Most people give less thought to choosing a religion than to picking out a new car. Ford and Toyota owners tend to be loyal to their favored automobile company, but if they find that a different brand has a better vehicle, they’ll jump ship.
That’s the way it should be. Why stick with something that isn’t a good fit for you? Yet religious affiliation is strongly inertial. If you were born in a Christian culture, most likely you’ll end up embracing Christianity. Ditto with Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other religions.
More and more, though, we’re moving in the direction of a global culture. Thomas Friedman says, “the world is flat.” Meaning, connected. So now there are many more choices available on the cultural menu. Religiously, you can be a Nebraskan Buddhist or a Tibetan Baptist.
It all depends on your spiritual taste buds. Take some bites of a faith that seems promising. Consider how pleasant this sample seems. Ponder the digestibility of its teachings.
In the end it comes down to a simple “Yum!” or “Ugh!” (with many gradations of liking and disliking, of course). When asked why they chose or rejected a particular religion, many people respond with little more than a “It felt right,” or the obverse.
Nothing wrong with that. Just as no reason needs to be given for hating green peppers—this comes naturally to me—it’s fine to let spiritual preferences remain unexplained.
But I enjoy a thoughtful explanation none the less. Such came into my hands recently in the form of an email from Mike Weston, with whom I’d corresponded previously. Mike has been looking into the pros and cons of becoming an initiate of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, a group that I’ve been associated with since 1970.
It was interesting to learn what he’s concluded. And why. Here, with Mike’s permission, is his story. Read on.
I had written you a few years back and at the time we had exchanged some interesting ideas regarding our feelings about “The Path.” Back then I was a “seeker,” someone who had been exposed to the discipline by an initiate who I respected and had come to know through a common business interest. I was intrigued by its message, felt a great affinity for its doctrines and wanted to become part of it.
I made an effort to learn as much as I could about it, traveled to Fayetteville to see the “Master” and attended numerous satsangs. But I never made the move to get initiated. There was an unsettling element about the whole thing that was holding me back, yet I didn’t want to completely abandon it because there was so much about it that I was attracted to.
Now things have changed for me and I have made a decision to reject the program, and my reasons are along the same lines as yours. I have read all the correspondence on your website and see a consistency and non-contradictory element to it all. I think you are on the right track.
To me, I think it’s a shame that so many people are following so blindly this “emperor who wore no clothes” paradigm, probably out of fear but with good intentions. Yet for another reason also. I have coined an expression many years ago based on my experience living in this reality. It is: “Repetition breeds acceptance,” and it applies in all walks of life.
Some examples: If you listen to rap music enough you will have a tendency to start to like it although you would swear otherwise after your initial exposure. If you live in a corrupt society where oil prices, among other things, are based on the greed of the controlling forces to the detriment of the masses, then (and then is right now) you will be delighted that you are now paying “only” $2.50 a gallon. Repetition breeds acceptance at work!
I also define this condition as an “inertia” of situations. Just as an object in motion tends to stay in the same motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, I think the condition is more general and applies to the human condition—its thought process, activities, and ideologies. In my opinion, if one is truly a truth seeker, then he must resist this tendency and always have an open mind so as not to get locked into one way of thinking and always be ready to “change.”
Concerning objective reasoning versus intuitive reasoning:
I have an advanced degree in math, have taught on the graduate level, and put two corporations together, so you might say that I am an objective thinker. I accept things only that can be proven, via logical deduction, and make my own decisions and determinations based on my own reasoning. Yet, things are not that simple.
For example, if you read a couple of Brian Greene’s books such as “Fabric of the Cosmos” and “Elegant Universe,” you learn about quantum mechanics. It has been shown that on the subatomic level you simply can’t “know everything” about a facet of reality such as a particle’s position and motion.
Not because we are not yet smart enough or lack the proper technology, but because it would violate certain laws. Somehow the particle knows when it is “observed” even if it is by a subtle indirect observation and acts measurably differently when it is being observed than when it isn’t.
Now taking a jump in reasoning, I have come to the conclusion, especially in the field of metaphysics, that you can’t “know everything” (or maybe even anything) with certainty. Thinking you do will always get you into trouble. I believe that the best we can do is live in a quandary of uncertainty where opposing points of view are possible. This may be unsettling, but I think it is the most realistic.
Note that the ”ego” does not have too much power or hierarchy, but is just a part of everything and everyone else in this reality. Just as you can’t pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and a puppet can’t comprehend how it was created, we simply will not objectively and scientifically be able to come up with all the answers.
Then, so what is the “way” to gain understanding of our existence and reality? In my opinion, it is to follow our innate intuition.
In a related matter, I would like to talk about what I consider the most important and powerful force in the universe, “Love.” In mathematics and set theory one of the properties is the existence of an identity element. There is always one and only one. It has the property that it bonds all the elements in the set, by not changing them when acting upon them.
In the set of all numbers with the operation of addition the identity element is 0, in the operation of multiplication it is 1. I bring this up because in the set of all living beings, the only bonding element I know that transcends language and station on the wheel of life is “Love.”
And if you try to capture love and own it or control it with regard to another living entity, you will lose it. You can experience it but you can’t possess it. “If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it is truly yours; if it doesn’t, it never was.” Love is Unity in the set theory of all living beings, the binding force that is universally felt, and perhaps is “God” in spirituality.
Following your intuition, which is an intensely personal thing, is my “Path.” Know yourself. Get in touch with yourself in as honest a way as possible. Meditation is a very good start, and may help you find answers. But they come from within and you must find them for yourself.
In the end it really may not matter if we do or not. Our understanding, if it’s at all possible, probably won’t make a difference on what happens, but of course we like to know. When you go in for surgery, in essence you are surrendering to a situation you have no control over. But naturally you still like to know what your chances are.
Remember: What is real does not change; anything that changes, that is impermanent, is not real. Love is real, the soul is real. This I know intuitively, and to me that counts more than if it were part of some objective experimenter’s conclusion. You must find your own truths and realities.
One of my personal conclusions: In the field of science and math, all numbers can be expressed uniquely with just two elements—the numbers 1 and 0 (binary system). But in the field of life all of the creation requires only one element, because we are all part of the same soup, no one better than another, all manifestations of the same entity which I will call “God.”