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 Blooming Stars

Programming, Deprogramming, and Reprogramming of the World -9

            After living about 25 years of traditional religious life in the Society of Jesus I came to the conclusion that formal, institutionalized religious life needs to:

1.come out of a medieval, outworn, and archaic understanding of asceticism and spirituality,

2.integrate current psychological, theological, and spiritual insights,

3.undergo radical changes demanded by the signs of the times.

            Prior standards for holiness are not considered to be relevant any more. Living a life of love and service to other human beings even as one discerns God’s will in all matters that affect one’s life, especially in all one’s decisions in full freedom, is more important than any norm that anyone can formulate. To live a true religious life, nay, life of the spirit, one needs to master the art of discernment that can enable one to find the will of God in every circumstance. This is not easy as our aim is to come to harmony with one’s own self and harmony with others and God. In practical terms one has to find abiding peace within oneself and on-going peace with others through genuine forgiveness and reconciliation and unconditional surrendering to and complete trust in God. I do not believe that it is wise to make legislation in areas that affect one’s fundamental rights such as freedom and marriage as conditions for holiness.

            It is interesting that historically it is only Christianity in the West dominated by Rome and Hinduism and Buddhism in the East made celibacy/chastity a requirement for formal religious life or sanyasa (renunciation) and a special mark of holiness. Reformation that made irreconcilable parting that is hitherto unhealed in Christianity in the 16th century made some correction in that Protestant clergy liberated themselves from the requirement of celibacy. One may willingly forego these fundamental rights temporarily or forever but only on the basis of on-going discernment and not on the basis of a particular decision coming out of a particular state of mind at a particular time. Human beings by nature are dynamic, growing, learning, and ever-changing. And their decisions once freely made can be freely undone. I make an exception in the case of marriage as two individuals in intimate commitment and relationship are involved and the children arising from it. Even here if one’s relationship to God is seriously interfered with by one’s partner, one may have to let go of one’s partner.

            All the sacred scriptures, especially the New Testament portion of the Bible, Gita, and Upanishads have a lot to guide humanity in its day-to-day journey to its final destination: the Supreme Truth and Source of Energy. Primacy of any one person is not needed. Infallibility of any person in any situation is unnecessary. Humanity is wholesome right from its beginning, and is created with all that is needed right from the start. Belief in original sin not deemed necessary. One should not be responsible for the sin one’s ancestor committed. I never felt in the depth of my being that I was born in sin, that I was unworthy before God that someone was better or superior than I am as a human being, that someone was closer to God than I am, and that I was sinning before God and humans. Of course these things came to my mind occasionally as the culture around me was saturated with these concepts. I was taught these things systematically from my childhood.

            These things were drilled into my head. The Nicene creed (the summary of Christian belief), the daily prayers, the prayer of repentance, the act of attrition and contrition before confession, confiteor (I confess), hymns like Amazing Grace (“that saved a wretch like me”), the preoccupation with venial and mortal sins, penance, mortification, a very popular prayer (Hail Mary) repeated at least 50 times daily in five decades of Rosary mentions 50 times pray for us sinners – all this permeated the atmosphere I lived and moved. Every retreat, every ascetic practice is about identifying temptations one might fall into, or sin one might commit. If this is not heavy programming, what else is?! All this not only heavily programs a person but also disposes a person negatively to stay away from sin rather than positively motivates a person to love God and one’s fellow human beings.Here it is good to take note of Mathew Fox, an American priest, theologian, and a former member of the Dominican order, talking about Original Blessing instead of Original Sin in his Creation Spirituality.


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