-one of many nearby wilderness trails-
Every time a weekend comes around, my mind goes to the topic of "religion." After all, weekends are the times when religious people will all gather together in mosques and temples, synagogues and churches.
On this weekend people of every stripe will come together to "praise and worship" God, Jesus, Allah, even Buddha. Heads covered in a synagogue, shoes off at a mosque, kneeling in a church, bowing before various Buddha statues, they will petition the "God" they worship asking that "He" might help them out, fix their problems and grant them favors- good fortune, wealth, health.
As I sit quietly in my meditation garden at the beginning of this weekend, I think to myself that "across the board" the way in which most religions are "practiced" seriously deviate from what religions are supposed to really be all about.
As I see it, the various religions don't exist to provide believers with a convenient God out there who fixes and favors. Instead religions provide "pathways" for each and every believer to walk along-pathways that lead to deeper peace and greater beauty in the living of everyday life.
Yesterday I was reading from a Gospel passage in the Christian scriptures. In the passage, Jesus' fame is beginning to spread- as a healer, a prophet, even a messiah. Some people come to him and ask what he is all about. They think they may want to be his disciples.
Jesus' response wasn't "I am the Son of God," kneel down and do me homage." Instead he said, "Why don't you come and spend some time with me. Observe what I do, listen to what I teach, so that you can learn my "path," and then follow it yourselves." In essence, he invited them to come and spend some time being his interns and apprentices.
Since moving out to the desert, I have learned a great deal about how a "master-apprentice" relationship works. Over the past year, we have had quite a bit of work done to our home, and in every singe case, the work was done by masters accompanied by their apprentices.
The master electrician would arrive, or the master carpenter, the master tile worker, the master landscape artist - and they would inevitably bring along their apprentices. I loved watching how those apprentices would carefully observe, assist, ask questions, and learn from the master's experience.
I think this is exactly what Jesus did when he invited potential disciples to come and spend some time with him. He was the "master" and they, the "apprentices and the interns." They observed him embracing strangers, forgiving enemies, welcoming outcasts, and by observing his path, they learned his "way," so that they might also follow it.
The invitation to "apprenticeship" is the call of every Christian (and essentially the purpose of every religion).
I think Jesus would be appalled at the notion that people in subsequent generations, who would call themselves "Christians," would gather together once a week to "worship" him instead of following him.
I think the Buddha would be just as appalled to think that those who would call themselves "Buddhists" over the years would "worship" Buddha.
I remember going to a Buddhist temple in South Korea a few years ago, and I was stunned by the number of people who were placing little gifts before various Buddha statues, praying that he might grant them various favors -health or wealth, or in some cases, fertility.
The Buddha specifically taught "Buddhas only point the way, everyone must walk the path."
Like Jesus, Buddha also gathered disciples to be his interns and apprentices. They observed his path and he pointed the way for them and then sent them out to walk along the path of enlightenment . He couldn't walk the path for them- all he could do was point the way.
The idea that he would ultimately be turned into a divine figure to be worshiped, to fix problems and grant favors, would indeed be appalling to Siddhartha Gautama- the Buddha.
I suppose it's a lot easier to have "gods" out there who do all the work, and who you can blame if it doesn't all go well in life.
As for me, I am a Jesus "follower"- his intern and his apprentice. I do not worship him. I follow his path.