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Making Sense of Spiritual Beliefs, Part II

In Part I of this Newsletter, I defined spirituality as the quest for ultimate or sacred meaning or purpose in life.  Although spirituality may mean different things to different people, from my point of view it is best considered as a certain kind of subjective experience.

In this Newsletter, Part II, I have set myself the task of articulating the quintessential ideas in a spiritual world view.   Although fundamentally spirituality is holistic– all of its parts intimately interconnected to the whole– I have found it helpful to break the concept down into its constituent elements:

< The essence of spirituality has to do with our experience of awareness of Being.

< In the spiritual or “sacred frame”, all being is one. This “unity of being”  is conceived as an    infinite field of potentiality, an “everything/nothing” from which all manifestation arises.

< Often, the sacred field is also described as the “background field”, or the “ground of being”.

< Within a theistic frame, the ground of being is “divine”;  it is Source.  It is God.

< From a secular point of view,  the sacred frame is an intelligence which manifests as wisdom and compassion.

< Mind and universe are mutually manifesting; Man’s mind mirrors a universe that mirrors man’s mind.

< The ground of being is already awake and aware. Spiritual practices are designed to access this awake awareness within one’s own experience.

< The ordinary consciousness of waking life is seen to be a kind of trance from which it is possible to “wake up”. “Waking up”  means to experience the unity of being directly, in one’s own experience.  (“Realization”).

< Waking up— spiritual awakening— is liberation from the bonds of identification with the egoic mind.

< Sacred space is apprehended not through a conceptual process, but rather directly; i.e., through felt sense. Experience of sacred space evokes awe,  “awakened heart”, or love.  It is often experienced as illumined; sometimes as “holy”.

< Experience of the sacred field reveals the truth that everything is connected to everything. In the language of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, we “inter-are” with everything.  Unity of being has no boundaries.

< Spiritual experience involves opening to the unknown; to the sacred mysteries of life. It is fundamentally ineffable.

My hope is that, with this list in mind,  readers will find it interesting to examine their own spiritual beliefs.   Ultimately, as I have discussed in this series of Newsletters, beliefs are not “the truth”, but rather,  what we accept as true and what we can discover in the exploration of our own experience.  In this regard, we are well-served by the Buddhist doctrine of “ehipassiko”: the Dhamma invites all beings to put it to the test and come see for themselves.

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