For some reason, over the last week or so, my mind has been running in complete circles about everything I believe. I have been in a constant state of searching, and frankly, getting exhausted. But it is all for the best, because although I am walking through this tunnel of spiritual hardship, I feel myself getting closer to emerging into the light with a clearer view of things and of my beliefs.
Three works have been in my mind:
The Art of Living- S.N. Goenka's work on Vipassana Meditation that is non-dogmatic (although he does reference The Buddha) helps with seeing reality for what it is. It is an amazing and insightful piece, and I look foward to taking one of the 10-day courses this fall if I am able. I find the concepts both simple and complex. It is not always easy to see reality for what it is when you are so caught up in your feelings and daily life--but it is definately worth a try! And this (along with Russell's piece below) both remind the seeker to refocus on what the teacher actually taught, rather than taking other people's interpretations and blindly accepting them.
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett- for some reason, fictional books that take a comical look at religion really speak to me. They don't ridicule as much as comically or satirically analyze religion. And I think people were just meant to laugh and be happy a lot more than they usually are. Fear drives happiness and laughter away. In this book, the characters are on a planet called DiscWorld, where gods bleep into existence or fade away according to the amount of people who believe in them. Radical, blasphemous even. But I think everyone should think out of their comfot zone, which leads me to:
Bertrand Russell's "Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?" Although Russell mostly takes a view against religion, I think many times in our religious lives we take such a complacent view with our beliefs: never questioning or growing beyond. This piece was powerful and shook me up, to say the least. I am now on a quest to read much more from him, as I found him even handed and insightful. He both acknowledges the usefulness of religion while also showing where it went wrong.
From Russell's piece: "There is nothing accidental about this difference between a church and its founder. As soon as absolute truth is supposed to be contained in the sayings of a certain man, there is a body of experts to interpret his sayings, and these experts infallibly acquire power, since they hold the key to truth. Like any other privileged caste, they use their power for their own advantage. They are, however, in one respect worse than any other privileged caste, since it is their business to expound an unchanging truth, revealed once for all in utter perfection, so that they become necessarily opponents of all intellectual and moral progress."
Definite food for thought...