It often occurs to me that organized religion is not all it is cracked up to be, “not that there is anything inherently wrong with it” either. Across the spectrum – from the blind devotion in a cult-like organization to the big 3, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, to the agnostic person that just does not “feel the love.” Most people want to believe in a bigger picture, some benevolent “higher power”, something more than the mundane “day to day” aspect of getting through the day.
I remember growing up in Brooklyn when I looked at life through the eyes of a child, I was a keen observer of “folks.” I would see people get dressed up for church on Sunday, the synagogue on Saturdays or on holidays (there were no mosques in my neighborhood growing up in Brooklyn.) – they would put on their religious uniforms and act peaceful and caring. Then, the very next day would continue on living quite unethically. While I was too young to know the word, the hypocrisy was striking. In fact, I saw some of those “religious” people go to jail for breaking the law.
So my point is just because someone goes to church, synagogue or mosque (or to the yoga studio for that matter) it does not necessarily make them a good person and what I would call a spiritual person. A spiritual person in my view is a person that as the Buddha inferred, lives right, employs Right Livelihood, and tries to make the world a better place.
The term religion comes from Latin religion-, religio tie back or tie together. The term spirituality has to do with spirit and inspiration – “to breathe to infuse with a spirit (as life) by breathing, to be inspired.” So my point is there is a distinction between going through the motions of being a good person on Sundays and Saturdays at the religious building of one’s choice, and how they live their life the other six days. It is not mutually exclusive and perfectly reasonable that someone is “religious” while also being a “spiritual person” –
When the Buddha talked of the Noble Eightfold Path, he used the terms “Right Intention,” “Right Action,” “Right Livelihood” these ideas he describes, are essential for living a life of peace, wisdom, and nirvana. While I am not a Buddhist, these concepts resonate with me, in a good way. The phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” makes perfectly good sense as well.
Some organized religions are all about “my way or the highway.” I take a more inclusive approach and look at the specific person more so than the religion they follow. I remember a recent conversation with someone that was a devout follower of their religion and they could not and would not recognize Native American Indians. Native American Indians have sacred rituals that go back to before organized religions – their beautiful rituals honor nature and the “four directions” and the sacredness of each moment and all living things. I was blown away to see the person I was speaking with, totally disavow the beauty of the indigenous peoples’ practice and wisdom. As far as I could tell, they would not even accept indigenous wisdom as being legitimate. It was black and white to them. So being religious with blinders on, not seeing or accepting others, that is something I just don’t understand.
So what does it mean to be a good person? What does it mean to live right? What do you do in your life to make the world better, your life better your neighborhood better? Do you consider yourself religious, spiritual, both or neither?
It was brought to my attention that the current Pope, has is own personal Latinist to help guide him with the Latin language. For regular people like me, I use Google Translate. I would refer the current Pope not to The Pope Of Greenwich Village but to a phrase used by a friend we looked up to growing up back on the Brooklyn Streets of Brighton Beach and Coney Island, my friend “The Rock” – who in many ways was our Rabbi or Pope – I would offer you – the reader, and the current Pope, the following Latin (and not so ancient term)-
“None in Bonum”
a phrase when translated is oft attributed to another Brooklynite, Spike Lee –
“Do The Right Thing.”
Written by Steve Stein
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