Several years ago, I sat in meditation with a man who was a devout Buddhist.
He detested all spiritualties that didn’t follow the exact teachings of the Buddha. Even Buddhist lineages such as Zen and Tibetan didn’t meet with his qualifications of Buddhist purity.
At times, my rebellious spirit rose while he conducted his mindfulness practice, and I silently chanted my Hindu mantra. However, through this experience, I came to understand the benefits of both Buddhist mindfulness and Nāda yoga. The combination of both philosophies and practices gave me a greater awareness of myself and the world.
Just recently, another person suggested we shouldn’t be “dabblers” of spirituality. We need to find a practice that suits us and stick to it, learn it, become experts in it.
My soul cringed and yelled out. Out of respect for my teacher, I gently pushed my raging spirit back into my body and calmed her down. My inquisitive nature compels me to explore many spiritual practices. Picking just one doesn’t sit well with my being. It makes my soul scream when pushed into one spiritual corner.
I was born and raised Christian, initiated into Hinduism, studied Buddhism, and immersed myself in Native American shamanism, tossing in bits and pieces of naturalism, quantum physics, and a dash of New Age mysticism.
This is what sets my soul on fire.
The exploration of new ideas and experiences thrills me. For me, the soul is an uncharted frontier waiting to be discovered and different paths help uncover hidden treasures. Sure, maybe I won’t be an expert in any one religious practice, but I sure as heck will be an expert in me, and isn’t that the point?
When given greater thought to this issue of devotees versus dabblers, the Buddha came to my mind. The Buddha, otherwise known as Siddhārtha Gautama, was a Hindu prince who gave up his riches to explore his own conscious being. Many condemned him and thought him a fool, yet over time, he became a teacher with many students who spread his practice throughout the world.
Jesus Christ, born a poor Jew, too became disillusioned with his culture and engaged in a personal study of his own spirituality. Eastern history suggests Jesus traveled to India to study the teachings of Krishna with Buddha. In fact, historically speaking, Jesus was quite radical, rebellious, and outspoken. He took the best of every religion he learned, disregarding the aspects that didn’t appeal to him. And of course, the rest is history.
The Buddha and Jesus sat in quiet meditation; they studied, taught, and preached their enlightened experience, gaining many followers—devotees. They were spiritual dabblers not adhering to a society construct or religious dogma. They didn’t become experts in any religion; they created their own.
As many have come to understand the quote: “Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Mohammad wasn’t a Muslim. They were teachers who taught love. Love was their religion.” They were conscious beings exploring their individual spirituality and who shared with the world the experiences and practices that worked for them.
All of us who have sat in meditation (any meditation) and seen the value becomes a prophet of their own making. We want to share these benefits with those around us. “This meditation stuff is great. You need to try this.” We encourage others with readings, practices, and various healing techniques and it doesn’t matter whether these practices and techniques belong to one spirituality or a combination of many.
Being a devotee of one religion or a dabbler has, in many ways, to do with our own being and what speaks truth to our spirit. There are those people who love tradition and philosophic teachings of specific teachers. They wrap themselves up in study to become experts in what makes them feel the most enlightenment.
And then there are others who relish the exploration of the soul. Here, teachings and text books don’t apply. What does is delving into experience and self-discovery.
There isn’t just one set of footsteps on an empty beach; there are many with different sized feet, different gaits, some walking on their hands, and perhaps a silly walk or two. For a holistic society, we need the devotees to keep sharing the good words and we need to the dabblers to explore for new ideas.
This combination of spirituality is how humanity evolves. It is wonderful to take heed of the teachings, but also have the courage to walk to our own truth.
Author: Jennifer Ott
Image: Aleksandr Popov/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Leah Sugerman