Earlier this spring I took vows to enter the pathway of Kadampa Buddhism. I discovered their mediation center right after 9/11. I was wrecked and attending meditation class just made me feel better. So the past 13 years I would drop by, go to classes go to their retreat center upstate. I love that it’s a place that is beautiful, good food, and kind people. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and am very suspicious when it comes to any religion so I always kept the Kadampas at arm’s length. Taking the vow was a big deal for me.
A few weeks after I did it, the shootings in South Carolina happened I went to the center seeking comfort…although it was a nice meditation…I left feeling empty.
I’ve been visiting my family, who are still Jehovah’s Witnesses this summer. (I am Not a JW. I left when I was 19) My family, like many in America, watch cable news. Now that my parents are both retired, when they are not out preaching from door to door, going to their 5 weekly religious services, attending “gatherings”, baby showers, anniversary parties, retirement parties, weddings, funerals…(I could go on and on..they are never home) they have CNN or MSNBC on the TV.
The news allows them to witness the worst behaviour humanity can offer on a daily basis. This justifies the JW’s religious belief that Armageddon is coming soon. If, at any time, they are “witnessing” to other “non belivers” JW’s are up to date with current events in order to win philosophical religious conversations and share their idea of a message of hope to people who feel hopeless because of current events.
I’ve been a unknowing spiritual seeker since I left the JW’s when I was 19. Every time I find a new spiritual practice, I step away when I see the judgment creeping in. Whenever a practice says that they have “the truth” or have “the only way” or “the right way” I feel really uncomfortable.
When the shootings in the church in Charleston, SC happened I felt really afraid. I wanted to look outside myself for an answer, or comfort. When I witnessed the towers fall from my neighborhood in the West Village, I felt the same need.
But as I experience the day-to-day reality of secular religions I know that they are not for me.
I love the meditation practice I’ve developed since becoming more involved with Kadampa Buddhism, but they protest the Dali Lama. I mean, it feels really weird seeing a group of predominantly white people who have taken the tradition of brown people, made it their own, then turn around and protest the main brown man of the religion.
As a child, I loved the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses were born from the abolitionist movement. I grew up in an emotionally gated community created by my parents and religion where all men were equal and I called and truly believed everyone in the religion, all colors were sisters and brothers. But I did not like the judgmental dysfunction of a religion where women’s voices are considered to be less than, higher education is discouraged, and the LGBT community is considered to be less than. They think they have the truth.
Every religion has this beautiful way to connect their members to their higher selves and live in loving communities while at the same time believing that they are the chosen people and everyone who is not in their religion…is wrong.
The Arabs and the Jews are cousins killing one another. Christianity has been used to steal land, enslave societies, restrict women and justify madness. Every religion has had some sort of child sex abuse happen under their watchful eyes. Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians stand on street corners trying to recruit as many people to their team while condemning the “sinners” who will be destroyed.
What if everyone is right. What if Arabs, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists are all right in their own mind. What if God is Jehovah, Allah, Yahwe, Obatala, Oshun, Aphroditie,and Thor?
I mean think about it, we all don’t want to eat the same food, wear the same clothes and live in the same neighborhoods right? What if, it was okay for everyone to have their own way of believing and give others the right to be right as well.
Why is it that one person’s being right has to mean another persons being wrong?
The beauty of the idea of America is that we all do have the freedom to believe or not believe as we see fit. What if we could actually live that belief?
PS: Organized religion… not for me. Now, I’m looking into Secular Humanism. We shall see.:)