I want to take a moment to give my own perspective on something that the Dalai Lama posted online today.
“All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”
My take on this is as follows. We as human beings are different in many aspects, ranging from our culture, geography, heritage etc. Along with that, many of our likes and dislikes vary from one another. But one similarity that I believe most people share in common is the human experience. At the core of our being, we share similar feelings about how we’d like to be treated. We strive for love, acceptance, and belonging; and we do our best to minimize pain in it’s many forms. This idea communicated by many religions can adequately be summed up as “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”. So if religions already advocate this message, why then should we seek to look beyond religions for our ethics and spirituality? I personally believe that one can act ethically without an instruction manual prescribed by a religion. It simply requires proper parenting, and the development of empathy during early childhood development. It also requires a society that holds these values at its core, with the message being focused on by all of our public institutions. It is my belief that a healthy society will develop individuals with a strong sense of empathy, and a deep desire to live ethically and spiritually. Now religion does have the possibility to be a positive force in the world, and in many cases it is. But unfortunately, the power that religious organizations yield makes them corruptible, and the type of message they covey, one that is not rooted in deeper science, can unfortunately be easily manipulated to meet the needs of select individuals. All you have to do is look at Evangelical and Islamist extremists to see how religion can misinterpreted and used as a tool of hate. Given this reality, I advocate for a personal spirituality. While I am in no way perfect, I do believe that I have a fairly good understanding of human consciousnesses that has been developed through rich conversations with family, friends and peers; through personal reflection; and through heightened metaphysical exploration induced by different types of drugs. Now, drugs are another highly debated issue in modern society, but personally I’ve found them to be quite therapeutic. Marijuana helps me to confront thoughts or feelings I’ve been putting on the back burner, and it helps me constantly reevaluate my life. Psychedelic mushrooms not only helps me realize the existence of a much richer, sensually stimulating reality beyond what my normal brain can perceive, but it also helps me think about how I can be a better person. For example, I took a small dose of mushrooms before seeing M83 last Thursday, and not only did it make the concert look and sound extra amazing, but afterwards I was able to sit down with my girlfriend Janine and really dive into deep discussions about life. This is indescribably valuable for me, because I’m normally someone that has a hard time thinking holistically, and thus I don’l always live in the most positive way that my deepest self would wish for. And I believe that’s what religion is best used for, as a tool to remind people to be good people and live a better life, but there are people like myself who can not subscribe to a system that seems too flawed in too many areas. That is why I think we can have our cake and eat it too if we decide to embrace our mortality and search for our own answers beyond religion. Once we face our fear of the unknown, of the deep void that awaits all of us, I think we will be able to root our ethics in the true human condition rather than a prescribed and somewhat outdated instruction manual.