The Rest Of The List.... (Concepts and Notions)
This is the rest of the list of misconceptions posted by Tekisui in my blog. I've addressed all of them now. Well... I said I would. It's good to keep commitments, do what you say you will do, and finish what you start, if nothing else :)
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"Everyone already knows the truth, but many pretend they don't."
~ There are so many layers to the word "truth" when you're talking about religion or spiritual practices. I think that it would be safe to say that most people know some truths, and are lacking others. As far as those same people pretending they don't know, I think that happens a lot too. For various reasons. Sometimes people pretend not to know things because it makes them feel more humble, to allow others to say what they know, sometimes it really IS more humble. Sometimes, it allows others a chance to teach, and we learn by teaching. I'm not talking here about lying and making statements like "I don't know what the answer to that is" when you really do. I'm talking about the various reasons people might not always allow others to "see" how much they know, thus it appears they are "pretending". It's a difficult concept, and that's one of the reasons I think we all have to try to be very genuine. At the same time, because there really are so many "layers" to truth and realization, there really is nothing in spiritual life that we can't "realize (or know) more deeply that we already think we do. It's good to approach anything and everything that way. When you see something you think you "already know", then look at what ways you can know it more deeply, thus finding yet another layer of truth, a deeper truth.
"Religion is a practice of devotion and nothing more. You only need to be pious."
~ We do "practice" devotion. The reason we practice it, is because we don't naturally have a devotional attitude toward Krishna. So, we practice devotion until we do, and as we do, the practice creates the reality. As far as the nothing more, I'd say there is so much more that goes into the practice than devotion before there is natural devotion, and when the devotion is finally there, then that is the "more". Just being pious is a nice thing. If you are pious enough, you can get to a heavenly planet. Still, you won't get out of the material world, and when time is up on the heavenly planet, you still have to go somewhere, and you won't automatically go somewhere better. You surely won't automatically be eternally situated in your spiritual body. So being pious is clearly a limited choice, even if you are able to achieve total piety, which is very difficult in this age.
"Religion is full of myths."
~ Myths are useful metaphors in most religious cultures. They teach us lessons that would otherwise be hard for us to see. As long as you are aware that they are myths, then if it teaches a lesson you need to learn, where is the harm? The problem comes when people have no way to separate the myths from the truths. Most people on any religious path really want "the truth", so if they have believed that a myth is truth, then later find out that it's myth, they tend to lose faith. The problem is that people create myths, God doesn't. Krishna doesn't create myths, humans do. For example, people can take Krishna's pastimes and "adjust" the story to serve some personal motive they have, thus creating a myth. That's why it's so important to get knowledge of Krishna through the chain of disciplic succession. That way, we know that the information we receive has come from Krishna, and has not been "turned into myths". Then, if we create our own stories to illustrate points (and there are so many stories like this) we can say "this is a story" and anyone can discover that it's a story because it won't be in the scriptures.
"If you want to chant or pray, you first need to be a member/follower. Otherwise, your chanting or praying is a waste of time, will have no effect or is even blasphemy."
~ This one is so involved. We've discussed what it means to be a "member" or "follower" and it's endless what "waste of time" can mean, so relative, same with "no effect". So, I won't go into that here. Blasphemy is hard for a lot to understand. Everyone gets afraid when they see that word (well, most do). But briefly, for the sake of this one statement, blasphemy usually involves an act of total disregard. Intentional disregard. Or, intentional harm. This is a huge topic though, and I don't want anyone to take those few words to be any entire statement by me on the subject of blasphemy. I'm just making a general comment about it.
"If you do some of the practices, this is perfectly enough, and you needn't strive to improve."
~ Some of the practices are enough. Like chanting for example. If all you do is chant, that alone is enough. Out of the 9 processes, any one is enough. Chanting is the most effective one, but any one of them is perfectly enough. Still, even within those practices, if we only do some, or one, we always need to strive to improve whatever we do. Of course anyone who wants to "get anywhere" with anything will understand the need to strive to improve. Much more so when we are talking about religion, or a relationship with God.
"What matters the most in life is the truth. Even if the truth comes at the cost of happiness. Truth is more important than happiness. Happiness is something you should be willing to sacrifice in the name of the truth."
~ Real truth, rather than half-truths, or partial truths, or temporary truths, or beliefs that things are true, brings real happiness. It's the investment in all the other illusions of truth that cause a person to have to sacrifice happiness. Of course, in the process of trying to "clear" ourselves of all our beliefs in illusions of truth, we may have to sacrifice the immediate "happiness" that comes from keeping our minds, egos, and senses "happy". That takes some perspective on the issue, and seeing that it is not genuine happiness, but more a temporary placating of the the false self, but we call it happiness because we don't know genuine happiness yet.
"There is a constant struggle between morality and happiness. This struggle is irreconcilable."
~This goes back to the previous topic. It takes a degree of understanding that even morality doesn't ultimately bring happiness, what to speak of the other things that people generally do to "find happiness". Real happiness belongs to the soul and is experienced as a result of it's relationship with Krishna, to the degree it experiences that relationship.
"Practising should be easy and comfortable."
~ That word "should" always gets to me. What things "should" be like.... that gets us into trouble. We think so many things "should" be certain ways. We also think we "should" be Krishna, when we're in material consciousness. Just because we think something "should" be a certain way, doesn't mean it is that way. Nothing that anyone does of any value in this world is always easy and comfortable. Why in the world would we think that achieving spiritual goals, that go so far beyond the realm of any achievement here, will be easy and comfortable? Maybe some of the time, but not all of the time certainly.
"You should be able to defend your religion/philosophy against any and all charges, any time."
~ Despite what you may be able to do, there are so many times that people don't want to hear, regardless of what you say. So, while we want to understand the philosophy so that we are never confused about things, there really is not a need to always "defend" it. Some charges are absurd, and simply waste time if we get involved in trying to "defend" anything. Also, we are not responsible for defending aspects that we don't yet understand. You can only defend those things that you do understand. It doesn't make you "bad", it just means you are in the process of learning more.
"A person who speaks with confidence, who speaks assured of themselves, speaks the truth and should be listened to and obeyed."
~ Well, we all know that Hitler spoke with lots of confidence. Lots of people obeyed him. I think most anyone is aware that just because someone professes knowledge of some religious path and speaks about it confidently, it doesn't mean automatically that they know what they are talking about. That's why we have the check system I mentioned before ~ guru, sadhu, shastra.
"If a person has declared themselves to be a follower of a religion, this means that the person has perfect understanding of it and is able to explain it to everyone."
~ Following means they are following someone or something. As long as you are "following" rather than "leading" it goes without saying that your understanding is not yet perfect and you will also not be able to explain it to everyone. Then, further, even if you are "leading" we can all lead others in whatever way about whatever we have learned. Like Srila Prabhupad said "simply tell someone about Krishna"... that can mean saying the most basic thing, yet you are still leading, and also, still following.
"We are all already liberated. There isn't really any work for us left to do."
~ If we are already liberated then we'd better get busy liberating everyone else :) That's even more work than liberating only ourselves :)
"I will never be good enough to be a member of this religion/philosophy that I am aspiring for."
~ According to whom? Who decides that? You. You are making a decision that only God can make, only Krishna can make, or you are allowing other humans to make decisions that only Krishna can make. And again, what does it mean to be "a member"? That's a very vague term. We are all "members" of Krishna, eternally, by our very nature. What we decide to do about that is our choice.
"My religion knows it all and I just have to adapt."
~ Here it's important to know what it is you are adapting to. Is it scripture coming from Krishna? Or is it a concept created by people, who then call it religion.
"I know it all and religion has to adapt."
~lol. If you know it all.... then why do you need anyone to adapt to anything? For what purpose?
"A person is nothing without a religion."
~Every person already has a religion, the religion of the soul, sanatana dharma, their eternal occupation. Perhaps they may feel like "nothing" if they are not connected to that or don't yet understand it. No person is ever "nothing".... but they might feel that way if they are not engaged in some kind of service to God. No one can ever be nothing in any case. The soul is "something". Part of Krishna.
"In a religion, there is always a big disappointment or difficult truth that one needs to accept and will forever be miserable about."
~This too shall pass :) Nothing is forever. Accepting even the most difficult truths, or the most difficult disappointments is always possible if we continue to make progress spiritually. The acceptance does not have to be artificial or forced, it comes naturally with the practice and with time engaged in them. There are going to be big disappointments and difficult truths to accept in any life, religious or otherwise. Why would we single out religion as being the "place" this will occur?
"I know enough Vaishnavism to practice it properly."
~ If you know enough to practice it properly, then you also know enough to know that it's not enough just to practice properly. Beyond that is realizing it, and also teaching it to others.
"I can find a better path than Srila Prabhupada or other people."
~Better how? In what way? One that sounds better to your mind and senses? One that gets you closer to Krishna faster? Why do you need to find a "better" path? What is it about this one that you have so much difficulty with that you feel there needs to be a "better" one? It's takes a lot of effort to follow this path, and time, who has the time to try to find "better" ones? What would be the motive? Usually it involves some kind of way to make things appear to require less effort.
"Defilements and sins are okay if they help my practice."
~They never help the practice, they may help you cope with your mind and senses is such a way that makes it "appear" that they have helped your practice. If they actually helped anyone's practice they wouldn't be called sins. They would be called "part of the practice" and would be requirements :)
"The way I do things is the best way for everyone."
~ When children are small, they think the whole world revolves around them. They are fascinated with everything they do and say. All their discoveries seem entirely unique and wonderful to them. As they begin to mature, they see that there are others in the world also, who also have discovered things, and are also fascinated with their discoveries. They either stay at that stage, and continue to believe that their discoveries (or ways) are the very best, and therefore best for all the other beings in the world that they have discovered are there, or they move past it to a more mature outlook of "oh, others have their ways/discoveries, and also feel they are best. Then the natural conclusion at that point would be "some things may be best for some of us, other things may be best for other's of us".
"All the other members think the way I do, and they all understand me."
~That's another basic concept that really is more about being mature than about religion. No one group of people think the way everyone else does, or understand everyone else in that group. In any place, or any religion.
"Everyone has the same delusions, the same problems, the same sufferings as I do."
~Well, that's true in a sense. We all have the delusion of believing in our minds and senses and egos, and the delusions associated with them. The same problems and sufferings in a general sense come from that. It's the same disease with different symptoms, so to speak. But on the level of understanding others, this is also about understanding that we are all individuals and not identical. Even within a religion.
"Spirituality is something you already know, you don't need to learn it."
~If spirituality is something everyone already knows, then why are people suffering?
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Wed, 11/05/2008 - 09:37 — tekisui
I'm just writing this to let you know that I have read the two blog posts of yours on the topic of preconceived notions about religion.
I printed them out today because I can't read such long things on the screen; but I've been without a printer for a while, that's why it took me this long.
Other than that, I don't have any comments to your posts here, and have found them helpful.
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Thu, 11/06/2008 - 07:50 — Navasi
Thanks for letting me know, Tekisui.
I'm so glad you found them to be helpful. I know they weren't your misconceptions, only a general list of possible misconceptions, so I'm glad to hear that what I wrote was helpful to you.
I understand about long things on the internet, they are really hard to read. I broke the things into two blogs to make them shorter, but really, there was so much there in what you wrote!
I think any of those things, or most of them, could be turned into quite long discussions.
I really appreciated the chance to go over them all.... which is why I "stole your homework" ;)
So, thank you, for providing such good points to work with. I think there are a lot of people that have a lot of those misconceptions, whether they take the time to realize it or not.