Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Meditation on Many Paths

An Oasis in the Wilderness

I woke up this morning thinking about the Palm Tree Oasis not far from my house. As I sit in my garden this morning, I continue to think about and reflect on that oasis- it has much wisdom to teach me.

I walk up to the oasis quite regularly, and so I am very familiar with the fact that there are many different trails that lead to it. The trails come to the oasis from all directions, from many different points in the wilderness. Some of the trails are similar, others very different from one another, some more rigorous and strenuous, others smoother and easier.

Obviously, when I walk up to the oasis, I have to choose which trail to take to get me there. And, although it has taken me a while to figure it out, I have determined which particular pathway suits me best, and that's the one I walk on most of the time. 

Today as I meditate on the wisdom I have learned from my journey up to the oasis, I call to mind a piece of ancient Sufi wisdom that I have treasured for quite some time now:

There are many paths to the truth,
you have to choose which one you want to walk on

As a young man I was taught there was only one way to the truth - following the path of Christianity. I was taught and I believed that Jesus was the "only" way and the "only" truth (actually as a boy I was taught that the Catholic Church was the "only" way to the truth).  

I no longer believe that at all. 

I believe there are indeed many trails leading to the oasis as we walk through the wideness of life -  there are indeed many paths to the truth. 

In my life (especially in my later years) I not only honor those other paths, but I have come to cherish the wisdom they have offered to me on my own journey. My own faith is grounded and informed by the Hebrew scriptures. I honor Islam as a fellow child of Abraham in the journey of faith. I often meditate on the mystical insights of Kabbalah and the Sufis. Every day I read from and meditate on the wisdom of the Buddha. I have stayed in Buddhist monasteries and engaged in lively dialogue with Buddhists monks.  I am also informed by the wisdom of the great Hindu traditions and other eastern religions.   

I honor and respect and I am informed by the wisdom of all the many paths; however, I am equally convinced of the wisdom of that Sufi saying: "you have to choose "one" path and walk on it."

I have chosen to follow the way of Jesus as a path to the truth- a trail up to the oasis.

Today there is a great deal of emphasis upon recognizing and honoring diversity in all aspects of life- especially when it comes to other religions and different spiritual traditions- and I am thrilled we have arrived at this point. I also fear that this emphasis upon accepting and honoring differences might also divert any of us from embracing the richness of whatever path to the truth any one of us might choose. 

While many paths do indeed lead to the truth, every path is not the same. While there are similarities, there are also many differences among the paths of Christianity and Judaism or Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism. 

It seems to me that the only way I can really embrace the richness of my own chosen path is by living into it and walking it wholeheartedly.  

Allan Bloom once observed: "People today learn to doubt beliefs before they ever believe in anything."  I think there is probably some truth in this. I can't really wrestle with my own Christian path, doubt it, struggle with it, unless I embrace it -the truth emerges from the struggle.  

I sit in my garden this morning and meditate on the many paths to that oasis. As I do so I close my eyes and envision the many pilgrims walking the many chosen paths leading up to truth. I greet them along the wilderness trail. I honor them. I learn from them. 

Then, I place my eyes on Jesus and I follow in his way of truth. 

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  1. Thanks so much for this post. Your words are poignant and deeply inspiring. God bless you, sir!

  2. I have read many of your posts after being guided to your website by a wonderful friend and priest here in San Diego, AT. You are a welcome source of reflection and insight. Thank you! Don Pellioni