Enter Into Joy

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Roots of it All

Family Tree of Religion by Kelly Nash
I thought, with Buddha being a Hindu, in the way that Christ was a Jew, there must be a Family Tree of Religions somewhere. Looking for it in books and on the internet, I was surprised to see that I couldn’t find one, so I drew my own. It’s far from perfect, but it kind of illustrates that when we go to a church or temple, we’re usually with people who are perched on a slender twig that is their sect, when sometimes we need to get down to the roots.

As a child I followed my family around to a variety of churches. We started out with the Lutherans, then the Presbyterians. We tried a Unitarian church, but two weeks later they closed for the summer. We settled on a Congregational church, where my folks found a home. Then I went to college, and became a pagan, a socialist, and then an agnostic. It’s funny that years later, I have so many friends who are ministers.  

I know someone who says “I’m against all the isms”. Certainly some terrible things have been done in the name of religion, but also some miracles. I think now I appreciate all of them….Most people believe they’re religious, or spiritual. Both words have been twisted around so much we get squeamish when they’re brought up. But anyone halfway conscious would like some answers to the big questions.

At the trunk of our tree, we start seeing some similarities. Jesus said: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12). That’s the Golden Rule of course; many of us can’t seem to remember it. Confucious put it another way: “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.” And Muhammad, said: “None of you is a believer until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself”. The Buddha said: “Do not hurt others with that which hurts yourself”. Rabbi Hillel said: “what is hateful to you, do not do to others”.  And the Hindu epic Mahabharatta says: “This is the sum of all duty: do nothing to others which, if it were done to you, would cause you pain”.

Let’s start turning the tree upside down in our mind. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says: “Sages speak of the immutable ashvatta tree, with its taproot above and its branches below. On this tree grow the scriptures; seeing their source, one knows their essence.”  In Jewish Kabbalah, an inverted tree called the Etz Chaim represents the nervous system - the root is the mind, with branches spreading throughthe body; it also represents the Torah - rooted in heaven, and the branches being all of the manifested world.

Number 17 from 29 Pieces: Enter Into the Joy
So we try to get to the roots. And what’s at the roots of all religion?  I suspect it’s the mystical experience, perhaps summed up as “Joy”. One way it can be achieved is by long practice of meditation. Many paths were passed down by mystics like St. Augustine, who said, sometime in the 4th century: “if the mind should cease thinking about itself …would this not be what is bidden in scripture - Enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” 
- Kelly Nash


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