What does religion, spirituality and secularism mean today? We all know the world is changing at a rapid pace. Perhaps emotions and beliefs are understood as something weaker and not as relevant or helpful. Many organisations are purely about production and many households are only concerned with financial gain. Yet our health systems are under more pressure than ever to keep up with the crisis humanity are facing. Overpopulation, poor food quality and sedentary lifestyles. Fundamentalism is a word that people are using to dismiss many religious groups as dangerous and even life threatening. The Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi discusses his thoughts below.
‘Fundamentalism no doubt bears the character of a religious revival. However, in my opinion it fails to qualify as a genuinely spiritual type of religiosity because it does not meet the criterion of true spirituality. This criterion I would describe, in broad terms, as the quest to transcend the limitations of the ego-consciousness. As I understand fundamentalism, it draws its strength from its appeal to human weakness, by provoking the ego-consciousness and the narrow, volatile interests of the small self. Its psychological mood is that of dogmatism; it polarizes the human community into the opposed camps of insiders and outsiders; it dictates a policy of aggression that entails either violence against the outsiders or attempts to proselytize them. It does not point us in the direction of selflessness, understanding, acceptance of others based on love, the ingredients of true spirituality.’
What about spiritual, what’s its purpose today if any? Many hear the word and immediately close their minds. Some go the other direction and make it out all mysterious and hard to understand. The Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi discusses his thoughts below.
‘Spiritual eclecticism — omnipresent in the West today — is governed by the opposite logic. It aims to amalgamate, to draw into a whole a sundry variety of quasi-religious disciplines: yoga, spiritualism, channeling, astrology, faith healing, meditation, I Ching, special diets, Cabbala, etc. These are all offered to the seeker on a pick-and-choose basis; everything is valid, anything goes. This eclecticism often reveals a longing for genuine spiritual experience, for a vision of reality more encompassing than pragmatic materialism. It fails because it tears profound disciplines out from their context in a living faith and blends them together into a shapeless mixture without spine or substance. Its psychological mood is that of a romantic, promiscuous yearning for easy gratification rather than that of serious commitment. Owing to its lack of discrimination it often shades off into the narcissistic and the occult, occasionally into the diabolical.’
One thing that has not changed in our world our deception our inability to see reality for what it is. A pretty face, a new care or a beautiful body still sell. What is it selling, illusions about reality, happiness, religious utopian ideas? People have their fingers in so many pies these days and don’t know whether they are coming or going. We only have limited energy in a day and limited time here on earth. We need to focus on things that are really going to matter and truly help us navigate life.