I put down this inept bit of writing on an Internet Buddhist bulletin board and decided to put it here as well. The issue is one that really can light my fuse ... tant pis pour moi:
At the risk of beating a dead horse and at the risk of seeming somehow
insulting to others, I would like to add this personal (and sometimes
infuriated) observation. It is based on 40 years of Zen practice and a
simultaneous interest in spiritual life in general.
Here is my bias:
Any religion or spiritual persuasion that does not include as a
matter of course an exit from that religion or spiritual persuasion is
immature at best and cruel -- obscenely cruel -- at worst.
Buddhism, for example, sometimes describes itself with the metaphor
of a raft crossing the swirling waters: Once having reached the
destination, the raft is left behind and the traveler pursues his or her
travels. The door that is marked "entrance" on one side is marked
"exit" on the other. This is vital.
Other spiritual persuasions do not offer such observations,
insisting instead that their organization or church or temple or
ministers provide the only and unquestionable avenue to a peaceful life.
This issue is complicated by the fact that most who come to
spiritual life do so in a search for relief of one kind or another and
may feel purely blessed to have found this sanctuary. The perfectly
human tendency is to feel a great gratitude to whatever spiritual format
has been chosen. A mental "thank God!" And the idea of leaving such
blessed confines is anathema: Any seeker knows from experience what
difficulties lie outside the door marked "entrance." It was those
difficulties that propelled him/her through the "entrance" in the first
place. And having found a refuge, a place of safety and good sense ...
who in his right mind would want to leave? There are spiritual
organizations that make vast amounts of money and gain vast amounts of
power by deliberately not addressing this issue directly. But money and
power are not the worst of it. The worst of it is that this approach is a
very cruel lie.
It is good to seek refuge and OK to feel a sigh of relief. Which of
us hasn't felt it? We are blessed by the organizations and templates we
join or exercise. But the relief of the wounded child is no way to live a
life. Heal the wounds, yes. Find ways to revise a previously-unsteady
or uncertain mind, yes. Thank the formats of spiritual endeavor, yes.
But with practice, notice the "exit" sign that beckons, much as the
"entrance" sign once did. Playing the wounded child forever is a pastime
that does not speak well for any but the immature spiritual endeavors.
It may be scary -- the idea of walking through the door marked
"exit." But for any who have practiced, the only thing scarier is NOT
walking through it. In its time, the blessing is truly a blessing ...
right up to the moment (and the moment must come) when the curses become
apparent. Any grown-up religion or spiritual persuasion acknowledges
this. It does not rush its children to recognize the obvious any more
than a good mother or a good father rushes a six-year-old to be 25. A
grown-up religion or spiritual persuasion knows its children must grow
up. It does not rush them, but neither does it ham-string them with some
cruel pretense that they must remain in some tidy, well-organized and
nourishing home... a place marked "no exit."
I can get pretty cranky about religions and spiritual persuasions
that, under a banner of love, do not love their children. Such a course
is cruel and immature and, I suppose, human in its inhumanity.
I get cranky ... and it's just my problem.
End of rant.