Religion and Spirituality


The following quotes are from Elizabeth Lesser's book, THE NEW AMERICAN SPIRITUALITY (Random House, New York, 1999).


"One of humankind's greatest ironies is how throughout history, prophets who have preached genuine, radical experience in place of institutionalized, inflexible dogma become, after death, the central figure in an 'ism' they would never have supported.  The world's great spiritual personalities---Buddha, the prophets of Israel, Jesus, Mohammed, to name but a few---were considered revolutionaries, and even heretics in their day.  They inspired their early followers to break from tradition and update their relationships to God.  On his deathbed the Buddha begged his disciples, 'Do not accept what you hear by report, do not accept tradition, do not accept a statement because it is found in our books, nor because it is in accord with your belief, nor because it is the saying of your teacher.  Be lamps unto yourselves'" (p. xvi).


"A priest and a scientist, Pere Teilhard de Chardin had spent his life attempting to show that the acceptance of evolution does not have to involve the rejection of Christianity.  His efforts to convince the Church of this met such powerful resistance that in 1926 he was silenced by his superiors and later was exiled from France and sent to live in New York State" (p. 24).


Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature.  And it is because in the last analysis we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve.

                            Max Planck


"A good thing to remember as we search for our own definition of spirituality is that no one has the definition or the answers to the most basic spiritual questions of how to live, love, and die.  If such unequivocal answers existed they would be as universally accepted as how to make fire" (p. 28).


"Enlightenment can be nurtured in a monastery or in a family, alone or in a relationship, in prayer or at work.  The bliss of the world is no less spiritual than the bliss of transcendence….There's a fine line between bliss and narcissism…While spirituality is about bliss, it also is about balance.  Without some degree of sacrifice for the greater good, spiritual self-discovery eventually leads to plain old self-indulgence….Spirituality is not the abdication of responsibility…it's not sunny, easy answers to life's complexity.  Rather, spirituality is a long, slow process---a patient growing into wisdom…spirituality is fearlessness.  It is a way of looking boldly at the life we have been given, here, now, on earth, as this human being.  Who am I?  How should I live my life?   What happens when I die?  Spirituality is nothing more than a brave search for the truth about  existence.  Nothing more, but nothing less as well"  (pp. 29-31).


"The poet Rainer Maria Rilke described Beginner's Mind like this: 'Be patient to all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.  Resolve to be always beginning---to be a beginner!'" (p. 35).


"The wisest, sanest, and happiest of these people are not those who profess a complicated and rigid spiritual doctrine.  Rather, I have gained the most from those whose paths lead them and their students gently, humorously, and fearlessly into the very mystery that Planck and Einstein are talking about" (pp. 39-40).


"American culture, and those of us who live within it, seems to have lost a certain quality of life: a graciousness, a spiritual value system, a peace of mind.  Yet what we sense is missing is only hiding.  It is hiding somewhere near us, resting in the depths of our own bodies, minds, and hearts.  Spirituality is waiting for us, as it has waited for people in every age and every culture. A culture cannot destroy the soul; it can try to evict it, but the soul waits around in the shadows" (p. 44).


Let yourself be silently drawn, by the stronger pull of what you really love.

                                Jelaluddin Rumi


There is no need to struggle to be free; the absence of struggle is in itself freedom.

                                Chogyam Trungpa


We do not see things as they are.  We see them as we are.

                                The Talmud