Mysticism is the life of religion; without it, religion loses the reason of its existence – all its warm vitality is gone, all its inexpressible charms vanish, and there remains nothing but the crumbling bones and the cold ashes of death.
– D T Suzuki –
For a couple of years now, the ‘Barefoot Investor’ by Scott Pape, has been a best-selling book in Australia. Pape’s simple philosophy and his methodology for navigating the complex world of personal finance, have changed the lives of thousands. The promise is financial freedom!
The term ‘barefoot’ implies simplicity, lack of complication and directness. Sr Cyril Mooney, working with the poor in Calcutta, adopted a similar approach to education. In the face of a shortage of teachers to go out into the surrounding villages, Sr Cyril developed the Barefoot Teacher program. In this program, trainees were equipped with basic skills and resources with which to go out and teach the poor.
Unfortunately, however, many of the discovered paths in the spiritual journey have been clouded by the accumulation of rigid practices, ideologies and dogma. Religions have a precious cargo, but often the richness is obscured by moralising, intellectualising and defending themselves.
All sectarian religions bear false witness to God. Their God is too small to reflect the spiritual splendour of the Universal God of all-embracing love and compassion.
The enemies of religions cannot be other religions. The enemies of religion are poverty, injustice, illiteracy, exploitation, discrimination, and all that subverts the spiritual goal of fullness of life for all people.
– Swami Agnivesh –
While many people, particularly in the West, are rejecting traditional forms of faith and religion, I’m sure that this is not a rejection of God or of the power of the Christian vision making a difference in their lives. Rather, they are rejecting the forms in which the package of faith and religion are presented to them.
Although they may be disengaged from the Church, most young people do want to be part of a movement that will inspire their imagination, engage their idealism and support their search for meaning. I have taught many young people who have rejected a Church they judge to be ‘out of touch’. I have taught very few, however, whose imagination and passion have not been captured by our tradition’s vision for we can become fully human, in relationship with God, for the transformation of the world.
In the search of more direct experience of God, more and more seekers are returning to the original insights and convictions of the founders and prophets of the great religious traditions, stripped of non-essentials and cultural accretions. Perhaps they could be called ‘Barefoot Mystics’!
I was born Christian and find great inspiration and guidance from the experience of Jesus in the Gospels. Due to where I was born, my spiritual journey might give preference to Christianity, but I am sure that God doesn’t. I also derive wisdom, guidance and consolation from the teachings of other traditions that inspire me and reveal God to me.
Besides Jesus, there are others who have made the journey their life’s preoccupation and have left a roadmap for us to follow. From the life and teachings of a few have grown the world’s great religions.
The great religions of the world are all God inspired. Within their varying contexts, they all offer insights into how we can address the great questions of human existence. Our great traditions of spirituality are a call to the mind of the One God; different roads converging upon the same point; the same voice in different languages. No tradition can limit the flow of divine love.
…any God worthy of the name must transcend creeds and denominations, time and place, nations and ethnicities, and all the vagaries of gender, extending to the limits of all we can see, suffer, and enjoy?
– Richard Rohr –
The late Benedictine monk, Bede Griffiths, who lived in India, described it this way: ‘The fingers on my hand represent each of the world’s major religious faiths. At the top of my fingers, they are all very different and separate from one another. This is the level of theology, beliefs and customs. But as you move more deeply into each tradition, to the level of encounter with God, you converge on a common centre, a common source. This is represented by my palm where my fingers meet.’
The world doesn’t need more Christians, Buddhists or Muslims. Rather, it needs more Christ-like, Buddha-like people. We don’t need systems of belief but fellowship of humanity, beyond the walls of religious systems.
A universal theology is impossible. But, a universal experience of God is not only possible, it is necessary for the survival of our world.
We should teach our children nothing which they shall ever need to unlearn; we should strive to transmit to them the best possessions, the truest thought, the noblest sentiments of the age in which we live.
– Felix Adler –
We must teach the young that the search for God, the divine, the spiritual, or however we choose to name it, is a search that is worthy of our utmost efforts as human beings.
‘Passing on the faith’ is not a call to transmit a set of beliefs and practices, but rather, it is encouraging the young to experience God in their lives.
Our greatest asset is our own life experience. How can we expect the young to see the value of this search, if we do not model it for them in our own lives? The most powerful formation that we ourselves can have as Christian educators, is the quest to know God in our lives.
All must learn that they are of God and this is our true identity.
As oil is in the oil seed
As fire is in the flint
As fragrance is in the flower
As air pervades all space
My Lord is living in every human being
– Kabir –
In their encounter with us, others must experience our God-nature. If we begin with our innate oneness with God and bring that to bear on our outward circumstances and the way that we carry ourselves in the world, our lives become peaceful, congruent and authentic.
We live spiritually when the Divine becomes the partner of our most intimate soliloquies.
– Victor Frankl –
Your religion is not the Church you belong to, but the cosmos you live inside of.
– G.K. Chesterton –
In the spiritual search, we are drawn by a mystery, which is not a problem to be solved but rather, a reality to be experienced.
You have created us for yourself and our hearts cannot be quiet until they find rest in you.
– St Augustine –
Whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, secretly nature seeks, hunts, tries to ferret out the track on which God may be found.
– Meister Eckhart –
I once heard it said that human beings are ‘hardwired’ for God! I think that the author of this statement was suggesting that in every person lies an instinct for transcendence; a desire to experience the Divine in our lives and pass beyond ourselves as we now are. The task of all religions is to inspire, direct and nurture this search.
As rivers have their source in some far-off fountain, so the human spirit has its source. To find this fountain of spirit is to learn the secret of heaven and earth.
– Lao Tzu –
God is bigger than the words we use to talk about God. Our search for the Divine can and should take us beyond the God that society or even our religion talks about.
The ultimate leave-taking is the leaving of God for God.
– Meister Eckhart –
In the Hindu tradition, it is said that there are over 300 million gods. However, most do not believe that any of these ‘gods’ are divine. They are representations of different human experiences of the divine; images that point to the deeper aspects of God. Spiritual growth happens when one transcends these images, until one reaches the Divine beyond the images, beyond manifestations, beyond mediators.
There is a wonderful story of a holy man who put up a sign, ‘For two cents, I will give you an experience of God’. When people came to see him, he told them to put their money in a little bowl and he gave them a few grains of sugar and told them to eat it. He did not ask them to describe its taste or talk about its sweetness. They simply had to eat and experience the sugar.
The holy man then observed: ‘Sweetness can only be known through experience, so it is with God!’
Jesus did not simply believe in God; he knew God in an intimate way. As well as being a prophet for justice and compassion, Jesus was a deeply spiritual teacher. Jesus modelled the journey we must all make; from belief in God to intimate relationship with God.
When Jesus walked the earth, he was not attempting to create a new religion; he wanted us to experience the Divine. Jesus lived his humanity so completely, so lovingly and so selflessly, that all who met him experienced the very essence of God.
As a teacher of wisdom, Jesus was not primarily a teacher of information (what to believe) or morals (how to behave), but a teacher of a way or path of transformation. A way of transformation from what to what? From a life in the world of conventional wisdom to a life centred in God.
– Marcus Borg –
Discover presence and stillness in your life. Take the time to know silence. Much of the world has a vested interest in keeping us restless, craving for more and unknowing of when enough is enough.
For those who set their hearts on me,
The way of love leads sure and swift to me.
Still your mind in me, still yourself in me
And without doubt you will be united with me,
The Lord of love, dwelling in your heart.
Dearest to me are those who seek me
In faith and love, as life’s eternal goal.
They go beyond death to immortality.
– The Bhagavad Gita –