Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Joyful Way and Religion


The text inviting people to follow Jesus, and where he says, "come unto me all ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest," is an invitation specifically directed towards Jewish people. Their religion had become for them a huge task, involving several thousand laws.

But this invitation also extends to all people. Here, Jesus was contrasting the simplicity of the spiritual Way with the religious path.

It is still this way. There are so many rituals and tasks that must be done in a religious life: Going regularly to a particular church, giving money to that church, singing hymns, lighting candles, doing Bible-study, saying public prayers, participating in regular social activities. In some denominations and cults, you are expected to sell, or otherwise work for, the religion.

The spiritual person needs none of this. She has one simple assignment, and that is to love-- whenever possible, whomever possible. She does not need to study the Bible, for her life is based upon the personal interior direction of the Spirit of Love, not upon ancient books and laws. That is why the enlightened never argue about Scriptural dogmas and doctrines.

Laws create legalism, and this can drive one from the direct Presence of God. Legalism and religions separate people, often to the point where they cut each others' throats, all in the "name of God." Religions often harm people psychologically or emotionally. For example, many teach the monstrous doctrines of eternal hellfire or Armageddon-- both equally horrific. For both support and imply a "monstergod."

While religion keeps its members "busy," often with useless "make-work" for the church, true spirituality is light and easy. For, in another place, Jesus says of this same Way, "My yoke is easy, and My burden light."

The deeply, truly spiritual person can afford to "drop" religion: Her "church," like her God, is everywhere. Her every act of Love is an act of worship. Her every thought of Love is her deepest prayer. So, wherever she goes, she is "in church," and whatever she does or says is her true "worship." So, she has no need for a church or, for that matter, a human leader to tell her how to live.

Religionis coldly intellectual, while spirituality is a warm matter of a heart ignited by Love-- Love for self, others, and all living creatures. This is the Love of God, and there is no other.

I do not recommend that people drop their churches. I do not recommend that people hate their churches. But it is true that, after much prayer, meditation, and preparation, a deeply spiritual person might be ready to "rise above," or "outgrow" her church. If and when so, she can then live safely and very happily without any "religion" at all. Her life-design is between her and Jesus or God. She ceases to follow the advice or laws of any priest, guru, or minister.

She has become spiritually independent, as a fully functioning spiritual adult. Unlike the dozens of laws of any religion, the Way of Jesus has only one law. It can be most simply summed up in a single word:


It is this: Love everyone, serve everyone, and forgive everyone. As John said, if a person lives in Love, she is living in God, and God in her. So, in that wisdom, she no longer has any room for religion or a church.

Religion, for the spiritual, is like a second-grade class in school. Second grade is not "evil," but once you move beyond it, you just do not go back to the classroom (church). Instead, you go out into the world with what you have learned, and try to apply it to real life.

The sad aspect of our society is that people never feel "ready" to leave the second grade. And their teachers-- gurus, priests, and ministers-- do everything possible to keep anyone from growing up into independence. For they are on gigantic egotrips, and they really often believe that a person should stay in second grade forever. This is how religion retards, holds back, and even cripples people when its real task is to aid them to grow. A good minister, priest, or guru should help a person do everything possible to outgrow human teachers and leaders, and to stand on her own. One problem, in their view: This would make them obsolete and unnecessary, and this scares them.

The great spiritual teachers, by contrast, wanted all their students (disciples) to grow up and stand on their own. Jesus said, in John, that if he did not "go away" to the "Father," the disciples would cling to him. But instead, he did want to go away, and send them the Paraclete (Helper or Comforter), the Holy Spirit. And the Buddha said, "Be a lamp unto yourselves."

Embracing a true spiritual Way makes us stronger and wiser. It makes us more loving and compassionate, serving others and being sensitive to their needs. It is like taking a breath of fresh air; I know, because I used to be an abject, fulltime slave to religion.

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