What to do? What to do? So many religions and so many right ways to worship. Catholics pass by the baptismal font on the way to the Eucharist. The priest is the medium who performs the ritual that transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. I am a Mennonite and we say that you can’t be a follower of Jesus and go to war. (Hey, I do, truly, believe that!) Some forms of Buddhism note the requirement of assistance from certain deities on the path to enlightenment. Depending on how one views it, every religion eventually evolves or devolves into a distinctive identifying set of rituals and requirements.
J. Krishnamurti, in the collection of his teachings titled Freedom From The Known (p. 115, © 1969 by Krishnamurti Foundation, Harper & Row, Publishers), says, “You might as well put a piece of stick you have picked up in the garden on the mantelpiece and give it a flower every day. In a month you will be worshipping it and not to put a flower in front of it will become a sin.”
Our fear runs so deep that we are easily intimidated by religions and religious practices. We become frantic in our efforts to do the right things, to find the one right way to salvation. And instead of happily being a dog, we are a dog madly chasing our tail. Or we become busy busy with “shoulds” and “should nots” and “rights” and “wrongs”, so much so that we lose awareness of where and who and how we are – ultimately to the point where we are righteously, or even violently anxious and obnoxious about how right our path is and how wrong all the others are.
What a wonderful situation for the worldly powers looking for the raw material of war and domination. It’s the devil’s dream playground. Our God, our might, our right. But powers of domination and governance come and go. None of them last forever. None of them bring any real protection. None of them create ultimate happiness.
And the religions. Ritual and sacrifice bring no hope or assurance, no matter whose label they are under. While they might each have a lens on capital T Truth, the religious institutions of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam; none of them will save our hide from death and decay.
God/Mind/Spirit/Source – whatever inadequate label we choose to try to name this beauty and compassion that we know is here inside – God/Mind/Spirit/Source needs no rituals and practices. God/Mind/Spirit/Source – true religion – is alive and kicking, loving, truthing and connecting, heart to heart, hand to hand, no matter what the institutions are doing around us, no matter what the circumstances of life may bring.
Some would call it end times. To me, we are at a time of beautiful convergence. Think of it as a mountain with many paths. As we get closer to the top, the paths come nearer and nearer to one another. They are visible, one to the next. We can see the travelers on the other way and wave to them, or stop for greetings, conversation or a meal. The paths might even crisscross or merge. Meanwhile the top of that holy mountain of our hearts is closer as we travel.
There is beauty to behold in each traveler and each robe and costume. There is music and art, sound, sight and utility in each ritual when it is just a tool to help bring the attention of the mind to the leading of the heart as it opens to the Spirit. Or there are walls to divide and altars upon which to sacrifice and scales upon which to judge, if we choose to make the rituals gods to worship, weapons to defend or blinders to fool our vision and thinking.
Let us be humble, open and without judgment. Let us observe the things we carry with us, the rituals and practices that guide us, in the context of all that we see and, most of all, in the light of the Spirit as it shines on all the paths and all the travelers we encounter on the way.
All are called to the mountain. All are invited to drink from the river. All are welcome at the Tree of Life, and its leaves are indeed for the healing of all nations.
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