The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality
Every person needs a calling. It’s instinctive to need a teacher and a lineage to call home. Each individual spirit in this cosmos is looking for the kindred flames of others in the hopes that they can understand their purpose, and their reason for existence.
When you find the spark that ignites true certainty and stability, it matters not what name you give it. Religion and spirituality are simply descriptions for the deep longing within all beings to know and be known.
We are endowed with incredible potential for greatness. Yet we are born as blank slates. We can feel our potency at our fingertips, but often we don’t have a name for it. Having a teacher, having a practice, having a community, these are essential. There are no other means of recognizing that part inside us that seems otherwise intangible.
What are we relying on?
We are always looking for answers. We are searching for the truth, no matter how ugly. When a religion stands before us with a doctrine and a plan and a purpose, that is perfect. If we are instead called to freely flit from place to place and seek the essence from all teachings, that too is perfect.
Eventually, we must ask ourselves—and no one else—why am I here?
Underneath all the extensions and expectations, you will find that you are here to bring benefit. Great benefit. To yourself, to your family, to the worlds. Whatever title you want to give to this inherent knowledge is fine, but find the community, find the teacher who represents you. Follow their teachings and observe the change within yourself. Are you more stable? More connected? More empowered? That is what you are searching for.
Who can provide stability?
No matter the philosophy of mind that you subscribe to, your beliefs are powerful. Whole world movements have centered on a single belief. Do not just give your name to something you don’t care about. Truly seek out the answers to your questions. All of them.
If ever your teacher is lacking, ask for clarification. If ever your teacher refuses to clarify, that is when you must leave them. If your teacher does not hold the knowledge and instinctive recognition of your fundamental purity, your fundamental goodness, then you must move on.
If instead, you look to your teacher and see in them the clear, raw knowing that is at the heart of all seeking, then stay still and listen. Listen carefully not only to the words of your teacher, but to the offering. Every religion and spiritual practice will have an offering of greater benefit. We must remember, however, that we are each called to our own teacher.
We are each meant for a specific practice, and therein lies the purity of being. The diversity of practice is the flawless nature of being. Each of us finds our community, whatever that looks like for us. Therein lies the guru. Therein lies the message that we need as an individual. Think of how silly it really sounds, that a single teaching could encompass the dynamic nature of all humanity. And yet there is something vital that needs to be at the heart of all teachings.
What is fundamental to all experience?
In my practice, we talk about open intelligence and data. It’s one way to describe the fundamental nature of reality and everything that occurs within it. Data is just as it sounds. Think of a database.
Data constitutes literally everything we can experience, including all thoughts, all emotions, and all sensations. It is important to sit with this for just a moment.
Think about anything at all.
That is data.
That is data too.
In the same way that a computer can show you anything at all, open intelligence is all-inclusive. Nothing is excluded. No spiritual practice is excluded. No religion is excluded. No God can ever be excluded. All data is encompassed within Open Intelligence. This is because open intelligence is the basis. It’s the all-enveloping mind and heart. When we strip away all the names and rituals, that’s what we’re looking for. That clear, luminescent knowing that is available to each of us at all times.
No person, no community, no religion exists separately from open intelligence. That is why it is “open”. We are all opening our hearts to the pulse of the universe. We are all asking for guidance and we are all finding our way in this world. We are opening. We are the dynamic nature of open intelligence. Whatever that looks like for you, is perfect. It is supreme.
What does all of this mean for me?
Whatever you are looking for, you will know when you have found it because it brings you security. You will feel okay to express yourself exactly as you are. You will be empowered by your practice of bringing greater benefit through your unique expression and within your compassionate community.
Wherever you are in your journey, it’s imperative that you know: You are already on the right path. There is no special destination. There is no special state. Right here, right now, you bring benefit.
Just by opening yourself to your own desire to bring benefit, you realize your innate capacity. Think about what you want to accomplish in life. What does any of it mean to you? That is your power, that desire to bring meaning, to bring clarity to your experience. That is what it’s all about.
From clarity, you can find a religion or spiritual practice that aligns with your own values and descriptions. But unless you know that you and every other being are innately beneficial, or unless your teacher pounds that into you every single day, keep looking.
Don’t stop for anyone who says, you are flawed and you should stop here if you want to be made better. Run. Keep going. Find the one who ignites your spark. Find the teaching that you know you can live by, as you test it out in your everyday experience. Test your teaching!
Under no circumstances should you subscribe to someone who will “fix” you. You are not damaged goods and your true teachers know this. They know this because they have the instinctive recognition of the value of all beings. That’s the teacher you need. Call them to you and when you find them, offer only complete and utter gratitude and devotion.
If you’re looking for a spiritual home, please consider, Center for Spiritual Living, Palm Desert. We are located on the corner of Portola and Shadow Mountain.
We invite you to join us daily at 10 am pst for our LIVE Interactive sessions. We discuss relevant topics, interview those people making a difference n the world today, and provide teaching and guidance. cslpalmdesert.org/2020-live-videos