I am an Enquirer into the meaning and purpose of existence. I have been on this journey for many decades. For most of my life, I did not realize that I was on such a journey at all. Long story. But I have arrived at a set of working conclusions:
“God” does not care as much about what you do, as about who you are. It is true that what you do flows from who you are and from what you focus on. The choices you make are a reflection of your existential reality and the things you concern yourself with. But it is a waste of time to decry our habits and choices. If we want to follow a different path, we need to change internally, and to change our focus.
“All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?” Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha.
A meaningful life is not led according to Rules but according to Principles, not by Conformity but rather by Conscience, by cultivated self awareness in a moment of time. Rules for behavior and choices are largely enculturated. The principles that guide a meaningful life are common to all cultures. The primary principle is Harmlessness. Harmlessness to self and to other. The secondary principle is Compassion – for self and other. If you do not hold compassion for yourself, you cannot have genuine compassion for another.
“God” does not care so much about what you believe as about whether you are paying attention and living intentionally. Asking questions. Seeking a transformative path for your life. This is a process, not a destination, not “pie in the sky by and by”.
You do not need organized religion to tell you how to live a meaningful life. You are not by nature somehow separate or adrift from “God”. You are able to use your faculties – your reason, your intuition, your senses, your experiences, your emotions, your conscience to experience and be transformed by the Divine. Organized religion may or may not benefit you on your quest. This is for you to decide.
Western religion contains three fatal flaws: Ontological Discontinuity from Platonism, the claim of Certainty via Revelation, and the easy expiation of Guilt. The principle of Ontological Discontinuity states that “God” is separate from mankind / nature, that mankind has no faculty or ability with which to be in meaningful contact with God. The claim of Certainty through Revelation states that you cannot know “God” without or outside of what is given to you by a religions tradition, and offers certainty, a cheap and easy (and also meaningless) substitute for a life of spiritual seeking and development. The easy expiation of Guilt based on the authority of Clergy or conformity of belief a robs us of the transformative power of guilt, which challenges us to deal with issues of Ego Dystonia, which are crucial for our spiritual wellbeing.
The experience of Guilt does not mean that you are a bad person. Sometimes Guilt is telling us that we need to take corrective action. Guilt may also be telling us that we need to shed the conditioning imposed upon us by religion and culture. Guilt is a call to reflection and self awareness.
The “point of contact” between you and “God” is not something or someplace outside of you, but is rather a point deep inside you. A point at which you are not dwelling on the past or worried about the future. A point at which you are not worried about things you do not have, outcomes you cannot control. Rather, a point where you are entirely focused, without temporal distraction, on the present moment. Where you are honest with yourself. Where you face yourself.
When we live in a manner that is not consistent with our best self image, we experience Ego Dystonia – a state of existential stress that expresses itself in unhappiness, anxiety, depression, illness, fear, anger, compulsion, and other distortions of our nature. Because we cannot face ourselves, we allow ourselves to be controlled by things and events instead of living an authentic, self-directed and integrated life.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mohandas Gandhi
The meaning of your life is what you make it. You sow what you reap. Karma trumps Dogma every time. This is not “judgment” – not retribution from “God”. Rather, it is the nature of things, the way things work. It is a natural law, just like gravity. Karma is intended as a corrective force, a feedback system, to help us adjust our actions to achieve a transformative life.
“We are what we repeatedly do..” Aristotle
“I am the owner of my karma . I inherit my karma. I am born of my karma. I am related to my karma. I live supported by my karma. Whatever karma I create, whether good or evil, that I shall inherit.” Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha
Bad Things Sometimes Happen to Good People because nature does not play favorites. The Causality of every event, whether good bad or indifferent, can be explained entirely by the natural laws that govern the reality we live in, at points of intersection with human choices and their intended or unintended consequences.
Emotions are powerful, visceral. They often control us. But, Feelings are not Facts. Our emotions flow from our attitudes and our thoughts. If we change our attitudes or thoughts in a given circumstance, our emotions will eventually follow. The emotional aspect of life is rich and important to our wellbeing. But our emotions are too strong to be allowed to run where they will without discipline, evaluation and introspection. The emotion-led life is a life of pain and confusion, a life of want and frustration and despair. A place where emotions become our reality. And we are no longer in control. An important skill on a spiritual path is to learn to evaluate and harness our emotions.