“But that’s how I understand religion..”

Some people shiver just by the mention of the word ‘religion’, or ‘god’ for that matter. They want nothing to do with those stuff. I was looking at this the other day and found it very interesting. Do they really not subscribe to any religion at all? Is that even possible?

Sometimes I have chats with the very same people. We talk about how we view life, how we think we need to be and how to conduct ourselves, what our roles in life, what feels right to the heart, what we do to connect to our true self, etc. Then I thought, “but that’s how I understand religion to be.”

It’s funny how our relationship with words shift from time to time, us as individuals and us as society. The word ‘religion’ and ‘god’ are but examples of this shift.

Some people claim they know what religion is and how it should be, and somehow we buy that. We give in. We subscribe to their definition of religion and god, and then we say, no, we don’t want that.

So instead of reclaiming the word and return it to its purer meaning, one that is closer to the heart, we decide not to use the word. We shift our relationship with the word. The poor innocent word has been given a bad name by some and abandoned by others.

My relationship with the word religion has too shifted from time to time. Somewhere in Fusus Al Hikam (I hope my memory serves me correctly), Muhiddin Ibn ‘Arabi talks about private religion. He describes it as a specific order that has been put in a person’s heart (by God).

I love this view of religion. Because it makes religion so private and personal. It differs from one person to another, or even one moment to another. Only that particular person may know what it is, and even that is a maybe.

The definition to me also makes religion so kind. It returns the word to its truer purpose, as the origin of the word suggests, which was re-ligare, i.e re (again) + ligare (bind, connect) or “to reconnect” (to the Divine within and without through careful pondering and staying true to It.)

So yes, potatoes, potatoes. Tomatoes, tomatoes.

Religion, spirituality, etc, whatever we may call it, I don’t think we can run away from it. Nor that we need to. It’s built-in within us. We give it different names or decide not to define it at all. But, in essence, it’s there.

I find it relieving that we actually have more things in common than we think. We just occasionally get so hung up with the terms we use, we forget we are referring to the same thing.

This brings me to another topic that is also a strong interest and passion of mine: listening. But that’s for another post.

I shall leave you with this beautiful anecdote:

Brazilian theologist, Leonardo Boff, once asked the Dalai Lama, “What is the best religion?”

The Dalai Lama responded, “The best religion is the one that gets you closest to God. It is the one that makes you a better person.”

Boff, continued the dialogue, “What is it that makes me better?”

The Dalai Lama answered: “Whatever that makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more detached, more loving, more humanitarian, more responsible, more ethical. The religion that would do that for you is the best religion. I am not interested, my friend, about your religion or if you are religious or not. What really is important to me is your behaviour in front of your peers, family, work, community, and in front of the world. Remember, the universe is the echo of our actions and our thoughts.”

He went on to say: “The law of action and reaction is not exclusively for physics. It is also of human relations. If I act with goodness, I will receive goodness. If I act with eviI, I will get evil.

“What our grandparents told us is the pure truth. You will always have what you desire for others. Being happy is not a matter of destiny. It is a matter of options.”

Finally he said: “Take care of your Thoughts because they become Words. Take care of your Words because they will become Actions. Take care of your Actions because they will become Habits. Take care of your Habits because they will form your Character. Take care of your Character because it will form your Destiny, and your Destiny will be your Life.

“There is no religion higher than the Truth.”

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