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The Big Questions (Some of Them)
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We had a meeting after church service about a week ago, the purpose being for members of the church (us ordinary folk) to raise issues of concern, likes and wishes, etc.

I spoke up and said that while our church is strong in the area of working for justice issues, we neglect (to the point of invisibility) any exploration of spiritual topics and I, for one, would like to spend some time exploring the Big Questions of existence.

In response, the minister and church leaders suggested reviving the Adult Education class, the study of comparative religions.

Not what I had in mind, and I seem to have trouble getting my point across. I don't want an intellectual contrast-and-compare exercise; I'm looking for people's thoughts, some of which have been codified (with a lot of cultural baggage) in organized religion, sure, but were developed by people like us.

Which means we can explore them without the "right answers" being handed to us by Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or whatever. We can ask for ourselves.

So I proposed four discussion sessions based around the following:

1. Who are we? Are we animals who have developed speech and manipulative ability and self awareness, at one end of the spectrum of animals on earth? Or are we some how special and different, apart from mere animals?

2. Why is there evil in the world? Is evil a human construct, an extension of the "bloody in tooth and claw" seen in the animal kingdom, or is there a special quality to the harm people can do which sets them apart from the animals? Why does evil seem so powerful, love so weak? Why do we have to resort to violence? The Dalai Lama embodies love and understanding, yet--look what happened to Tibet.

3. Do we have a purpose here in our lives? Are we supposed to be doing something special? If it's not to accumulate more wealth and power and notoriety, then what is it? Or are we here simply to enjoy/endure as much as we can before we die?

4. What happens when we die? Are our bodies just meat, to decay away, our brains meat with electrical impulses which stop transmitting, or are we more than that? Do we have souls? Do they continue beyond physical death?

These are the questions I ask myself and which I would like to explore with other people who are interested in them. I've taken classes in comparative religion and classes in Religious Education are usually pretty academic, intellectual. I'd like to ask instead--Who are we? Where are we going? Why are we here? What happens at death?--and I'd like to hear what other people think, how they have answered these questions for themselves.

It will be interesting to see how the minister and the church leadership respond. And their responses will probably encourage me to stay with this church, or to keep looking elsewhere. Social justice work is not enough (karma yoga); worship is not enough (bhakti yoga), academic study is not enough (jnana yoga).


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