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Some wisdom from Susan.

July 25, 2014

I wrote to Susan, the fitness trainer and spiritual teacher I’m working with. I expressed how I was continuing to have trouble with Buddhist teachings.. taking them too seriously, getting fixated on certain ones. Also, I wrote about my interest in Wicca, which, if I remember right, she has practiced, or at least knows about. She works some of the time in a large spiritual store where a Wiccan group meets, and the people who run the store are Wiccan and lead the group, so I am guessing Susan is well educated in Wicca.

Here are some of her words for me from her email reply:


“Wicca is a deity centered religion. While there are many different traditions within Wicca, and it is a very open religion with each individual practitioner being autonomous in their practice (that is unless they choose to give that freedom away to a teacher, High Priestess or High Priest), still I believe one constant is the belief in a higher power of some sort. Magick is just one aspect of Wicca. There are many rituals and ceremonies as well as philosophical teachings.”


“As I’m sure you’re aware, meditation is not strictly Buddhist. Members of any religion or those who are not spiritual benefit from it. The benefits of a regular meditation practice are too numerous to list and my opinion is, as far as spirituality goes, it is the basis of any spiritual path. I know it seems difficult in the beginning. Remember that the point is not to stop thinking. The point is to recognize that you are thinking. Label your thoughts and let them go. Always coming back to the breath. The breath is just a place to bring your mind back to, just like giving a puppy a toy to distract him from your shoe. ”

Religious teachings, Christianity, Buddhism.

“Whenever we look at a religion we have to realize that it is man-made and therefore flawed. If we look at the teachings of Christ we can see that they are beautiful teachings about love and compassion. Jesus taught about karma and personal responsibility. He was a great teacher. However cultural influences over the decades between the time when Jesus lived and the time his teachings were written down inevitably caused some distortions of those teachings. And then as the centuries went by they were distorted even further. By certain Christian teachers who focused on certain aspects of these distorted teachings as well as poor or even incorrect translations of the original writings (which were, as I said before, written long after Christ’s death). So now we have many different types of Christianity. Some of the more fundamental types barely resembling the original teachings.
The same is true of Buddhism. For some reason the followers of the Buddha didn’t bother to write down his teachings until long after his death. When they did, these teachings were inevitably distorted by cultural biases. For example the attitude towards women. In one teaching the Buddha states that women are just as capable as men of becoming enlightened while in another he supposedly says women’s bodies prevent them from being able to reach enlightenment. This is obviously ridiculous and obviously a distortion of the teachings influenced by a misogynistic culture. So it’s important to look at the whole, or the spirit of the teachings rather than focus on individual aspects of it. This takes a lot of study and reflection. In the meantime, the most important aspect of Buddhism is the encouragement to look deeply into oneself and understand who we are and why we behave the way we do. That is something anyone of any faith (or lack of faith) can benefit from. In fact it is the most important aspect of being human. So if you aren’t interested in Buddhism that’s absolutely fine. But what I guess I’m trying to say is all religions are flawed to some extent because their primary source is flawed human beings. It is up to us to work at making sense of them and live our lives with as much compassion and integrity as we can using the teachings of whatever religion as a guide rather than as inviolate truth.”
I really like Susan’s perspective. I have to remind myself that the teachings of all religions are flawed. I realize this is a very controversial opinion, and most religious people in the world would disagree with this. But I still agree with this opinion. I’ve thought this way at times in the past, but have found myself getting too fixated or bogged down on certain teachings. I guess that comes from being raised in a conservative, Protestant home, and being told that every word in the Bible is infallible and comes from God. That’s not how I see the Bible now. I need to take the same approach when dealing with Buddhist teachings.
As for Wicca..
I really don’t know if I’ll pursue it or not. I don’t know.
But regardless, I am glad to have Susan helping me to keep perspective. And I will continue to meditate.
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