Posts Tagged ‘inner guide’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  124                                              Days Blogged: 106

New Mileage: 6                                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 886

Often the synchronicity of events in my life makes me smile.  Yesterday I shared with you the nature of my inner guide.  I noted that this guide is embedded within a framework made up of several humanistic assumptions about life and that it represents a dynamic process that takes into account situational demands with a general goal of balance and growth.  Several phrases I find myself using in my teaching speak directly to wisdom generated by this process.  Statements such as: “One size does not fit all!; Never say never!; The ends do not justify the means!; Be certain, but humble!; Change is mandatory, growth is optional!”

Buddha of the Ten Forms of Wisdom

I mention this because I had reported that we were going to visit a religious theme park in Orlando today.  However, situational factors demand or at least suggest a change in these plans.  As I mounted my bike to ride, of course, virtually toward Orlando, I realized  we were going to pass by an important diversity pilgrimage site in Kissimmee.  This site is unique as it offers a cluster of shrines unlike any that I have uncovered on my widening search for pilgrimage and retreat locations.

Shrine to Buddha's Birth

I use the term Diversity Site to label retreat and pilgrimage locations that feature a faith which are commonly located in other parts of the world but found more rarely in the United States.  For example a small city near where I live houses a Vedic Hindu temple, A Coptic Christian church, and a Buddhist Ashram with one of the few female Buddhist monks in the US.  I would classify all three of these  Diversity Sites,as  they are places one can visit to learn of the teachings, traditions and rituals of a unique world wisdom tradition.  All three of these sites are embedded in a landscape featuring a multitude of Christian denominations, and each offers a unique educational opportunity.

Shrine to Buddha's Enlightenment

Nestled on the outskirts of Kissimmee Florida is the Wat Florida Dhammaram, a Theravada Buddhist temple and monastery affiliated with a Buddhist temple in Thailand.  The temple serves the local Buddhist community and has resident Buddhist monks.  The central temple complex houses a large bronze statue of Buddha and welcomes visitors of any faith.  What makes this site highly unique are the four separate shrines included within the temple compound.

 Many major world religions suggest that adherents of their faith travel to sites that played a central role in the development of the faith (e.g., Mecca for Islam, Jerusalem for Jewish and Christian followers).  For Buddhists there are four such sites, all located in present day India or Nepal.  The Wat Florida Dhammaram has constructed replicas of the sacred places of pilgrimage honoring Lord Buddha’s life.

Shrine to the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths

The shrine named Vihara Maha Mayadevil located in Lumbini Nepal commemorates Buddha’s birthplace. The shrine named Mahabodi Temple located in Bodgaya India commemorates Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.  The shrine named Dhamekha Stupa located in Sarnath India commemorates Buddha’s first teaching of the Four Noble Truths. The shrine named The Parinibbana Temple located in Kusinara India commemorates Buddha leaving his moral body and passing into Nirvana.

Shrine honoring the Buddha's entrance into Nirvana

While some people might argue that a visit to these shrines is not a substitute for a visit to the real thing, I suspect that time, distance and costs likely precludes many people from a pilgrimage to India and Nepal.   I would argue that if a visit to a shrine replica helps a person renew and/or strengthen their faith then it has served a critical function in that person’s life.  In line with my afore mentioned philosophy, I believe if kneeling before and offering incense to a replica helps the person find balance and grow in  commitment to their faith (both representing positive outcomes) then the pilgrimage process was a healthy and productive one!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  123                                              Days Blogged: 105

New Mileage: 5                                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 880

As I rode the bike this morning I thought about a question raised by one of my blog’s followers a devout Christian from West Africa who now lives in Canada.  She frequently comments on my posts and asks clarifying questions.  On several occasions her questions have led to blog topics.

Finding your inner guide!

I enjoy her visits and comments.  She represents one of those people who holds strongly to their spiritual and religious beliefs and asked questions to clarify and better understand where others are coming from.  I never tire of such genuine questions as they often help me to delve deeper into and explore my own beliefs.  I’ve learned that in order to explain something adequately you’ve got to have a clear idea of how you feel.   Vague and unclear answers are often indicative of shallow beliefs, uncertain foundations or a general level of defensiveness.

I strive to explore my beliefs, to clarify them, to deepen their roots and broadened their branches, so that I might multiply their fruit.  I mention her now because she is scheduled to travel out of country for a time.   I wish her a safe journey; I will hold her in my thoughts and prayers and look forward to her return.

Calling for external guidance!

I want to take time today to answer one of her questions.  In the posting entitled “Ain’t No Catholics in Blunt County” I noted the importance of my two week stay in a monastery of Benedictine Monks. I noted:” I would come to recognize the deep well of creativity and wisdom residing at the core of my being.  Only now do I realize that this chance meeting with a monastery full of monks presented me with a glimpse of tranquil solitary path to a deeper level of understanding.  It would be in the Hindu and Buddhist temples of the East that this seed would take root and I would find my spiritual teachers and ultimately my inner guide.”

My friend expressed an interest in how I conceptualize my inner guide.  She asked: does this guide represent a moral plumb line or a set of standards?  Does this guide possess an ability to communicate with me?  Is this inner guide personalized or is it general availability to everyone?  These are all good questions.   My guide represents more of a plumb line than a set of standards.  My guide is not a deity or spirit so you cannot converse with it; however, it is available to everyone who is open and receptive to it.

The spirit within!

 I know some people’s guide is a sacred text, like the Bible, for others it may be an experience of the divine.   When I analyze and judge my behavior or the behavior of others (questions of morality) I take a functional approach.  I have a set of basic beliefs: such as the dignity and worth of all people; the interconnectedness of all facets of our environment; the goal of finding balance within ourselves, our relationships and community.  These basic beliefs form the background, the canvas for my decisional process.  With these beliefs in place I then look at the specific facts of each situation. I ask whether the behavior is warranted for this situation, will it help the individual and/or the community advance in a positive way.  I do not carry a “one size fits all” approach to the situations in my life. My “guide” is in fact a dynamic process, a way of approaching problems and situations, a process of discovery and adjustment.

I do not believe the ends justify the means, for we might arrive at a desirable outcome but leave a trail of destruction in our path (the destruction of native cultures and tribes to get their resources and land).  I do not believe that one size fits all. I do not believe in moralistic approaches that uses dichotomous black-and-white thinking.  I may consult sacred scriptures for ideas and insights, but there is no one book that is my specific guide.  Some would say I follow the dreaded situational approach.   I heard talk show hosts saying that you are immoral if you don’t follow a specific sacred scripture.  I see my functional process as a more realistic and humanistic undertaking that is tolerant of differing beliefs and experiences.

Sacred Scripture Guidance

I don’t deny the validity and the value of any sacred scripture, sacred story or sacred ritual, they work for some people, just as my approach works for me!  I hope this answers my friend’s questions!  I suspect it will raise more questions and that’s okay.  I hope she’ll share them with me for her questions are gifts, for that I am thankful and I will pray for her safe and speedy return.

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