"It's not a spectator sport!"

After years of watching people trying to gain spiritual progress through eastern spiritual teachings I am starting to come to the conclusion that the whole process is making people nuts. And finally I came up with a metaphor for the problem. It is like each religion is a full circle of belief and reconciliation. The beliefs make the people crazy, and then the reconciliation cures them from the craziness so they can go on (usually into another cycle of craziness). 

At first blush a western person can be fooled into thinking that the wonderful eastern religions are free of this cycle of pain, because their teachings talk about the cycles in a direct manner. But the more we dive into the whole mess, the more obvious it is that the eastern teachings have their own sly methods of keeping people locked in a cycle. People who mix the two up, then, have double craziness.

The big problem for westerners is that we have all been given a certain disease by the spiritual assumptions of our society, and then, if we get into eastern spirituality what we end up doing is trying to cure our disease with their medicine. It is like a person has a cough but keeps taking Pepto Bismal because the ingredients on the Pepto Bismal bottle sound more important. The Pepto Bismal will never do anything for the cough.

As a good ol' American girl I am finding that I am constantly in need of redemption, and nothing else will do the trick. Especially when I have the misfortune to spend time with spiritually minded people I find that I am always wrong, misbehaving and stupid. Because people treat me that way, I have a very deep suspicion that they also treat themselves that way -- and so I have a very good guess that they all are in need of redemption!

On a mystical level the Christian idea of redemption is very powerful. There is nothing to compare to it in eastern philosophy. Hold your breath a little bit, and try to dive into the following description with an opened mind. You may find a taste of redemption at the end.

Sin

The idea of redemption is based around sin - a very unpopular subject in today's spiritual communities. We are so afraid of the slap on the hand that the word sin implies. And yet, anyone who has gone honestly into the world of meditation will find that all is not beautiful in their inner world. A person who pursues spirituality with the idea of only finding love and beauty either has to be very adept at continuously fooling themselves, or in for a rude awakening. 

It seems to be a fact of humanity that every beautiful quality that we possess, also has a shadow. When this is accepted it becomes obvious that the shadow is actually the thing that makes the beautiful quality so magnificent -- just as rotting compost and worms make a beautiful rose grow. The raw truth of the matter is that we all are sinners. We have hate, jealously, rage and greed. We have a never-ending capacity to make mistakes. We particularly have a never-ending capacity to make mistakes in front of other people!

And yet, it is these very qualities that make prayer so powerful and beautiful. The fact that we are all capable of hate makes it so much more magnificent when we rise up to a moment with love and compassion. Our generosity is more powerful because of our capacity for jealousy and greed.  We are made perfectly from the beginning ... and yet our sin is still painful.

Redemption

Into this mess enters the idea of redemption. Sometimes (many times for me) we are brought to our knees by our own humanity. If we have had a bad moment, or a bad day, or a bad reaction, AND if we are aware enough of ourselves to know it -- there is nothing we can do but just lay ourselves down at the feet of god. This is true humility. We see who we are. We see what we've done, or what we've thought of, or what we've felt, and are forced to set aside our desires and plans for perfection. We become small within the whole scheme of things and are forced (for that moment at least) to take our place within the whole of existence. Just a little human being, shaped by the laws of living. A brief and fleeting breath in a large universe. We bow our heads for a moment of deep humility, and ask for redemption.

It's really the only cure.