Grandfather Tree

Now having come to understand that we are all spiritual beings who have chosen to temporarily live a physical existence on this planet, certain musings are inevitable, and shared here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Belief and/or Practice

I have been thinking a lot about the issue of belief and practice since reading Hafidha’s recent blog: Three Days of Jesus and the Word "God" especially her last question: “If one day I should believe in God again, what would change?”

I really think that we in the West are obsessed by belief. We are so interested in what people believe, and specifically whether they believe in God. My partner is a Tibetan Buddhist and people say things like, “Well they believe in God don’t they?” or “Do they believe in Jesus?” I am by no means that knowledgeable about Hinduism but it is my understanding that “what do you believe?” would not be the first question a Hindi would ask, but it would be something like “What is your practice?” Certainly this would be true of Buddhism.

For some reason I do not hear Christians asking “What is your practice?” Why is that? Is it because one doesn’t have to have a practice in order to be a Christian? I do not hear this question from Unitarian Universalists either. Why is that? I suspect that we are a bit afraid to challenge each other spiritually, and this question perhaps has a bit of an edge to it in our culture. Why is that? Perhaps because the question assumes that one has a practice, and perhaps some of us are lazy?

I am going to start sharing my practices on this blog, and I invite others to do so as well. I am really leaning toward the notion that belief is mostly irrelevant but practice is vital, essential, relevant.

So here is my start:

Since my birthday November 27, I have been practicing patience. This is not a foreign practice to me, as I have been playing with it for much of my adult life. However, I am now applying it specifically to myself, leaning to be patient with myself. One of my big, big issues is time, and I tend to always have more on my plate than I can possibly accomplish. Part of that is being a parent of four children, and juggling a lot of work hours. So I am specifically practicing patience with my time schedule. I will do stuff little by little and if it doesn’t get done today, I will praise my efforts and give myself permission to relax and meditate anyway.

4 Comments:

  • At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Jeff Wilson said…

    It really is an oddity, historically speaking, to focus on belief as the central aspect of religion. There has never been a time period when that was the majority human approach to religion, not even today, when Christians, Muslims, and Jews make up a sizable minority of the world populace.

    Growing up UU, there was plenty of attention paid to beliefs, but it was made clear to me that the major part of religion is how you act--essentially, how you treat others is where your religion lies. Now that I've been a Buddhist for many years, my focus has shifted somewhat toward practice. It isn't quite the same as "how you act," but "what you do." As a Pure Land Buddhist, it really doesn't matter that much to me whether I believe in the mythos of my school literally or metaphorically or otherwise. What makes me a Buddhist is that I am primarily engaged in Buddhist activities. It isn't about belief or about morality, though certainly those are both aspects of my path and I spend plenty of attention on them too.

    Good luck with patience. It isn't all that easy but there really aren't many superior practices out there, my hat's off to you. If you get any good at it I know your family and friends will be grateful, even if they never know explicitly about your practice. It's also a great approach because it combines that UU concern for how one acts with the Buddhist concern for what one does, yet doesn't need much from the excessively belief-oriented matrix of religion which to me tends to miss the point.

     
  • At 9:33 PM, Blogger Wally Nut said…

    Thanks Jeff, your comments are so affirming and clear.

     
  • At 12:11 AM, Blogger LaReinaCobre said…

    good idea, wally - thanks for the thoughts. I am going to think about that: "what is my practice?" and hopefully reflect on it soon in my blog.

     
  • At 2:05 PM, Blogger Wally Nut said…

    You are right, Jeff about the difficulty of this practice I have chosen. The other day my eleven year old daughter was going more slowly than I wanted her to, and I was becoming impatient. She looked right at me and said "You need to be more patient." I am certain she is not reading my blog, but she is intuitive about things like this and somehow she knows about my practice and is reminding me of it at the most inopprotune times. But of course, it is easy to be patient at relaxing times, isn't it? Oh, and Hafidha, I look forward to your blog on this question.

     

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