Religion is what you make of it

Bird Droppings March 7, 2022
Religion is what you make of it

“A poor devotee points to the sky and says, ‘God is up there.’ An average devotee says, ‘God dwells in the heart as the Inner Master.’ The best devotee says, ‘God alone is, and everything I perceive is a form of God.’” Ramakrishna

Ramakrishna was a spiritual leader in India in the early and mid-1800s. He believed in the unity of God, the oneness of existence, the divinity of all living things, and the harmony of religions. He felt religion was simply a means to accomplish a goal. I receive numerous emails of an inspirational nature each morning, and this quote from a Hindu email I received struck me. How often do we want to place our faith somewhere away, up there, out there, anywhere but here? How often do we limit our faith to a Sunday morning worship service? How often is our religious experience simply mouthing the traditional words in a traditional ritual?

“We also have a religion which has been given to our forefathers and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.” Red Jacket, Seneca orator

“We know that the God of the educated and the God of the child, the God of the civilized and the God of the primitive, is after all the same God; and that this God does not measure our differences, but embraces all who live rightly and humbly on the earth.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux

I have read extensively in Native American and Eastern philosophies, and I have seen many similarities between Eastern thought and Native American beliefs and philosophies. I am not trying to advertise an excellent inspirational book, “The Wisdom of the Native Americans, ” an edited volume of Native thought edited by Kent Nerburn. The book is a collection of thoughts and ideas that give an excellent insight into a new day.

I walked out and watched the moon and stars this morning, sitting and listening as the light came into the world with a slow rising plume of smoke from a sage leave as a companion. I wish I were more awake. I am still recovering from my Physical therapy evaluation on Friday. Several mornings back, around three in the morning, a loud bird was singing off in the distance; a few doves were cooing and calling nearby. Around four that morning, owls and whippoorwills joined in as well as a few tree frogs. As I started seriously getting ready by five that morning, there was a chorus of crickets, frogs, birds, and who knows what else but nearly melodic. It is always enjoyable as I walk out in the mornings with no one around; it is quiet and peaceful for a few hours before the deluge of a neighborhood and mankind.

I went into school that day to sort and clean my room, feed critters and work on research for various projects for graduate school and for my classes that I am working on. I have been developing my collection of writings for several years and spend a few moments in-between as a break working on those as well. Mornings are an excellent time to think and write as my thought processes seem keener and sharper. One of my “friends” tells me it is old age, as, by afternoon, I tend to forget names.

It has been many years since I was youth director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Macon, Georgia. I had my 23rd birthday in that capacity so many years ago, forty-seven years now. Sitting on my shelf at the house is a Living Bible I received as a birthday gift; as I look back, how appropriate in its name. This book is alive with notes, thoughts, and pictures from people along the way, even phone numbers and underlined verses with various kids’ autographs as they would select their favorites. Occasionally, I will open this old Bible, spill out the tidbits, and reflect on days gone by, on philosophies changed and evolved. It had been many years since I called one of the numbers in the inside cover written nearly forty-seven years ago. Katharine was a high school student and a regular in our group. She is the one that gave me that Bible for my birthday those many years ago. That call was a spur-of-the-moment thought. I found she was in Europe doing work in Bosnia for a mission board based out of Africa. As I opened up my emails a day or two later, I read through and sorted, deleting spam and junk messages and how this one caught my attention.

“I am in Dili, East Timor now, still working with Catholic Relief Services. In this rather “gypsy” life I lead of moving in and out of remote and often isolated places, it is very nice to know that I still have links with people I have known for more than 40 years. However, as it happens, in this life, we also face challenges with email communication … I love getting the Bird Droppings daily, but with the very limited access we have here to send, download and receive, I am afraid that I am going to have to ask you to take me off your list. I can only get to email about once a week, and downloading large documents that come daily really does slow down the whole system. I work and pray daily for peace and healing… please hold that thought for me. A note now and then would be fine and appreciated. Wishing you all the best and peace.” Katherine Pondo

We now keep in touch through a blog I write to. I often speak of the puzzle of our lives falling into place piece by piece, each tiny intricate facet interconnecting to the next. Today as I sit writing and thinking of all the details over the years all the lives intertwined, I offer this morning that when you get a chance to keep the Katherine Pondo’s of the world in your hearts and thoughts as often, they are on the front lines of humanity’s trials and tribulations. Looking back over my wanderings today, this is a small world, and we often try to segregate, delegate, and relegate belief. Over the past years, religion has sparked political battles and upheavals. I honestly do not think Ramakrishna thought of harmony among religions would have foreseen the drama and often fighting that exists because of religion. So today, please keep those in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.

“Mitakuye Oyasin” is a simple yet profound statement. It comes from the Lakota Nation and means all my relations. It is spoken during prayer and ceremony to invite and acknowledge all relatives to the moment. To most of us today, relative means a blood relation or another human in the family lineage. We have not been taught that an entity other than a human could be a relative. Understanding this simple statement and contemplating it could forever change your outlook on life. If you love and honor your relatives, you would be loving and honoring most of what is on this earth if you lived by this meaning of “relative.” What a different world we would be living in!

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin


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