The issue of religion is difficult to broach because it is an intensively sensitive and personal decision about one’s belief and experience. The many religions in the world is founded on some principles or founding father who existed centuries ago.
This probably explains my discomfort as I read this section of the book where Elizabeth Gilbert recounts her various transcendence experience with God through Yoga meditation and chanting of Sanskrit scriptures.
Although she was brought up in a Protestant family, her parents are not devout followers and she herself found difficulty accepting the Christian theology that there is only one way to God.
A series of depressing events had triggered her desire to locate an Indian Guru whom she can learn how to meditate and commune with God from. This led to her four-month stay at an Ashram in India during which she lived on a strict meditation schedule starting at 3am in the morning, daily chanting, chores and a vegetarian diet.
Perhaps there is only one common understanding that I share with her. All religions exist because of man’s desire to make sense of the world, and our existence and purpose in it. Our rational minds try to find a scientific explanation for everything which unfortunately can only be explained at a spiritual level where one has to embrace faith.
This puts off many people because we naturally resist being out of control so we search for other means to find fulfillment through our career, wealth, relationships and other addictions. Unfortunately everyone will reach the same end point, it just doesn’t satisfy. That’s when we are driven to the mystical world to search for our answers.
The number of people from the Western civilisation Elizabeth met at the Ashram is astonishing. Long the cradle of the Catholic / Christian belief, we are now witnessing a generation of people who are believers only in name. On the contrary, through the work of missionaries, pockets of Eastern civilisations are beginning to embrace the Christian faith passionately.
This is puzzling. Is it because we get bored of hearing the same doctrine over and over again and find it more appealing to subscribe to a different theology to keep things fresh? Or perhaps an important observation that Elizabeth pointed out. Through the centuries people have adopted and created various rituals to help us worship God.
As these rituals get handed down and become increasingly cumbersome, we inevitably become more and more focused on these ceremonies than the object of our affection – God Himself. No wonder we are jaded and begin to think that our religion is ‘broken’ and we need to find a new one or a new way to reach God.
I suppose you could say that I have been blessed with an intuitive kind of processing system. I either believe intuitively or I don’t with not so much need for a logical explanation. I can perfectly accept that there is a spiritual dimension to this world without needing to see it for myself. The fact that our world is created so perfectly and brilliantly is proof itself.
I dislike having to mess around with rules, rational explanation, logical sequences, scientific theories, arguments and when someone I trust betrays it, I get extremely uncomfortable. I don’t consider that I have a blind faith. Call it my conscience or the Holy Spirit within me, I just know when something feels right or wrong.
Therefore I don’t seek to have a transcendent experience with God to know He exists. I just know He does and I relate to Him like I would to a normal person right before me. Perhaps with a little lack of reverence.
I think there is a danger when we keep having to run to meditation to find God, because He is omnipresent, forever in our consciousness and not just when we have emptied our minds.
And knowing that He is ever available at my side makes me feel secure about my future. I need not become detached from the world to find my holiness, I can confidently be part of it and retain my status as a child of God.
Of course this is not possible based on the strength of my own desire but by the power I inherit as a child of God. I don’t think we need to try to gain independence from God, He is more than pleased when we choose to depend on Him fully to provide for our needs.
So here I am now. Wondering what has become of my own pursuit for devotion. If anything, this book has churned a desire in me to spend time with God in the Word. To that end, Elizabeth has succeeded in her purpose of writing the book.