If one were to examine and study the core tenets of every major religion or spirituality around the world, they would most likely find a shared sense of compassion, caring for others, and love. Yet, even with these profound similarities, people tend to view those not from their religion as different from them. In this episode of The Missing Conversation, Robert talks about the importance and benefits of inclusive faiths that share international values.
What does that mean? Essentially, Robert points out how most religions are united in their principle teachings. The faith that the students and followers of individual religions share common pillars and some significantly aligned values, actions, and attitudes. However, over time, these religious practices, traditions, and beliefs have taken precedence over core, humanistic values and actions.
There is value and benefit to being inclusive of other religions and treating them with respect and acceptance, and finding common ground to bond with each other. After all, as Robert says, “No one group has a monopoly on world love or compassion.” However, the dangers of exclusive religious teachings lead to blind spots that foster competition, breed mistrust and create divisions among us.
We need to do our best to embody honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, and love towards humanity — values present in almost every religion. Indeed, Robert also shares how his father, despite not being strongly affiliated with any religious or spiritual group, embodied these values by virtue of his actions, thoughts, and ideals.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 40.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
So, this focus on unity, unification on moving and expanding toward greater connection with the world with more human beings, with other nations, with other sources of peace, clearly is the call of the time right now
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (01:06)
So, I offer you a very warm welcome again for joining us with The Missing Conversation where we really do our best to address the most pressing issues that the world is facing today. And we’re looking for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. Today, we’re going to dive into the deep dangers of exclusive teachings and the benefits of being much more inclusive and unified. And when I say much more inclusive and unified it’s because it’s hard to believe that all of the teachings are going to be inclusive and unified. Yeah, my real longing would be for that to occur and that for it to be absurd, to have religions and not be inclusive of other religions that have the same fundamental values, but history has taught us far too much to be that idealistic. And yet our present time is teaching us far too much, not to be realistic and grounded and the dangers that we’re facing. So, those two elements of history meeting present times perhaps could be creating the greatest benefit for religions and spirituality. So, let me just start off by introducing Dave, my dearest friend for the longest of times and the partner I partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Robert, thank you. Um, as always, uh, this continuing series of missing conversations about spirituality and religion are near and dear.
Robert Strock: (03:19)
Thanks. So, as I’ll mention, from time to time, I had a father that was one of those people that I referred to as an integrity, caring person, without beliefs or more accurately, he believed that beliefs were bogus. And he basically, in his words said, religion and spirituality in therapy were all a crock. And yet he is absolutely one of my key heroes of my life and lived a life with honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, and strength. I’m proud to be his son. And I’m not saying this in any way to diss anyone. I’m saying this to really support anyone that’s living lives of principle of actions and attitudes. Because to me, that’s the common denominator. And I’m also not saying that he’s right. I’m not saying that dissing all of these traditions was the smartest way to go. He had his faults, he had his humanness. Didn’t take great care of his body, was famous for having a shunt in his arm and smoking a cigarette and then having an occasional ash going in the wrong place. So, he had his areas where he was very human, but you talk about someone that was liking and respectful of everyone around. I would trade that in for someone who’s not, who’s been a dedicated practitioner teacher leader for 50 years.
Robert Strock: (05:29)
So, as I’ve mentioned, I have been a student of meditation and prayer for over 50 years, been a lover of Jesus, Buddha, a variety of other teachers and practices, been living a life where I largely have loved my brothers and sisters. In addition, I’ve also been a therapist for over 50 years. However, that’s led me to the belief that it’s the values of unification and unity of expanding into greater connection with more of life as if it matters. That’s the direction that I want to go and increase. And then I believe that we, as humans need to move and reflect that through our qualities, our actions, and it’s really following the principles that are there and the key religions and spiritual practices, but oftentimes the practices, the traditions and the religions take greater precedent or value over the actions, the attitudes and the values. So, this focus on unity, unification on moving and expanding toward greater connection with the world with more human beings with other nations, with other sources of peace clearly is the call of the time right now, if we stay separate in islands, it’s so obvious that we’re populated enough or armed enough.
Robert Strock: (07:26)
We have so many ways to kill each other. We have so many defense departments. We have so many nuclear bonds that if our religions and our spiritualities can’t unite and move toward unification and say, yes, I’m a Christian, but I love Buddhists, too. I’m a Jew, but I love Muslims. I’m a Muslim and I love Christians. If we can start to move in that way, especially as students to really lead our leaders. Because I believe as I’ve said before, it’s more likely our students are going to lead the leaders. Then our leaders are going to lead the students when it comes to these key areas of unity and unification. There are obviously some teachings and some students where this is really obvious. And that’s great then there, obviously, because they’re seeing this, they’re inspired to keep spreading the word to others. And I appreciate all approaches, whether they’re formal religious or not religious that have these core principles, values, actions, and attitudes, but no one, no group has a monopoly on world love or compassion. No one has an upper leg. No one has the authority. That’s the higher authority that then shuts out a large segment of the earth. And the premise that it does is utterly dangerous. This is unfortunately a great catastrophe. And it’s been obvious that it’s gone on throughout human history, through the wars that have continued to happen that have been instigated so often by religious beliefs.
Robert Strock: (09:30)
It’s created blind spots, fostered competition, and divisions of all kinds, and the name of religion and spirituality. The false or limitation in my mind, isn’t at all with the practices, the traditions, the religions, or the nonreligions, it’s where they deviate from the core tenants of compassionate action and attitudes and actions with character and integrity.
Just want to mention one, one confounding thing to me in exactly what you’re talking about, which is, and again, without the, I think it’s fairly apparent that core tenants of certain religions will identify with the core tenants of others. And yet what has evolved as core tenants is that their path is the only path. And so sincere people that have adopted the core tenants, that, that if you look at their personal life will largely be in accord with that are also people that say you are going to be, you’re even going to hell, if you don’t adopt my view at the same time that they live their life, you could say with significantly aligned values.
Robert Strock: (11:06)
Yeah. And what I would say to add to that is in the head, um, they have similarly aligned values in the head, but when it comes to the body or the guts, you, you might be going to hell, you don’t understand, you have the wrong, God, my God’s the right God, your God’s the wrong God, it’s really not much different than being in a sandbox. You know, that, that, that, you know, my way is right, your way is wrong. I have a right to the toys, my toy, that it’s a very young impulse. If we look at it psychologically to actually believe that your God is the right God for the whole universe and whether you’ve heard of it or not, if you were born in Africa and you never heard of Jesus or born in some little village, ah, too bad for you, you’re not going to be able to recognize that he’s the only son of God, or you’re not going to recognize, you’re not one of the chosen people or, or, or, or.
Um, and one of the major oars is, uh, proselytizing and going on missions, going on, you know, built building edifices in those countries that have not been exposed and thinking you’re in the sandbox, so to speak, but you’re, you’re ready to share your toys. You’re ready to say, hey, come on over, this toy is really cool.
Robert Strock: (12:30)
Yeah. My toys are special. And if you, if you get my toys, blessings on you, but you know what, you might as well throw away your choice because they’re not useful. So yeah. So, a good example of something similar in the same theme of inclusiveness, sometimes it’s just a specific teaching, which happens to be one of my favorite teachings, but I still recognize it as a belief and not a knowing, even though it can seem like a knowing. And it originated from what I understand was the third Zen patriarch that says, as doubt arises, simply say not two, and it’s a form of religion that could be taken from this method. And it’s a way of responding when you sense that you’re separating from somebody else, you could be looking at another person and you say not to wear one, or you can even look at a feeling and it could be fear.
Robert Strock: (13:43)
And it’s not two. I can accept the fact that I have fear. So, it’s quite brilliant. You look at animals, races, nations, anything you separate from not two, not two, not two. Ramana Maharshi one of the great teachers through the time taught that, as well as Nisargadatta and others. And when you think that you’ve found it, no matter what the “it” is. And I thought I found it to a large extent, not two. So, I had the not two running through me for six months at a time. I’d feel myself feeling alienated. I’d say not two and I feel greater peace and I’ve started to let in the other or some feelings that I was suppressing and it’s a great practice. I would encourage it for everyone. It’s right along there with prayer and meditation, but it’s only a practice. And it’s still, even though it starts with a knowing, it ends up being a belief that it’s going to cover the whole magilla.
Robert Strock: (14:48)
It’s going to cover the whole world. I can become one with everything just by simply, when something dissonant arises, just say not two. Now, there are all kinds of things. There’s chance. There’s a zillion patriarchs, there’s a zillion religions, and they have brilliant teachings and all the teachings, not all of them, but a lot of the teachings are the most brilliant wisdom that we can find on earth. But even if we find the most brilliant wisdom on earth, we’re still human. So, the importance of seeing that if we identify with anything as being separate from the whole and people that don’t have the same belief are in the other group, then we’re always going to have war. We’re always going to have alienation. We’re always going to have defense departments. And it seems like a big stretch that we could lessen our defense departments.
Robert Strock: (15:54)
But we’re at a point now with humanity that this exclusivity of nations nuclear powers, religions, we’re either going to be reevaluating the degree of exclusiveness or we’re going to die. And we’re going to die, that when I say we’re going to die, that means in my mind, it means the majority of us are going to die. Maybe, maybe all of us, maybe only 4 billion, but there’s too many dangers. We’re seeing it in so many ways, with global warming, we’re seeing the highlighting of the Taliban, in the celebration of white nationalism and terrorism, and massive inequality of wealth, massive grounds for alienation, political corruption, greed, and it’s increased enormously. And the last 50 years, nobody really is even taking the position that that’s not the case because it’s so obvious. So, exclusivity in the form of religion or spirituality or any individual beliefs is so dangerous.
Robert Strock: (17:14)
So, the idea is not to say, oh, okay, now I’m going to be inclusive. And then to believe that that desire to be inclusive is going to get you covered. No, that’s a beautiful prayer. It’s a beautiful intention, a beautiful wish, the one I carry, but I have no doubt that my self-centeredness is going to sneak out in ways that I need to keep watching for wanting to be recognized, wanting to be approved, of wanting to be powerful. There are sneakier, stickier ways. It’s like that game. You pop down, uh, you know, a rabbit and it pops up in another hole, but that’s, what’s going to happen no matter how pure we are, we need to assume we’re going to stand conscious till we die. Now, so it was just a surprise. Okay, fantastic. But it would be more than the biggest surprise of my life.
Robert Strock: (18:08)
So, the idea of assuming uncertainty and that uncertainty leading us toward, so is everybody else. So, we need to move toward unification, no matter what non-religion or religion or non-spirituality or spirituality would come from. Now, there are some beliefs that are inclusive, which puts them in a different category, but it still can be a source of danger of believing that, you know, oh no, I’m inclusive. I, my, my religion believes in all religions, my religion includes all of humanity. My religion believes in taking care of the planet. That’s fantastic. I would say that’s the best police you can have, but it still doesn’t mean you’re not going to be human. Still doesn’t believe you’re not going to have challenges, still doesn’t mean we need to be aware that we’re still unaware. So, there are so many different dangers in spirituality or religion.
Robert Strock: (19:24)
Enlightened beliefs can be expressed as compassion, humanitarian faith, knowing enlightened, chosen the son of the dharma. All great truth, as long as there’s a human element of doubt, along with respected is going to be beneficial. But if we don’t revere our personal humanists, frankly, as much as our deepest faith, then we’re going to deepen on consciousness. Our reverence needs to be for both. We need to be able to sit with our friends and say, what’s most inspiring and what’s most challenging. What’s hurting you the most. What’s helping you the most. How can I support you? How do you feel like you’re hopeless? Then we just have that kind of conversation with our schoolmates, with our college mates, with our friends, with our families. And of course, it’s going to seem weird, cult-like to people when you address that. So, you need to do it. We need to do it very subtly, and there are some people I would not suggest doing it with, of course, but when there are people that are a little bit open to experiment in that way it’s a gift because the belief that success and the Western dream is a substitute for religious and spiritual values is where so many of us have lost our way.
Robert Strock: (21:18)
There are so many good examples, unfortunately, of amazing separation and the dangers of certainty and not separating from the belief that there’s a knowing earlier in my earlier years. I had a lot more of those kinds of experiences. One of the first guru teachers I encountered would say, the only way to reach enlightenment is through surrender to the guru. Dead gurus can’t kick ass. I told them the story in front of a group of a hundred people. I went up to them, I didn’t go up to him, I actually sat in the crowd and I said, you know, I’ve been studying, through therapy and another spiritual approach that if you stay aware of where you are and you carry a good intention that that has some value. And it seems like what you’re saying is only if you’re enlightened, only if you’re freed from death is there any value at all?
Robert Strock: (22:32)
The rest is bullshit. So, I’m wondering, are you really saying that being aware of where you are and having pure intentions doesn’t matter at all? And he broke up in uproarious laughter, infectious laughter and the whole hundred people laughed. And he followed that by saying that’s the most mediocre question I’ve ever heard. Now I suffered with that for months. Not because I believed it fully, but because I was so shamed, in a crowd, which included 10 friends, which frankly were much more supportive of me than the other 90, but still it was like, the implications were, your ego is so all over this, you are so full of yourself thinking you’re some great shrink, you know, you’re nothing and you of all people should be, should be, and his words were letting me meditate you. And then there was another teacher, you know, right in these years, these, these years where my twenties and thirties, who was an absolutely brilliant teacher. And ironically, the, one of the reasons why I was drawn to him was he wrote a great book where he really honored the fear of death. So, I thought, oh my God, this is amazing. And he had miracle stories about other teachers in a lineage of gurus, et cetera, et cetera.
Robert Strock: (24:10)
And that was at a workshop with him, or retreat more accurately, whereas he was showing slides on the screen, he was getting angry at the technicians for screwing up over and over again. How many times do I have to tell you to do this with a sense of disdain? And this went on for several hours. And I left after the first, maybe eight hours, person I went with stayed. And my comment, the person I was with, if he was the head of Coca Cola, he wouldn’t be tolerated. Only reason why he’s tolerated is he thinks he has a sense of immunity from his attitudes because people are taking them as spiritual lessons.
Robert Strock: (25:02)
So the, the sense of announcing enlightenment or exclusive awareness comes in a lot of different forms that we need to be aware of. And I mentioned earlier, a couple of great examples of the opposite of this, which happened more in my middle to later years, where the person that was talking about not feeling guilty for feeling guilty and having feelings about feelings and looking at the secondary feelings. So, if I’m angry, do I like being angry? Well down deep, if I’m acting it out, I actually did have some shame. And I, I felt regressed because I was hurting someone. So, he helped me see that. And he was not supporting some kind of exclusive tradition. He was talking about really being relational, not only to my feelings, but to other people’s feelings. And there’s a whole center. That’s one of the largest centers. Really both the largest centers have a pretty good percentage of people who are both what they would call a quantumist.
Robert Strock: (26:26)
It would be admitting competition, not as much as it’s there, but some emotional reactions and the importance of witnessing it. So, there are a small to medium percentage of traditions that are not so religion-righteous or spiritually-righteous, but there’s still a lot of work because there’s still not the sense of revealing the humanness, which would then lead to the greater identification. Oh, I’m with a path, but it’s human. So, that means other paths are human. So, that means I can be more open to other paths. So, I think it’s so important as we ponder, what are the great dangers and what are the great opportunities that exist for us when we’re going to our services, our retreats, our rituals, or let’s say are in the integrity caring group are just committed to our, our own actions and attitudes. And that, and that is to be more inclusive.
Robert Strock: (27:43)
So it might be that if you’re not religious at all, maybe you could see some of the benefits of the values at least, or if you’re really committed to a particular tradition, you’re starting to bring into the conversation into the congregation, the importance of spreading beyond the beliefs and being more inclusive because the world can’t tolerate so many boundaries with so much armory and every boundary, whether it’s psychological armory or whether it’s military armory. And at first it sounds very idealistic, but when you really look at it and you recognize that yes, religion and spirituality, just like nationalism has been one of the great sources of separation. It can inspire to desire no matter what faith or whatever approach you’re into that you want to be a voice that’s going to be inclusive and less exclusive. So that’s my deep prayer that for all of us, no matter what our beliefs are, that we want to move them in a direction of being more inclusive. Again, thanks for your attention.
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