Recently, I found a cache of my old writings. Many of these were an exploration of my own spirituality, trying to understand what I believed. I grew up in a rather fundamentalistic Christianity, which did not jive well with my observant young mind. I saw much hypocrisy between the teachings and the actions of those so-called “Good Christians.” Coupled with my curious sensitivity toward the plight of the less fortunate, I could no longer believe in such religion. At the time, I perceived all Christianity to be the same, and not the diverse beliefs within Christianity that it truly is. My young mind rejected all things Christian, which for me, meant all religion, as I was really never exposed to any other form. I became an atheist.
The pubescent mind of teenagers are so marred with hormonal difficulties that they are really in no position to be making such life-transforming decisions. That period of time is like an obstacle race, and we just need to make it through alive and hopefully unscathed (as much as possible). I have no idea how people put up with me. I knew everything, and nothing anyone could say could sway my mind. It wasn’t until Dr. Rhea’s course on World Religions at Bakersfield College that I truly began thinking about spirituality. I was 20 years old. Here is an entry from a journal I started writing around the time of taking that class.
September 19, 1997 1:43am
Basically, mythology is an explanation of the creation and evolution of the earth, man and all other living things. But mythology generally does not explain anything, instead it helps individuals comprehend and understand certain ideas in terms they are able to identify with. To make a general statement that there are individuals in this world who need to believe in mythology for its preset religion is a true statement. Religion was created to expand consciousness and therefore deliver one’s self from ignorance. I thoroughly believe that for certain individuals religion and the belief in religion is needed for survival.
To create an idea without mythology as a basis of a creation story is not an easy task, and then to attempt to explain these ideas in terms the layperson could understand is an even harder attempt. I have the belief that there is purpose to everything, we are not floating around in space, and we are true people. I am not an atheist.
Imagine a cell; this cell would be an eternal soul, I choose to call Atman. Atman grows and reproduces (asexually) by separating into two individual cell parts. So both are a part of Atman, yet separate entities in their own rites. I use the word entities for lack of a better word. The separation of Atman continues–it is a never-ending reproduction and separation. That would be life is a never-ending reproduction and separation, death is reabsorption then leads back to life. But I will explain that later.
With the continuous separation there is growth within the cell–thus universes, planets, all other objects created. And that separate part grows. All parts of Atman do not grow, live, or die at the same rate. Universes are bigger and live longer than planets, than humans. But we are all still a part of Atman. Atman is the origin of life and creation, it is the force and power that causes life to exist.
Idea of life –
I would respond to life as stages, for their are many forms of life–and they are all part of Atman. The amount of Atman used in a single-celled organism would be entirely different than the amount used in a dog.
I feel their is a hierarchy of Atman, yes. The amount of Atman contained in a human is larger than other living beings. But there is Atman in everything, in all creations.
Man’s place –
I feel that man is on earth for a reason and that reason is to learn, discover, and develop. An attainment of enlightenment if you will–the search for truth within one’s self. But as you live, you must abide by certain rules of hospitality. The ideas for hospitality are Dharma–cosmic order, social duty and proper behavior; the practices of Karma–action, all deeds and thoughts according to one’s intentions, will have set consequences; and Ahimsa–which is “non-violence” and a lot more. These ideas if practiced will help man develop and learn without misinformation and misunderstandings.
A man whose duty is to strive for truth, whose actions do not cause suffering to others, and who is conscious of his actions having the capability to cause suffering to others is an enlightened individual. They have the power within themselves to search for the truth within themselves, thoroughly and without misgivings. This is the goal for enlightenment–to know the truth within one’s self.
Idea of death-
When death occurs in any living creature, be it a single-celled organism, a dog, or a human, the Atman becomes reabsorbed into the eternal Atman. Now would be a good time to discuss the differences between the eternal Atman and the Atman soul of a living creature. I will call the Atman soul of a living creature “Ajiva” after the Jain word meaning soul. The Ajiva is separated from Atman and was put into a living creature. When the living creature dies that Ajiva is reabsorbed into the eternal Atman. An Ajiva that lived in one living thing may never be the same Ajiva, although a part of one Ajiva once reabsorbed may become part of a new Ajiva with a new separation of Atman. And that Ajiva will become a new life.
My belief is not positively reincarnation for I feel that Atman has always been here and an Ajiva is just a part of Atman. So whether an Ajiva comes in one form or another at another time is irrelevant for we are all a part of Atman, and should all be treated equally.
To bring forth an example, I would say, “If I were to die today, my soul or Ajiva would reabsorb into the Atman, thus becoming one with all. Then when a new life is created, the Ajiva that is in that life could have a small portion of the Ajiva that was in my life. And as new lives are continued, my original Ajiva would be separated into all those individual Ajivas.”
I do not believe in a hierarchy of reincarnation though. I do not feel that one creature is better than another–they are all formed from and within an Ajiva and are all part of Atman. So whether it is a bug’s life, a dog’s life, or a human’s life that is irrelevant as long as the duty of life is followed.
The duty of life for a man is distinctly different from that of all other animal duties. For man is the only living creature to be a free-thinker and have the ability to search for the truth within one’s self. This is man’s duty. All other creatures follow their duty blindly for they are not free-thinkers and do not have the ability to choose right from wrong. In the cosmic order, man is above all creations, but not to destroy, but to love and respect. Man’s duty is to protect all of Atman.
As can be see, I had learned a little about Hinduism, but my grasp on it was still rudimentary. These ideas developed only after a brief exposure to the Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Jainism, and some Buddhism at this point. However, these religions only allowed me to put words on definitions I was already thinking about in regard to my own spirituality. At this time in my life, I thought that my thoughts on spirituality were original. I could not be more wrong as my learning continued. There is something in the ether that was common between my ideas and many others that had come before me, all wholly developed independently but seemed to have commonality. How could this be unless their truly is some divine architect of it all?
I have more entries from this journal that I will continue to post in regard to the evolutionary development of my own spirituality. Let me know about you spiritual development. Is it similar to mine or vastly different?