Experiment With Spirituality

Do you find yourself looking outside the tenets of your chosen religion for deeper meaning? Are you unfulfilled with the teachings of mainstream religions? Spreading your wings in another direction doesn’t have to mean turning your back on your beliefs.

You may just need to embrace an alternate view that may very well work in perfect harmony with your current religious leanings. And if you should leave for another world view of religion, it’s all for the ultimate good. Spirituality comes in many forms and espouses many different beliefs that often intersect. If it makes you a better person, then your religious choice is a good one.

So what options are out there? Many, to be sure, but for now we’ll just examine four:

1. Buddhism
Buddhism has been around for about 2,500 years and is based on the teachings of an Indian man named Siddhartha Gautama, who recognized that there is suffering in the world and that one can free themselves from suffering (dukkha) by living a Spartan life of self-denial. He later realized that there is a path of moderation between self-indulgence and self-mortification known as the Middle Way. Buddhism stresses karma, which is defined by actions that will yield their fruit either in this life or in a subsequent rebirth – or samsara – (which is a succession of ever-changing lifetimes and over many planes of existence). There is also a recognition that suffering exists and is caused by attachment to worldly pleasures. Suffering ends when one is freed from such attachments and following Buddha’s path will allow one to reach a liberated state. A non-harmful lifestyle which includes awareness, meditation and mental discipline is stressed with the ultimate goal of liberation – or nirvana – releasing one from the cycle of suffering and involuntary rebirths. Though initially practiced in Asia, Buddhism has spread throughout the world.

2. Non- denominational churches
Non-denominational spiritual centers exist in many forms. One that has gained a popular following is Agape, a Los Angeles-based trans-denominational spiritual community committed to personal and global transformation. Founder and Spiritual Director Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith says on his website, “We are on the planet to be and express the Divine Love of God that is alive in every fiber of our being, waiting to be released through us onto our world. Living as love is a way of life that brings heaven on earth.” Sounds like a good plan! Beckwith began the center in 1986 and named it for the Greek word for “unconditional love” as a movement that would “take a stand for love, for peace, for being a beneficial presence on the planet.” Since its inception, Agape’s active teaching and practice of the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality has expanded to 9,000 local members and a million “friends” globally.

3. Kabbalah
Kabbalah is not actually a religion. It is the ancient practice of mystic Judaism. Thousands of years before Madonna discovered the practice and spread the word to her Hollywood neighbors, Jews practiced this in Egypt during their slavery. Essentially, it is the examination of the deeper meaning of the Tanakh (or Hebrew bible) and traditional rabbinical literature, as well as an explanation of Jewish religious observances. Originally transmitted orally by prophets, the knowledge that is the basis for Kabbalah was weaved into Jewish religious texts and culture. Around 3,000 years ago, it was practiced openly in ancient Israel until a succession of foreign conquests forced it underground, lest it fall into the wrong hands or be used incorrectly by Jews driven out of their own land and without appropriate leadership to guide them. So it became secretive for the last 2,500 years. Even recently, one had to be a Jewish male over the age of 40 to study the ancient texts.

Essentially, Kabbalah states that all ideas come from the foundation of god. If one recognizes that, as in the pivotal “Sh’ma” prayer, “The Lord Is One,” then they will logically follow that everything comes from this one god. Since the Jews were the first to believe in monotheism, this is in keeping with their original beliefs. Kabbalah examines the nature of god and allows that god doesn’t change but our ability to perceive god does with compassion, righteousness and other key ethics.

4. Baha’i
Baha’i is a religion that traces its roots to 19th century Persia and stresses the spiritual unity of god, religion and mankind. It is based on the words of messengers from the world’s major religions: Abraham, Krishna, the Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed. Emphasizing monotheism, it states that the purpose of people is to create an understanding and love of god through prayer and reflection. This independent world religion – separated by believers from other religions by its relative modern context – stresses the equality of all people and spurns the notion of racism, sexism, nationalism or any caste system. The establishment of a permanent and universal peace as a supreme goal to mankind is Baha’i’s basic tenet.

So which of these spiritual outlets interests you? You can expand your personal outlook by delving into one – or all – of these you, or just open your eyes to a new perspective of goodness in us all.

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