritual concept of religion. I feel it is a spiritual duty to confront the spiritual corruption of the religions that we participate in for if those who have spiritual insight do not confront religious extremism in our own religions, no one else can and continued escalation of violence is inevitable.

Just as  vocal Americans are demonstrating that the views of extremists like Rush Limbaugh (Sarah Palin says, “Twick or Tweat”, The Problem, As I See It, Limbaugh Plays Politics With War Dead) and Dick Cheney (Telling Dick Cheney to Shut the Hell Up, Cheney Displays All the Integrity of a Gutter Rat, Build your bunker) are not the true voice of America. It is possible to combat the violence that is justified within religious extremism by increasing the scope of those who speak from those religions with a deeper spiritual understanding.

The interconnectedness of all things is real. Conflict resolution begins from within. It cannot be forced from an exterior source because there is no outside force that is greater than that which connects us. To deny this connection with each other is therefore a self-destructive act because when we deny our connection with each other we are ultimately denying a part of ourselves. Expanding the awareness of our interconnectedness is the key to dealing with our self-destructive tendencies. Using more moderate spiritual voices to address those of  religious extremism within the same religion is an example of how to promote change from within.

It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

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Shifting from Religious to Spiritual, the Need for Spiritual Teachers

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: Spiritual Teachers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Humanity needs to shift its perception of itself and how it relates to the world it lives in on all levels. This tremendous shift requires a change in core beliefs. This shift can best be described as a change from religious to spiritual in the general way that humanity relates, shifting from believing and relating to the world religiously to relating to it spiritually. Religions produce folks that think that the religion that they practice is the best and  the only true one. These bi-products of religious belief produce attitudes of the practitioners that they are somehow more special than those not of their religion. Borrowing an idea from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a religious person in the US (for example) could be described as believing that all Americans are equal but that those that practice the same religion as they do are more equal than others. It is a way of spouting equality while acting otherwise. The religious bias of inequality is a main part of the thinking that justifies exploitation, oppression and violence against others. A similar correlation can be explored about the way that attitudes of entitlement and elitism relating to natural resources have to be shifted in order to make human existence on this planet sustainable. (The effects of prejudicial religious attitudes seem so obvious that I am not going into the specifics necessary to make a formal argument. If this is too general please post a question or argument and we can discuss it further.) Thinking that is fundamentally biased in this way makes the future of humanity unsustainable and must be shifted.

One major obstacle to making this shift is the lack of understanding of what spirituality is. Spirituality is not a belief system. Spirituality is based on experience of connectedness that produces consistent specific results. It is not enough to simply believe that all things are interconnected, there must be consistent experiences of this interconnectedness that can be examined and explored. This element of validation is a required element in all aspects of spirituality. Going back to the Karen Armstrong discussion of the need for a shift in the perception of God, simply replacing the religious belief based image of God with a spiritual one is not enough. For the spiritual concept of God to have validity there must be some direct experience that one can use as the basis for that understanding (Blogs visited: In Good Faith, Learn English with Turgay Evern, This Tumbleweed Life, by Hibernopithecus, Insight, Rethorykal Questions, Find and Ye Shall Seek, Prometheus Unbound, Slow Muse, March Fourth Blog, Run Motherfucker Run, Marmalade, Randall Butisingh’s Weblog, Empowered Thoughts).

There are those that understand this because they have not only had these experiences themselves, but they have an understanding of the what is required to to establish that experience. These people are Spiritual Teachers. Spiritual Teachers are the key ingredient that humanity needs to make the shift from religious to spiritual because they know the reality of spirituality through spiritual experience. One great example of this is the  common concept of compassion compared to that concept presented by a Spiritual Teacher. People frequently refer to compassion, but when asked what compassion is specifically the definition becomes very vague. Compare this with what the Buddhist Spiritual Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (blogs: Danny Fisher, 108ZenBooks, RBO, Enlightened Horsemanship, the loveART blog, Feeling Up In Down Times) teaches: that compassion only comes from understanding. This indicates that both understanding and compassion are specific direct experiences, and it implies that compassion is always a predictable result of increased understanding.

Along this same line, the Spiritual Teacher Eckhart Tolle (blogs: Tao of Now, Sweet in the Middle, Eckhart Tolle: Uncut Interview, Evolutionary_Mystic’s Blog, Award Winning Books, Online Inspirations ) has a book, The Power of Now, that gives specific definitions for words that are used vaguely before they are understood through direct spiritual experience. The book even includes his vivid firsthand account of the most basic of spiritual experiences.

Another example is in the way that the Spiritual Teacher the 14th Dalai Lama (blogs: Paderborner ‘SJ’ Web Blog, Dare to Bare, Sojourn to the Past, inklake, BreakLines, Pakistanpal’s Blog, In Good Faith) answered the question of what is the best religion. He said that he meets many people and if they have a warm heart it doesn’t matter what religion they are, and if they don’t have a warm heart it doesn’t matter what religion they are.

I once met the Spiritual Teacher, the Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism from Cambodia, Maha Ghosananda (blogs: CHANROEUN, Making Peace, Ruby Ramblings, Democratic Peace Blog, Skip Schiel, Church of Skippy) and asked him what Dharma is. He began telling me the textbook definition of the eightfold path. I rudely interrupted him to explain that I understood the general theory but I wanted to know how one knows what is the right thing to do in life when one is actively practicing Dharma. How do we know when to do more and when we are to back off, etc. He genuinely smiled and held up three fingers. He said, “Here, Now, This. When you are here, be only here. When it is now, be only now, and when you do this, do only this.” I said “So if I practice this I will always know what to do?” and he exclaimed, “Precisely! and when I do not I only make mistakes.”

These are all examples of Spiritual Teachers teaching from direct experience, and validating direct experience over religious belief. When the Enlightenment of these individuals and the Sikh Spiritual Teachers that I have mentioned in previous posts, Yogi Bhajan and Sant Guru Dev Singh, is investigated and examined it is found that they all were students of Spiritual Teachers themselves first. There are notions that spirituality can be learned without a Spiritual Teacher, or that it can be learned from a book. The notion that Enlightenment can be achieved without a Spiritual Teacher is simply a way to avoid the reality of what is truly necessary. The intimacy with which we delude ourselves makes Enlightenment without a Spiritual Teacher an impossibility today more than ever. The reason it is more impossible now than in the past to achieve Enlightenment without a Spiritual Teacher is that technology is so available now to divert attention from dealing with harsh truths and cater to our self serving tendencies. This is the role of a Spiritual Teacher, to show the path, to know the requirements, and to confront the cheating along the way. No one learns without this level of involvement with a Spiritual Teacher.

My Spiritual Teacher, Yogi Bhajan (blogs: Kundalini Yoga I Am, Kundalininow’s Blog, Har-Prakash Khalsa, Catalyst Yogi, Spirit Voyage, Sosieji’s Weblog), considered what is referred to as the New Age as the time when the shift from religious to spiritual will occur and that this can only occur through a newfound discovery of the validity of Spiritual Teachers. Yogi Bhajan was very clear that the defining purpose of his life was to create Spiritual Teachers to facilitate that shift. He was also a pragmatist. He established the structure for the second side of the teachings, Sat Nam Rasayan (blogs: Darsana Wellness, Healing with Lea, Be the Lighthouse ). He made sure that this was established in an open way so that students from any Spiritual Teacher can learn to understand the inner teachings of their own lineages. At the same time Yogi Bhajan was also aware that the vast majority of his own students had made their reverence of him paramount and had come to rely on that relationship in such a way that made learning the second side of the teachings virtually impossible. He allowed this to happen deliberately.

It presented itself to do this because while it is necessary to develop the strength of commitment required to  have a Spiritual Teacher in order for a student to fully face and resolve their self-centered delusions, the student must also get beyond their Spiritual Teacher and learn to exclusively rely on the Spiritual Teacher that lies within. Yogi Bhajan chose his own students to be examples of how this is not achieved when he allowed them to instigate the IKYTA certification. Allowing this stands as a clear example of how the teachings of a Spiritual Teacher become subverted into a religion by over-relying on the Spiritual Teacher and making the godliness of the Spiritual Teacher and the relationship to that Teacher more significant than the teachings that produce the experience of spirituality. In order for there to be a monumental shift from religious to spiritual there needed to be a very clear example of the pitfall of deifying a Spiritual Teacher which is the basis for all religions. Yogi Bhajan allowed his own students to be that example so that humanity could make a permanent shift from religious to spiritual.

It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

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