Different words offer same message
Judy Roitman, guiding teacher, Kansas Zen Center, 1423 N.Y.:
I was born and raised a Jew and still practice Judaism. I have been practicing Buddhism for over 30 years. My husband was raised Catholic, and his mother, who lived with us for several wonderful years, was devoutly Catholic. I have friends from many religions.
What I have learned is that, while the words and ideas and opinions and practices can differ radically, the deep message is the same: our small sense of ego is not what it's about; the universe is huge, and we are not separate from it; our actions have consequences, and we must take our responsibilities to other beings seriously. And I've learned that whatever practice you do, you have to do it faithfully.
Reading about it and talking about it and writing about it and thinking about it are only tools, the finger pointing at the moon. Because it's not about ideas. It's about direct contact - with God or with the absolute, whatever you want to call it, and especially with other people. All religious discourse points us in that direction. But instead of going where we're directed, we'd rather argue about the color of the road signs.
In Buddhism we say that there are 84,000 expedient means. This means that a practice that fits one person doesn't fit another. But I feel a kinship with everyone I meet who has a serious practice, even though I recognize that many of them, caught up in exclusionary ideology, do not feel a kinship with me.
- E-mail Judy Roitman at email@example.com.
Life, faith product of many religions
Charles Gruber, Sufi minister, student of Zen Buddhism and member of the Oread Friends Meeting:
I was born into a Jewish family in 1945. My twin brother and I celebrated our bar mitzvah in 1958. I considered myself exclusively Jewish until my flower child years after college when I started adding to my religious resume.
I learned from the Sufis that my connection with God can rise beyond the paradigm of a child-parent relationship. I learned that that relationship can at times transform into one of friends. That it can transform at times into one of lovers. That it can transform into a relationship beyond boundaries into mystical realms surpassing description.
I learned from the Buddhists that my opinions and my attachment to those opinions stand between me and enlightenment. That to experience fulfillment, all I have to do was to "put it all down," to let go completely. That if I make any event or understanding special, then by definition all else pales and is devalued. That through moment-to-moment mindfulness I can experience life in the fullest.
I learned from the Christians that all-encompassing, nonjudgmental love, acceptance and charity supersede exclusivity and spiritual arrogance. That true understanding of Divine Inheritance leads to opening my heart.
I learned from the Quakers that in the silence of expectant waiting, the sacred presence can manifest, and therein I can find the wisdom and peace I seek. That maintaining a friendly attitude toward the decline of my body makes possible the hallowing of my diminishments. That nonviolence and patriotism can co-exist.
I have learned that by honoring all faiths, I kindle the light of truth amidst the darkness of human ignorance.
- E-mail Charles Gruber at firstname.lastname@example.org