In my late teen years, I was often invited to churches and bible studies. Although I enjoyed the beautiful music and the company of many kind and friendly people, the story of Adam and Eve couldn’t pass the scrutiny of my intellectual security guard. And the idea that God would ask Abraham to kill his own son Issac only to test his faith horrified me. Choosing between God and life? I didn’t care what kind of excuse God had, the thought of killing an innocent human being turned me off. Many years later, I understood the stories might be more metaphoric than literal.
Nevertheless, the idea that only God’s believers go to heaven, and nonbelievers go to hell didn’t work for me. After careful contemplations, I decided that “hell” was where I belonged. It seemed sensible to avoid those who classify and separate people solely based on their religious affiliations. Not to mention that many of my favorite people, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Lao Tze, Rumi, and Buddha would not “qualify” to go to heaven. Who knows? Some people’s hell might be other people’s heaven. I am going where the cool people hang out. 😉
For some reason, places of worship were always irresistible to me. Every country I traveled to, visiting cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, temples remained a higher priority for me. Their architectures were the culmination of art, history, and culture. For example, it was humbling to stand in front of the magnificent Jain temple in Ranakpur, India. An entire temple carved out of marbles. Its beauty and perfection were beyond words or photographs. It must be a co-creation with the Divine. In Bahá’í temples, I saw words of acceptance and respect for all races and religions written in each of their languages. That to me sounds more like a God I want to respect.
After graduate school, a classmate was baptized and tried to persuade me to convert too. I could feel her genuine happiness, and sense of peace. The incredible closed-knit and supportive religious community that she belonged to was truly admirable. Yet, I couldn’t betray myself. It doesn’t serve me well to take a ready-made value system at its wholesale price. I need to find my own truth.
Post my experience of self-management at a start-up company over a decade ago, I started to search for answers to so many questions not answered in business literature. Especially, how the “invisible” elements could have such profound impacts on business success.
When exploring behavioral psychology, quantum physics, and energy healing, I stumbled on esoteric topics that included sacred geometry, chakra healing, family constellation, kundalini yoga, vipassana, and akashic records. Through the study of these subjects and a few amazing teachers, I experienced many miracles, synchronicities far beyond the boundaries of science. More importantly, I became aware of a Universe that exists outside of our five senses – the spiritual world.
Although many religions have tried to explain this spiritual world to us, the tasks remain impossible. The spiritual world is so vast and magical, trying to explain it with words is similar to illustrating the ocean with only a bucket of saltwater. The only way to understand spirituality is to EXPERIENCE it as many devoted meditators and spiritual seekers have done.
Now I understand the enthusiasm of those “born again” evangelists who have the genuine desire to share their joy with the secular people. Religions indeed bring many people life-changing anchors. At the same time, they are often blamed for wars, killings, conflicts and suffering throughout human history. The reason is that people often confuse spirituality with religion, and confuse the behaviors of religious people with religion itself. Historical conflicts are not caused by religions, but by the self-claimed religious people who know little or nothing about spirituality.
To understand the difference, imagining two people climbing up a tall mountain from two different paths. Before they reach the top, what they see can be completely different. The person climbing from the west side might see the beautiful sunset, and a village below, but the one climbing from the east side might see a lake and many rocks in the distance. The higher up, the more they see the surrounding landscape in its entirety. Once they reach the summit, looking around 360o, they see the exact same view and the complete truth – the sunset, the rocks, the village, and the lake in the distance.
This is similar to consciousness and spiritual wisdom. There are infinite paths to climb the mountain and to elevate our level of consciousness. Some of us are going solo, others join tour groups, such as religious groups. In every religion, there are highly conscious people who understand the essence of spirituality. They lead by example, quietly guide and serve their fellow travelers. Yet, they are never the ones on the headline news. No matter which religion they follow, once they have access to spiritual wisdom, they will understand God in exactly the same way.
On the other extreme, there are low conscious tour group members who are more interested in the role of tour guides than actually guiding people to spiritual wisdom. The truth is they have no idea what spiritual wisdom is, nor the ability or conscious level to take people there. Instead, they turn religions into mechanisms of control to serve their self-interests.
In the best-case scenario, they waste a lot of time debating the form rather than the substance, or which religion is better because they couldn’t see both the lake and the sunset. In the worst-case scenario, they want to destroy and eliminate people who disagree with them, or not submit to their control. They do so in the name of religion or God.
As a result of their behaviors, many of us reject spirituality, confusing spirituality with religion or the behaviors of some self-claimed but actually not-at-all religious people. Their behaviors can only represent the individuals they are, not their religions and definitely not spirituality. While we condemn certain behaviors, we don’t want to throw out babies with the bathwater.
Spiritual wisdom is like sunlight after a long cold raining season. It always gives us unconditional love, warmth, kindness, hope, and courage. Wherever there is sunlight, there is life and growth. The higher consciousness we have, the more we can give love, kindness, hope, and courage to ourselves and the people around us.
Spirituality is essential. Religions are optional.
Heaven or hell doesn’t exist in another realm. They are here on earth. We create it every moment when we choose love or fear, compassion or hatred, unity or conflict, collaboration or competition. Make your choice consciously. 🙂