Religion or Spirituality?
Most people today are looking for a spiritual experience in their life that is non-religious. People today desire a belief system or a practice other than what they have been exposed to as traditional religion. Most people yearn for more in their lives than what is currently being offered to them by contemporary society and culture.
In today’s society, hyper-materialism and competitiveness create social isolation and diminish personal happiness. As Henry David Thoreau says, "People live their lives in a continuous state of quiet desperation". But why do you think so many people today are turned off by religion in general?
Religion and Spirituality Today
Religion is traditionally about control, obedience, and guilt, not questioning or looking to deeply. Today, most people today see religion as divisive and a great source of war and social distress in the world. Where as spirituality has been traditionally about liberation and finding happiness. The Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates and Mohammed were about spirituality or personal liberation. They defied the traditional belief systems of their time.
Spirituality is defined as an awareness of life that is more than life's physical presence. It is the opposite of experiencing life on simply a physical plane; it is about experiencing life with the higher faculties. It’s about having a deep connection to life, seeing more than what is on the surface and being highly refined in thought and feeling.
Why is Buddhism Popular Today?
Because Buddhism is about realization and experience. It is not about institutions and or divine authority like other religions. There is no Buddhist God. You need not believe in God to practice Buddhism, but you may if you choose to do so. You can believe in a supreme being or simply an open expanse of consciousness and awareness, or believe in the all-encompassing power of love. Plain and simple.
The Buddha never claimed to be anything more than a man who became awake.
He offered a contemplative practice to those who chose to listen to him. In doing so, he showed us that meditation is the foundation and the essence of a truly spiritual practice. This concept is non-denominational; it can be applied to any spiritual practice because all religions have and encourage forms of meditation and prayer.
Buddhism is not about salvation or original sin. These notions are fundamental to religious dogma and suggest a negative or broken foundation to life from the start. Buddhist thought starts from the basic notion that you and your world are fundamentally and profoundly good. Although we all may be confused at times, the fact always remains that we, this world and our very nature is good! We do not stand in opposition to our world or this life; we and our world are one. We are neither for nor against anything. Our life is beautiful, curious, complex and yet profoundly simple.
It is nothing and the source of everything. It is all good and it cannot be owned or monopolized by anyone. It is a vivid world of direct experience that we can explore, enjoy, realize and love. It is a world with no real borders, boundaries or limitation. We are intricately connected to each other and all life around us. By way of its own nature, all life is ultimately free. When we realize this absolute truth, we are free!
This is spirituality. It's all about liberating your basic goodness and freedom.
Spirituality and Meditation
Meditation offers us the opportunity to look directly into it all. Relax and let go. Rest with it all and experience this primordial freedom that is this life. Our life.
Recognizing the reality of our suffering is the first step down the spiritual path.
The Buddha's discussion of the Four Noble Truths were relevant to our recognizing this primordial truth and taking this first important step. No one can do it for us. We all must ultimately face truth alone on our own terms. The good news is that we can! We have the strength, intelligence, and loving grace to face all life's joys and challenges.
Through our meditation practice, we have been given a precise and correct method to understand all we encounter within and without in this life. These methods are time tested over thousands of years by thousands of practitioners and they do, in fact, lead to personal happiness and liberation.
There are a variety of meditation practices that can work for the variety of people who seek to use them. There are practices to calm and focus the mind, open the heart, and help us to become more awake. They also offer ways to bring grace into our lives. Meditation offers different skills to meet different needs.
Meditation practitioners are encouraged to take nothing on faith alone. What the meditation practice offers is becoming known as the world’s most developed science of the mind. In this respect the Dalai Lama said, "Buddhism must give up any belief that science disproves". The Buddha himself said, "You must be a lamp unto yourselves. Test everything against your own life experience".
We must all continuously face the challenge of finding the middle way between to much self and not enough. We must have the courage to be still, look inside, and realize the true nature of our own spirituality.