The nature of spirituality; religious ritual verses essence

The Iroquois tribes had driven us out, but over time their power weakened and we slowly moved back in. Although we are descendents of the Delaware tribes we are called the Shawnee. The Shawnee have always called this beautiful valley our home (Chillicothe, Ohio).

Following the bank of the Scioto River and under cover of lush forest vegetation, I waited patiently for my older cousin “Dancing Feather” to take aim. We were on a hunting party while the women were gathering berries and tending to corn back at our camp. My attention was momentarily diverted as I thought about my sweet heart back at the settlement, which I was to marry after the fall harvest.

Dancing Feather was always careful with his shot. Several bucks had moved into view in a small clearing up ahead. We had crept slowly and silently toward them. Hiding behind a Birch tree he took aim and let the arrow fly. The animal fell instantly.

After seeing our success Dancing Feather and I were soon joined by several other members of the party. The elder named “Hunting Bear” prepared some sacred flowers and grass. He stood over the buck as we all paid homage to the Great Spirit of life. He waved the flowers and spoke some holy words. We thanked the Great Spirit for his sacrifice, so that we could live another day. The strength and swiftness of that beautiful buck will live on through us.

From time immemorial people all over the earth have recognized that there is more to life than meets the eye. We may often ask the questions, “What is our relationship to the world that we find ourselves living in? How were we created? Where did we come from, and where will we go after death?”

Religions and philosophical traditions have been founded over the years to guide us and provide answers to those questions. Systems of thought and practices have appeared and disappeared over the course of time. Those that survived the longest are often associated with a leader, book and building.

It has been said, “Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, then this knowledge is once again presented to the people.”

Time after time that same universal spiritual knowledge is presented in language appropriate for the era; individually tailored to the understanding, language, capacity, environment and existing culture of the people.

At its inception the teaching is pure. But since there is a difference between the level of consciousness of the teacher and student, over the passage of time the purity of the teaching can get diluted, distorted and eventually misunderstood.

Spirituality refers to a non-material reality. It also includes a person’s inner path of self discovery, the unfoldment of their true essence and being. Spirituality is the holistic value of life, more than the sum of its parts.

Meditation brings us into direct contact with the source of thought, that inner field of silence which is spiritual essence, pure consciousness and absolute being.

Spiritual activities may involve civil and public service, charity, selfless activity, listening to music, and even the sincere quest for truth among atheists.

We should make a distinction between spiritually and the ritual/observances of a religion; the language of scripture, history of the people, holidays, what is permitted and what is not, the creed, marriage and social codes of behavior, permissible food, clothes and hygiene.

We call people “religious” when they strictly follow and adhere to their religion’s beliefs, rituals and observances. However, that does not necessarily make them spiritual.

Here are some examples of today’s religions:

Christian Cross

Christianity:
A monotheistic religion based on the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Today there are three major branches of Christianity; Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and Protestantism.
Core creed consists of:
a) Belief in God the Father, the Son of God Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
b) The death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.
c) The holiness of the Church and the Saints.
d) The second coming of Christ, the Day of Judgment and salvation.
Holidays – Christmas and Easter.

Buddhism:
Both a religion and philosophy based on the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha). Today there are two major branches of Buddhism; Theravada (The School of Elders) and Mahayana (The Great Vehicle) with subcategory Vajrayana.
Core creed consists of:
a) Karma the law of cause and effect, rebirth, the cycle of suffering (samsara), liberation or Nirvana.
b) The Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and the Middle Way.
Holidays – Vesak or Visakah Puja (“Buddha Day”), Asalha Puja Day (“Dhamma Day”), Ulambana (Ancestor Day), Bodhi Day (Enlightenment Day).

Jewish Star of David

Judaism:
Is the religion, philosophy and history of the Jewish people, starting with the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Tanakh) and delineated further in the Talmud, Mesorah, Targum, Mishnah, Kabala and other books. Today there are three major branches of Judaism; Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.
Core creed consists of:
a) the Maimonides Thirteen principles of faith.
Holidays – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth and Passover.

Unitarian Universalist Chalice

Unitarian Universalism:
In 1961 the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America united to establish the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). This religion is characterized by its support for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Central is the belief that their individual theology is the result of their search for truth and not obedience to an authoritative requirement. They do not share a creed but are united in their search for spiritual growth.
They voluntarily affirm:
a) The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
b) Justice, equality and compassion in human relations.
c) Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
d) A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
e) The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
f) The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
g) Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The holidays of all traditions and religions are celebrated.

Earth based traditions … and many others.

Perhaps you have your own definition of spirituality? What are your favorite activities? How do you celebrate the human spirit?

Any activity that enlivens the human spirit can be considered to be spiritual. That may include spending time with friends and loved ones, taking a walk, enjoying the breeze, the smell of freshly cut grass and flowers, an act of kindness, a good book, a religious service, the breath that you take, the joy you exude, and your presence in the world.

No matter what your religious affiliation may be (if any), meditation can help to discover its truer meaning and bring fulfillment to your religious quest.

Meditation can enliven the very basis of spirituality in your life. The daily experience of existence consciousness and bliss (Sat Chit Ananda) located at the source of thought nourishes every aspect of life. Take a few minutes each day to discover your full potential.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 at 8:59 am and is filed under Knowledge. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

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