On Different Traditions

Thich Nhat Hahn once wrote “I do not see any reason to spend one’s whole life tasting just one kind of fruit. We human beings can be nourished by the best values of many traditions.” (Living Buddha, Living Christ, Riverhead: New York, 1995, p. 2). Such a liberating statement is very much at odds with the Catholicism of my youth. We were taught to believe that Catholicism was the One True Faith and that all others were flat wrong. My journey since then has taken me to a different view.

My own spiritual journey, checkered as it is, has been greatly enriched by other religious traditions. When I first began to explore a bridge between psychology and spirituality, I was exposed to Zen Buddhism, a tradition that technically is more philosophy than religion. Through my readings, I came to see that detachment and letting go were key elements of the spiritual path. Later, I came to see that the notion of detachment permeated Jesus’ teachings.

In 1993, a friend introduced me to Joseph Telushkin’s Jewish Literacy, a work that opened the doorway to the tradition that I later came to appreciate as the center of Christianity. Further, Jewish scholars faced head-on the conundrum of why a loving God permitted suffering, especially senseless suffering. The Jewish faith gave me direction for my ongoing argument with God.

Native American spirituality affirmed my love of nature as faith-based and affirmed the need for some green theology in my world.

Even within the area of Christianity (often people supposedly on the same sheet of music are the worst enemies), I have been guided by articulate non-Catholic Christian writers such as C.S. Lewis and especially Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

So, no, I no longer see Catholicism as One True Faith. I see it as A True Faith, a tradition that, along with Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and others, has a piece of the Truth. And as my journey continues, I look forward to sampling the fruits of still other traditions.

Reflection: Has your own spiritual journey involved sampling the fruits of multiple traditions? How has the affected your journey?

Further Reading: Thich Naht Hahn Living Buddha, Living Christ and Going Home: Jesus and Buddha

Joseph Telushkin Jewish Literacy and Jewish Wisdom

Robert E. Kennedy Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit

D.M. Dooley and P. Jordan-Smith I Become a Part of It: Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life

This listing is hardly exhaustive. Other favorite writers not mentioned above include Lawrence Kushner, S.Z. Suzuki, John Muir, Annie Dillard and Chet Raymo, to name a few more. I encourage you to jump into the spiritual orchard and find your own favorites.

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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3 Responses to On Different Traditions

  1. Susan says:

    It is worth noting that no wars have been fought in the name of Buddhism.

  2. Rich, I’ve been ‘coincidentally reading Going Home over the last few weeks. Has been a nice journey! Thanks!

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