Confession - The following post is a Total Cheat !
Today I received a beautiful email from a very dear friend, who has always been an inspiration to me and I'd like to share it with you.
Having read my "Sermon from the Garden" rant, in my last post, she thought I might like to read what the Dalai Lama (HHDL) has to say on the subject in his new book:
Beyond Religion: Ethics for a whole world
In respect to her wishes, rather than naming her here, I shall call her 'DF'-Dear Friend...
In this book, He states that secularism and religion are often seen as two opposing and mutually incompatible positions.
He says that it is important to distinguish between criticisms directed at religion itself and those directed at the institutions of religion, which are two separate things.
Close to the heart of all the great faith traditions is the aim of promoting humanity’s most positive qualities and nurturing such values as kindness, compassion, forgiveness, patience and personal integrity.
Of course, as you have seen in Cambodia, the institutions of religion have a lot to answer for.
However, there are some children in your care who may still be drawn to religion itself and for whom prayer may give comfort
Here is one of my favourite excerpts from the book.
Although humans can manage without religion, they cannot manage without inner values.
So my argument for the independence of ethics from religion is quite simple.
As I see it, spirituality has two dimensions.
The first dimension, that of basic spiritual well-being—by which I mean inner mental and emotional strength and balance—does not depend on religion, but comes from our innate human nature as beings with a natural disposition toward compassion, kindness, and caring for others.
The second dimension is what may be considered religion based spirituality, which is acquired from our upbringing and culture and is tied to particular beliefs and practices.
The difference between the two is something like the difference between water and tea.
Ethics and inner values without religious content are like water, something we need every day for health and survival.
Ethics and inner values based in a religious context are more like tea.
The tea we drink is mostly composed of water, but it also contains some other ingredients—tea leaves, spices, sugar, herbs etc.—and this makes it more nutritious and sustaining and something we want everyday.
While we can live without tea, we can’t live without water.
Likewise we are born free of religion but we are not born free of the need of compassion.
More fundamental than religion, therefore, is our basic human spirituality.
We have an underlying human disposition toward love, kindness and affection, irrespective of whether we have a religious framework or not.
When we nurture this most fundamental human resource—when we set about cultivating those inner values which we all appreciate in others—then we start to live spiritually.
The challenge, therefore, is to find a way of grounding ethics and supporting the cultivation of inner values that is in keeping with the scientific age, while not neglecting the deeper needs of the human spirit, which, for many people, religion answers.
DF: It might be fun to have a cuppa or hot chocolate with your students to bring this analogy to the forefront.
They may decide that hot water is enough for them and they are happy with that.
However, they may decide that tea is more fulfilling for them ( a choice I’ve made).
They must remember, however, that to make tea, you must have water.
Otherwise, there is no basis....just fancy smelling tea leaves!
It doesn’t provide any sustenance whatsoever.
From your blogs, I can sense how angry you feel about the tea leaves the Cambodian people have been given!
When it comes to using their brains and examining religious institutions to belong to, it is important to make sure that the ethical basis of the institution is intact.
In other words, they must think for themselves and make sure the tea has water in it!
Do the spiritual leaders of the institution actually practice what they preach?
If we are encouraging people to think for themselves, we could ask them to go and find the evidence/proof for themselves based on their own research and inner experience....
There is scientific proof that practices such as meditation and prayer can be of immense benefit to people.
IF THEY HOLD WATER! and the motivation behind them is ethical.
Thank you 'DF' for your wisdom and insight - feel like a trip to Cambodia??