by Roger Mock
I heard a kind of slogan this week that stopped me in my tracks: “Throw out all the beliefs and keep the faith.” Say what? There was a time when a statement like that might have put me a little on the defensive. But now here I am, an interfaith minister writing a blog for a church, and I have to say, “Hell yeah!”
We all have our cherished beliefs, but the hallmark of someone who is growing through the human experience, gradually evolving as a person, is that they tend eventually to be discarded as our thinking, and thus our world, enlarges. And it’s the way the world works. The butterfly emerges from the cocoon. The snake sheds its skin. Think about that – it’s skin! That’s a big deal, yes? To shed something that has pretty much defined you, confident that there’s a bigger, better you emerging. That kind of transformation is the norm in nature.
Beliefs are very much akin to skin. They’re what we show up in at a family gathering or on a Sunday morning. Letting them go can be painful and we usually don’t allow for that to happen until, like our reptilian friend, it becomes necessary. Sometimes we’ve really already shed them inside, but we pull them back on for those family gatherings so no one notices… I know – it’s pitiful, but we’ve all done pitiful.
But getting back to the religion aspect of “throw out all the beliefs” that can be a touchy topic for the thin-skinned. Often when one “loses their religion” they toss it all out at once and don’t look back. But there’s a baby in that bathwater and our slogan nails it – faith. But faith in what? What if you’ve grown up as a born again disciple of the Church of the Holy Guacamole and you’ve just dumped it all off a cliff and walked away, unburdened by all the weird baggage. I mean, can you still believe in the Avocado?
When I was doing my interfaith seminary studies a couple years ago I had a conversation with someone who was curious why I even cared about religion and all these conflicting and intersecting belief systems. She didn’t see the point of having religious beliefs and was quite happily atheistic. I told her that ultimately I believed in The Good, in Benevolence, and that all other religious trappings were just that.
The Tao that can be spoken
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin
of Heaven and Earth
A famous koan from Zen Buddhism bluntly states:
If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!
Has a more confounding religious statement ever been uttered? It’s meaning becomes evident, though, in light of that Tao Te Ching quote. Whatever your conception is of the Buddha, or of Enlightment (or of God or of Christ) is WRONG! Throw it out and sit in the silence. Keep the faith and stay open.
A Course in Miracles, God bless it, gives us this prescription for moving past the illusions of our persistent perceptions. I’ve shared it here before, as it’s a personal favorite:
Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God. (Workbook, Lesson 189)
“Forget this course.” You have to love that in a sacred text.
Hey, it’s spring (really, it is). A great time for shedding off the old skins. Don’t be afraid—nothing is sacred. And also, everything is sacred. You are sacred—who you are and who you are becoming.
Love and light,