What a wonderful book that describes a universal spirituality, one in which we welcome and accept all religions and spiritual paths. Wayne Teasdale is a monk who combines Christianity and Hinduism. Reading his book makes you feel as if you are in the presence of a wise, holy man. Rarely do I desire to meet an author after reading his work, yet in this case that is exactly what I wanted to do. Alas, he died 2004, and I will have to be content with reading his two more recent books, which I will do.
While there is much in this book that I could discuss, I doubt if I could create the sense of peace and wisdom he conveys. I will focus on his Nine Elements of a Mature Interspirituality, or universal spirituality. You might want to evaluate which values are already strong in your life and which ones you most need to work on.
1) Moral Capacity
Love your neighbor as yourself and be compassionate, loving, kind and other-centered. This moral dimension of life is necessary for spirituality.
2) Solidarity with All Living Beings
This relates to the First Cosmic Principle, “Everything is Connected.” All life, the natural world and the universe are interconnected. This understanding of interrelatedness is another requirement for spirituality.
3) Deep Nonviolence
Accept others as yourself and see all life as precious. Gentleness, calm and patience are needed in all aspects of non-harming. Most societies don’t understand or practice this, as war and strife abound in the world. Aggressive behavior is learned, however, not innate to human nature. Now is the time to practice and accept nonviolence in all aspects of life.
This is an egoless understanding of one’s limitations and the truth of one’s self. Be who you are, or “who God intended you to be.” Being humble is that simple. One must be modest about oneself and live with a selflessness that includes a lack of boasting, vanity or self-assertiveness.
5) Spiritual Practice
This is necessary for inner growth. Daily practice is important and transformative. There are many forms of spiritual practice, from chanting to reading to prayer. All forms are acceptable; just choose one that works for you.
6) Mature Self-Knowledge
This depends on truth and honesty. We must move beyond denial of our faults and limitations.
7) Simplicity of Life
How we live our lives, how we use earth’s resources and how we relate to other humans and animals – all of this is about the simplicity of life. When we grow spiritually and become inward focused, our lives naturally become simpler. Mother Teresa was a good example of this as she insisted that her sisters live among the poorest of the poor. While we don’t need to go to those extremes, we should concentrate not on many things but a few things used well, especially in service to others. I like that statement – too often we try to do too much, assuming more is better. Simplicity of life is telling us that less is more. Choose who and what you are — and be and do that. Simplicity clears away all non-essentials and is the “inner law of spiritual life.”
8) Selfless Service and Compassionate Action
What do we do about the suffering of the poor and oppressed, the ecological degradation of the earth, and threats to world peace and stability? The answer is that women and men of spiritual wisdom must make a positive contribution. Each of us must learn to serve in whatever way is appropriate. No one way is right or wrong. We simply need to help those less fortunate.
Our own spiritual growth is one form of selfless service and prayer counts as a way to help the less fortunate. Each of us is called upon to provide service and action in a unique way. Know what is right for you and focus on that.
9) Prophetic Voice
The moral voice needs to be heard. We must acknowledge unjust events and policies: “We have a universal responsibility… whenever we see justice disregarded, threats to world peace, oppression by states against its people or a neighboring nation, or some other danger as yet unforeseen.” This same responsibility occurs within our own families or communities.
Authentic spirituality also means that political aims are not above the demands of justice. Have we gone so far being politically correct that we have ignored what is right? We each have a responsibility to be aware and act on these issues.