Dec. 15, 2011
In order for us to have a mutual understanding of what I write, it is often important to define certain words so the meaning intended to be conveyed is the same meaning the reader understands it to be in the particular writing. With that in mind, I often look up the meaning of certain words, and then present the definition which matches the meaning I mean it to be convey. So, I looked up the definition for the word “religion”. There were several definitions listed. The one I will springboard this writing off of is as follows:
“A cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”
There are many “systems of belief” available to us. Most often, where we live and what our society has adopted as its primary “system of belief” will determine what our individual belief system is based upon.
Another aspect of the definition has to do with the practice of the concepts present within that system of beliefs, the ardor and faith by which we embody the system of beliefs. Most often people think of religion as associated with a divine or Supreme Being which may be identified by many names.
There are 3 basic parts I’d like to focus upon in this writing; Supreme Being. systems of beliefs, and practice.
I know you might have your own ideas that come to mind when you read or hear these words and whatever that is will certainly be based upon the system of beliefs you’ve been immersed in from the first day of your life expression here on earth. For purposes of this writing, I ask you set aside those ideas for a while and consider what I offer here as another way of thinking about “supreme being”.
Defining “supreme”: Highest in rank or authority, highest in degree or quality.
The word supreme therefore expresses the quality of being as the highest or best expression of being. This is important to remember. Supreme is a descriptive word which illuminates the quality and character of being. With this definition in mind, one can realize being supreme is an attainable goal and possible for each of us to attain.
System of Beliefs
Defining “beliefs”: conviction of the truth of some statement, or the reality of some being or phenomenon, especially when based on examination of evidence.
(It is worth noting that people hold beliefs which are not based on the reality of some being or phenomenon, or on examination of evidence.)
Defining “system”: an organized set of doctrines, ideas, or principles usually intended to explain the arrangement or working of a systematic whole.
With these definitions, one might therefore understand a system of beliefs to be ideas/principles which explain and support the operation and organization of the beliefs.
Defining “practice”: to perform or work at repeatedly to become proficient, to perform often or habitually.
Now, to put these parts together so we can more clearly see the big picture.
Religion is a way of living life in which we habitually work at becoming more proficient at expressing our best or highest expression in being, based upon a system of ideas/principles and activities which support the unfolding and realization of our highest ideal self, or our “Supreme Beingness”. Embodying our Supreme Beingness is the goal of some religions, but not all religions.
With this understanding, the “Supreme Being” is the ideal we focus upon and strive to embody. For most of us, this is a lifelong endeavor of practicing through adherence to established ideas, principles and methods of coming to the embodiment of our own supreme expression in being.
For those who are interested in sports, you know that a sports team wins championships by maintaining a focus and intention to become winners. It takes dedication to the accomplishment of that goal in order to realize it. Ask anyone who has been on a winning team, what it took for them to attain that excellent level of performance as a team. If you are/were such a team member, you know firsthand what you had to do. Often when you didn’t want to do it, you did it anyway because you knew it to be necessary. Often the coach may have pushed you beyond the limits you didn’t think you could exceed, yet you did, and that is part of becoming a winner. Teams which do not have that dedication and determination fall short of being winners so long as they are not committed to being winners, to being better than they think they can be.
Some teams will never be winners even though they intend to be winners because the system of beliefs and practices they adhere to are not conducive to the accomplishment of the goal. In other words, the team may expend a huge amount of effort and strive with utmost dedication and determination towards becoming winners, but because their practice is based upon a faulty belief system which doesn’t actually contribute favorably towards their becoming winners, their practice is in vein.
How do I know if my belief system and practices will lead me to being the best I can be?
I am aware of the results I get because of practicing the teachings within the belief system I adhere to. If I am not getting the results I intend to get, the evidence informs me I must adjust what I’m doing so that I do experience the results I intended. In some cases, I must adopt a different belief system which has been proven effective.
If one establishes a personal life goal to embody his or her best expression in being, he/she will have to know that accomplishing this goal is possible. Looking for evidence that someone or perhaps many others are already expressing/living the best attributes or qualities of their being is a good place to start. Someone who already embodies his/her supreme beingness is an ideal example or model for one to emulate. And, this is how systems of beliefs originate. People begin to following the example of someone who has already been there, and done that. These systems of belief become a way of life. In many cases, these teachings are passed down from generation to generation. Through the passage of time, the practitioner may lose sight of the intended goal which is to embody one’s supreme beingness. It may become more important to do the ritual properly rather than experience the intended results.
The reason there are many religions is because there are many ways to accomplish the same goal. Some ways are more efficient and effective while other ways are not effective at all. For this reason, people believe their “religion” is the best, or even the only way to embody supreme beingness. And that is why they might say, “If you don’t follow our way, then you are damned”, which means you are bound to fail. In a manner of speaking, they are correct, there IS only one way to accomplish the goal of embodying supreme beingness, and that ONE way, is the one way which works for you. This is why there are many paths to the divine. Each of us has our own path to the divine.
Some religions do not have a belief structure which leads its followers to experiencing their own supreme beingness, but rather direct their followers to be subservient to a higher power which they point to as The Supreme Being. This sort of belief system purports that we are not capable of attaining to our own best expression in being, therefore the best we can do is be of service to that unseen all knowing Supreme Being. This is not to say that being of service does not lead to the divine being, it does. Being of service is yet another path to the divine.
What is the purpose of religion?
I would say there are a couple of purposes for religion which ultimately are the same purpose/reasons.
The primary purpose of my belief system is for me to practice consistently and fully embodying my best attributes in being. The other side of that is therefore interacting with individuals and society, in the best possible way as I live my life. For me, simplicity is the key to enabling this. I believe life need not be complicated and difficult but rather easy, effortless and flowing. I’ve found the best way for me to embody the best attributes of my being is to be fully present in this moment, expressing from the center of loving compassion. As I walk this path, I am the light which lights the way for me to progress through my life expression. We each are our own light which lights our own path through life expression. Realizing this, we no longer need to look outside our self for fulfillment, but rather find it ever present, radiant from the center of our being. This is to say, I don’t have to look to others to receive love because I am love itself. As I am love, I appreciate it as it is reflected back to me through the life expression of those around me.
How does one get to the point of expressing/being this? By adhering to a belief system with ardor, which guides you towards and supports the accomplishment of this goal. If this is a goal you endeavor to accomplish, and you aren’t realizing progress towards this path of realization, you may want to consider whether the belief system you adhere to is helping you or hindering your progress towards realization of this goal. You may want to consider what your intention is and whether your belief system is in alignment with your intention.
If you value your belief system more than the accomplishment of the goal the belief system is intended to lead you towards, that is like valuing a statue of Jesus more than the teachings his life expression embodied. The result of worshiping a belief system is one of becoming a worshiper. Valuing the belief system over the embodiment of its teachings will not lead you to the embodiment of the teachings. Also, this is to say, exulting me and or others who present such ideas to you over embodying the ideas presented, will not be beneficial to you or me. In other words, I didn’t come here to be praised, but rather to help you on the path to your own realization. If you would honor me, you will do so by effectively embodying the best attributes of your being and demonstrate the best attributes of your being for all the world to see. This is the highest tribute you could pay to yourself, the world and me.
As we move along the path of life, we might be presented with forks in the road where we have choices to go one way or another. Sometimes it doesn’t make much difference which way we go and those are instances which both options still lead us closer to the embodiment of being the best we can be. Being mindful of the goal when presented with these choices; consider which choice you are being presented will aide or hinder your progress. If you should happen to choose a path that isn’t enabling you to progress towards being your best, realize you can always adjust your course so that you are once again back on course. You don’t need to beat yourself up for taking a wrong turn, just make a correction and move on.
Religion is a life practice where we are good to others and our self, for the benefit of others and our self.