Reflections on Religious Beliefs

“I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, and Confucian.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Irrevocable commitment to any one religion is not only intellectual suicide;
 it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world.”

~ Alan Watts
“The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear.”

~ J. Krishnamurti
“We are shackled by illusory bonds of belief.
Freedom is beyond belief.
So, we seek relief from belief.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Follow dharma, not dogma.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Today, … any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate.” . . . .
“[T]he time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.”

~ Dalai Lama
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.

Without them humanity cannot survive.”

~ Dalai Lama






Reflections on Religious Beliefs

Q. What is religion?

A. “Religion” is a word with many meanings.
Here we define it as “any belief system about Divinity or immortality often including rules, rituals, codes of ethics, and philosophies of life.”

Q. Why do we have religions?

A. There is a subtle Cosmic law of ‘supply and demand.’ Religions have arisen in response to our perennial quest for lasting peace and happiness, and our desire to transcend inevitable earthly psychological sufferings.

Knowingly or unknowingly, everyone seeks Happiness, Wholeness, and Love. Consciously or subliminally, we intuit and long for a state of Being which transcends inevitable Earthly cares and suffering. Knowingly or unknowingly we seek timeless Truth.

Religious belief is a form of attempted life guidance, and psychological self-protection from fear of inevitable physical death and uncertain life experience before death. Though many find transient consolation in accepting religious beliefs about divinity and immortality, such beliefs can’t permanently provide such protection. We can’t find freedom from fear of death and from life’s uncertainties through theories, thoughts or beliefs, but only through direct experiential Knowledge.

Thus, the Buddha who realized such freedom while meditating beneath a Banyan tree, counseled:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
~ Buddha

When twentieth century Indian sage, J. Krishnamurti, was asked
“Is belief in God necessary or helpful?”   he said:

[B]elief in any form is a hindrance. A man who believes in God can never find God. If you are open to reality, there can be no belief in reality. If you are open to the unknown, there can be no belief in it. … belief is a form of self-protection…” …

“When the mind is completely empty – only then is it capable of receiving the unknown.” …… “Only when the mind is wholly silent, completely inactive, not projecting, when it is not seeking and is utterly still – only then that which is eternal and timeless comes into being.”

Similarly the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a sacred Hindu text, state:

“Yoga is the cessation of mind.”

“The witness is Self, pure awareness, which,
though boundless and unchanging,
appears to perceive creation through the construct of mind.”

“The [mistaken] identification of pure awareness with the mind and its creations
causes the apprehension of both an objective world and a perceiver of it.”

“When the mind withdraws attention from sense experience, the senses receive no impressions from sense objects, and awareness rests in its essential nature.”

“When he is not in the state of yoga, man remains [mistakenly] identified with the thought-waves in the mind.”
~ Patanjali – Yoga Sutras

Q. Why is a silent mind important?

A. Through thought we self identify as entities separate from the Whole – as separate perceivers of a supposedly objective world. But this is an ego illusion. So, attempted psychological self-preservation through perpetuation of an illusionary self-image is futile. What never was can never be preserved. Thus, religious beliefs that seek psychological self protection from identification with an illusion of separateness from Self are ultimately futile.

The object of all spiritual practice is to transcend such illusionary ego identity. Such transcendence happens only when thought ceases and the universal intelligence which has been mistakenly regarded as a separate experiencer of sensations and emotions, and a separate performer of actions, exists by itself and as itself, and is not mentally divided.

Q. What about instinctive physical acts of self-protection, as distinguished from religious beliefs aimed at psychological self-preservation?

A. According to J.Krishnamurti:

“Physical self-protection is sane, normal and healthy but every other form of self-protection, inwardly, is resistance and it always gathers, builds up strength which is fear.”

Q. Are religious beliefs important?

A. Our ethical behaviors – not our religious beliefs – are most important.

As the Dalai Lama reportedly has said:

“There is no religion higher than the Truth. … What really is important is our behavior with peers, family, work, community, and in the world. …. Whether or not we follow a religion, what is important is that we become more compassionate, more sensible, more detached, more loving, more humanitarian, more responsible, more ethical.” https://sillysutras.com/your-religion-is-not-important/

So grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate:

“[T]he reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate.

This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.”

~ H.H. the Dalai Lama – Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World

Ron’s Comments on Urgently Necessary Ethical Behavior Beyond Religious Beliefs

Dear Friends,

Without universal ethical behavior beyond conflicting religious beliefs, humanity cannot survive.

As explained in the foregoing essay, throughout human history, people have adopted or accepted “religious” beliefs, practices and institutions, in exploring the mystery and meaning of life and existence. About 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or with some form of folk religion. Also there are now an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide.

Paradoxically, some leaders and devotees of religions organized to teach universal “Truth” realized by Great Beings have perpetuated and acted on mistaken egoic ideas of separateness, which the sages transcended. Thus, throughout human history countless people and other precious life forms – all manifestations of that same Universal “Truth” – have been victims of demonic wars, crusades, inquisitions, persecutions, and ‘terrorism’ initiated and perpetrated in the name of “true” religion or God.

Although religious beliefs and practices have also inspired immeasurable good, advances in technological and scientific knowledge now reveal that Humankind urgently need to transcend such behaviors which have spawned immense misery and even threaten all Earth life as we have known it.

But how can this happen?

Inspired by the wisdom of Dr. Seuss that “sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple,” I have long reflected on on this question, seeking simple answers to the immensely complicated crises confronting us.

Perhaps one of the simplest but most powerful answers I’ve found is:

“There is only one God,

the same God regardless of the labels applied by religion. …

There is only one religion, the religion of Love;

There is only one language, the language of the Heart;

There is only one caste, the caste of Humanity”

~ Sathya Sai Baba

But most people are not yet sufficiently evolved to understand and act in accordance with that profound realization expressed by Sai Baba.

So I was delighted when His Holiness the Dalai Lama recently published an important self-help book – “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” – which H.H. introduced with this important insight:

“[T]he reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate.

This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.”

~ H.H. the Dalai Lama – Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (2011)

And I have been deeply inspired and encouraged by similar sentiments addressed to all Humankind by Pope Francis, e.g.:

“When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?”

“[W]e all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other . . . .we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone”. . . .
“[E]verything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state.”

“We have so much to do, and we must do it together.”

~ Pope Francis – 2017 TED Talk

And so we must realize that

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.

Without them humanity cannot survive.”

~ Dalai Lama

With silenced minds and opened hearts may we practice the “golden rule” of reciprocal empathy, and compassionately view and treat all sentient beings as spiritual siblings. May everyone everywhere treat all beings and all life with the same dignity that they wish for themselves. 

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

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