Cheerful Birthday Dalai Lama.

“I believe deeply that we must find, all of us together, a new spirituality. This new concept ought to be elaborated alongside the religions in such a way that all people of good could adhere to it.” ~ Dalai Lama

Just two days after the United States celebrates its 239th birthday (July 4th), the Dalai Lama will celebrate his 80th birthday, in Southern California at The Global Compassion Summit.

Technically, the Dalai Lama already celebrated his birthday according to the Tibetan calendar on June 21, 2015 because it corresponded with his birth on the fifth day of the fifth lunar moon.

It was not lost on me that while the U.S. celebrates its independence, Tibet is still pleading for freedom and relief from the dictatorship and oppression of China.

Being raised Seventh-Day Adventist, I was used to “oppression” and had a deep set belief that if I “followed the rules,” I would avoid the wrath of hell as depicted in Revelations. I believed if I was “good enough” that I would one day awake from my slumber and rise from my decaying body to be resurrected and brought to Heaven.

This was not a form of living that quenched my spiritual thirst.

Hence, came forth my spiritual quest for truth and freedom. As I started my journey, I was astonished by the hypocrisy and exclusiveness within organized religion. I began to study scripture and branched out to observe how others achieved their spiritual fulfillment.

I once entered a Pentecostal church and as I watched people begin to “speak in tongues,” or begin to be “filled with the spirit” running and falling over as though they were truly possessed—it dawned on me that this was no different than witnessing an African Shaman performing Voodoo or an Ancient Native American tribe performing a ceremony of sorts.

While contemplating these things, I began to take notice of how many parallels actually run through most religions.

Most religions start with an enlightened prophet who taught others. The students of these prophets would record and write these teachings down, from their own perspective. Most religions have a Messianic belief—Messiah, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, Buddha and his descendants—the Dalai Lama. Most religions teach love and kindness to all—do good unto others.

Most of the world’s religions also have their own sacred writings and scriptures that outline ways to live a good life.

All of my research led me to one profound thought: what if all religions come from the same roots?

What if the foundation for all religion is exactly the same? Meaning, maybe there really is only one true God (by whatever name he/she goes by) and maybe there is only one true religion—one true belief?

Isn’t it theoretically possible that the story started the same but that due to cultural differences and/or barriers or from socially learned behaviors and intercultural communication that the story became distorted and/or changed through time?

People divided by mighty oceans, majestic mountains, dense forests and vast deserts—-and yet all have a similar story of their Messiah. Are we too egotistical to believe that the original truth has evolved through time and interpretation? Are we too egotistical to believe that truth and revelation are progressive and maybe the manifestation of each “God” answers the needs of the people at that specific moment in time?

The foundation of most religions train people to be honest, to be “good,” to have reverence, modesty, civil obligation and obedience and self-sacrifice for others. Aren’t the teachings of most religions fundamentally the same? Is it not possible that over time, ego and rigid dogma may have caused religion, itself, to become corrupt?

As I began to ponder all of these things, I formed my own sense of spiritual belief.

When asked if I am a Christian, I answer that I do believe in God and in the power of prayer. However, I have to then explain that most of my spiritual beliefs align with Buddhism. I believe happiness is obtainable and can be found within the simplest, purest forms. I do not believe in attending church with like-minded individuals as, personally, I feel closest to God when I am among nature, during prayer or during meditation.

I believe in Gaia. I believe in kindness, compassion and doing harm to none. I believe there is love and beauty in all things and that most people do have an inherent need to do good.

I have been told I am naïve.

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain and our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is kindness.” ~ Dalai Lama

Excited by all that I was discovering, I wanted to share my theory with everyone. I wanted to show all of the paradigms, the parallels, the common threads of religion that I was finding. I wanted to discuss science, the Dark Ages, the rise of Rome and Catholicism.  I wanted to discuss lost scrolls, Hebrew translations, King James, The Bible, The Quran and the Torah.

I felt this one belief would free us from religious oppression. We could unite as one. My theory was not as openly received as I had hoped.

I have had many write me or tell me that they were praying for me—stating my theory was heresy.

I’ve been told they were praying for my lost soul and that one day I would see the error of my ways, that I would see the light and with God’s will, that I would choose the correct religious dogma. “How can you be a Christian and a Buddhist and believe in a She-God like Gaia?”

I have been told I am insane. I have been told that I am blasphemous and need to pray for forgiveness—do my penance.

I didn’t understand why people were so opposed to my theory.

What happened to 1 Corinthians 13:13, which states, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

If I live my life making a conscience decision every day to be the best version of myself, if I choose to quiet and still my thoughts through meditation, if I make the effort to show love and be love and to have compassion, why is my way wrong?

I am open to each person having their own belief. They do not have to adopt my way of thinking. But, why I am I being judged for it? Every day, I rise with the intent to make a difference in the universe and be the change I want to see. Why is this not acceptable?

What happened to Matthew 7:1-3, which states, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

I know politics and religion are taboo subjects that we are taught to not discuss.

However, I believe if we all come from place of love and acceptance, these would not be hot button topics.

We should be able to respect and accept each other’s faith, beliefs and lifestyles. These are the things that make us uniquely ourselves. We should be excited to share these things without the fear of being condemned and judged. We should all be philanthropists—one nation, contributing to and honoring the differences in each of us. Not being divided by our arrogance, pride and opinions.

We should all be on a journey for self-discovery and enlightenment.

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road, doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” ~ Dalai Lama

I am reminded of the story, The Elephant and the Blind Men, a folktale from India.

I believe that metaphorically, spirituality is the elephant. Religion was formed from each limb—fighting over their individual perceptions. My philosophy then, is to look at the elephant as a whole.

I believe liberation and tolerance are needed as an essential part of evolution. Wouldn’t it be exciting if we truly were all just branches from the same mighty tree of life and all of us came from the interwoven roots lying deep within the rich soil of our planet? The realization that we are one excites me.

We are not an island—we do not have to journey alone or war over our differences.

Just as I plan to celebrate the independence of the United States of America and our freedom, I also plan to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama two days later.

His birthday wish was a request—he asked for people to use their social media to share videos, photos and quotes depicting people treating one another kindly, along with the hashtag #WithCompassion. I will be honoring this request and celebrating compassion, kindness, love and unity.

We are a community. We are a village. We are a Tribe. We are unity. We are love. We are compassion.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ~ Dalai Lama

Author: Mary Rogers

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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