Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spiritual Shopping

I read an article today in the Times of India that intrigue me a bit.  It was by Aakanksha Naval-Shetye and was titled "Spiritual Shopping".  This is a topic I am a bit familar with as I was raised a Southern Baptist and have tried nearly every Christian religion on like a suit at Men's Wearhouse in search of something that fit.
The article describes the search for spiritualism as a recent trend in India and praises the increased interest because "there is no fanatical approach towards any one faith. Instead, followers choose it for health reasons."  In America we too are looking for spiritual solace to ease our troubled minds and bodies but as this article at CNN from 2009 says Americans are changing religions for a myriad of reason,  "there is no discernible pattern to the change, just 'a free for all,'".   From doctrinal disagreement to simply moving to a different community,  Americans actually rather frequently change religions. In fact the Pew Research Center says half of all Americans have changed religions at least once.  Another Pew Study found that 26% of Americans sometimes attend services of different faiths.

Most of this searching is based on our inherent quest to be happy.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama describes the nature of this quest as follows: "I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering."  He also urges people not to change from the traditions that they were raised in unless they just completely do not fit there personality and understanding.  He urges investigation into the meanings of the traditions.  Amy Patel in the Times article is glad people are challenging their understanding of spirituality.  She says “It’s important to find something that helps you restore the spiritual balance. Today, people are seeking answers and giving the solutions dished out by the spiritual teachers much thought before accepting them. So, while people may not believe in a certain faith at a moment, when they do come across a faith at some point that’s providing them their answers, they will accept it with full trust,”. 
But all this good will on finding a spiritual path isn't shared by everyone.  Vibhab Krishna is quoted in the article as saying the new followers lack patience and don't fully understand the traditions they are trying out.  He says " People today want instant gratification, very much like the coffee vending machines they are used to in their offices. But spirituality is nothing like that. It cannot be instant, since the need here is not a physical one, but that of your intellect and soul ".  I think he is missing an important point in the reasons people change religions:  they are uncomfortable in their current situation and have a real need to change.  I fully believe they KNOW when they feel drawn into the solace of a certain tradition.
 picture courtesy of Raben Blog