All spiritual paths may lead up the same mountain, but most traditional practitioners insist it is essential to focus on one path. Obviously, I don't believe this or I wouldn't write this blog. Yet I've heard really good reasons to focus on a single tradition
Interfaith folks are like generalists who see the big picture and commonalities across local differences. Those committed to a single tradition are like specialists who see all the nuances and details in their area of focus. These are each legitimate ways of perceiving, and they compliment each other. For solid, spiritually useful reasons, the range of human diversity includes generalists, specialists and people in the middle. We all have good work to contribute to the whole.
What about monastic practice? Is this the one arena where specialization is required? The great 14th century Hindu mystic, Lal Ded, said, “On the way to God the difficulties / feel like being ground by a millstone, / like night coming at noon, like / lightening through the clouds.” It can feel awful, like a journey through wasteland, to let go of obsessions - with things, bodily wants, relationships, anger, pride and even of concepts of God. Traditionalists expect generalists to endlessly circle the lower reaches of the mountain hopping from one path to the next when the going gets steep.
Of course, specialists have their own way of holding off the hard work.
Where would an interfaith/no faith community find guidance for the strenuous task of daily life in community, as well as individual struggles with practice? Could we trust the spirit speaking through each intellect and heart to leads us where we need to go? Would it work to draw from all sources as desired (as UUs are wont to do)? Traditional practitioners insist this results in a shallow understanding that cannot lead into real, spiritual depths. Alternatively, could individuals focus on a specific tradition - albeit not one shared across the community?
Without the interpretations, inspirations and goads of a single, shared, religion how would community members help each other walk the tough parts of the monastic way?