Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The Little House That Many Faiths Built
I mentioned in a previous post that last May I went to four dharma talks by the Dalai Lama. Before saying that all faiths had useful things to offer the world (though only understanding of emptiness and no-self led to liberation form suffering), he said it was dangerous to switch from your birth tradition. The big danger was confusion. Since every religion’s concepts grew out of cultural assumptions, anyone not raised in a similar culture could fail to understand the concepts.
I'm pretty sure the DL is right. I will never understand exactly what he means by emptiness as there are cultural nuances I cannot access. Although, as he also pointed out, it is only the understanding that comes from direct, personal experience that turns intellectual knowledge gained from study into wisdom.
I was raised by agnostic parents who originally came from different religions. They said, “go to services with your friends and then make up your own mind.” So we did. As my family traveled around the world, this became an interfaith experience.
From my global nomad background, I have my own peculiar, cultural basis for understanding. I also have my own path to knowledge from direct, personal experience. I trust the knowledge, cultural perspective and wisdom my path has brought. Will these bring me to the ultimate truth? Unlikely. But that is not my goal.
I like the metaphor of a little house. My perceptions and experiences (personal and cultural) open up a tiny window out of which I peer at the Beyond Vastness of ALL. I know I'm only getting a small and skewed glimpse. However, all around me are others whose different personal and cultural experiences open up other windows.
How much more I get to glimpse when I listen to the descriptions of those others – even if I can’t understand all the subtle nuances of their view.
The facets of the ALL that others perceive come to me as second-hand "concepts." Without my own direct experience, I can't judge their truth or authenticity. But if mine is legit, I like to assume theirs are also.
And anyway, inclusion makes for a much more fascinating universe.