What’s common between religious folks, spiritual people, and those that do not formally identify as anything but try their best to better life in our world? Robert and Dave explore the united goal among the three — caring for our planet and for humanity.
Core universal values like compassion, kindness, and authenticity are embodied in original religious and spiritual teachings. These values are how religious teachers like Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, Moses lived their lives. Billions around the world learn from these root teachings, practicing them every day. But how much do these traditional practices and beliefs benefit the world through compassion and care? Throughout time and history, formal religion has placed a heavy emphasis on traditions and rituals, and less on generosity to the planet and the poor.
But there’s a question to be asked — do these traditions and rituals significantly help develop a humanitarian instinct? Can meditation and prayer bear fruit without cultivating active compassion for our fellow humans when it comes to spirituality? Whatever we identify as, every religion and spiritual practice has a common goal of benefitting the world — doing your bit to help the community. This is what unites us all.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 28.
Robert Strock: (00:06)
Would you rather believe what you do and follow with your practices and traditions or live a life that resembled the one that Jesus, Buddha or whoever your root teacher was? The answers as you’ll see are very interesting and have quite a bit of variety.
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: (01:11)
I want to give you a warm welcome again to The Missing Conversation where we address the most pressing issues that the world is facing today. And we look for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. Before we get into this more deeply, I’d like to introduce my closest friend and partner at the Global Bridge Foundation. Dave, thanks so much for joining us again. It’s invaluable.
Appreciate being here. This particular series of episodes is near and dear, to me.
Robert Strock: (01:56)
We’re going to be introducing three major themes that we’ll be elaborating on in this introduction and expand on them in future episodes. The first one is that these include the importance of universal values, whether we’re formally religious, spiritual or not, and we’ll be looking for prejudice in either direction. Number two, the vital necessity for valuing people who are living spiritual values, attitudes, and actions, and are not into any traditions or groups and three, the necessity that is crucial for teachers, ministers of all kinds to share their personal challenges and using this as a source and a resource of support for all of us without questioning religious and spiritual teaching has been, and is one of the major influencers in the world. We’ll look together if these relationships with our spiritual and religious teachers, and also our own sense of integrity and ask if they’ve optimized being a catalyst for attitudes and actions that are the most significant sources of peace in the world.
Robert Strock: (03:36)
We’ll especially focus in our own backyard or in your experience. As I’ve mentioned in prior episodes, whenever you can, when you understand the theme that’s being presented, please reflect on this and how it applies to your life. Do we feel that our traditional religious and spiritual traditions have been a catalyst for attitudes and actions that are the most significant source of peace that is viable? My answer is a resounding, all too frequently, no. I have great respect for all religions. And yet it’s clear that there are enormus blind spots that have led to disasters of all kinds. We need to ask, what are the most important steps that are needed to have the way we’ve been guided to bring us closer to world peace and the highest potential of a quality survival for every individual and the planet as a whole.
Robert Strock: (04:52)
This is a key question and how we as students, teachers, and ministers of all kinds relate to each other and the world. One of the key themes is asking what’s the difference between the original teachings, and the way it’s imparted to us as students from the various teachers, ministers, and others that we hold sacred. When we take a close look, we’ll almost always find a large difference between the two. This will likely, if we’re aware, leave us wanting to ask at least a couple of key questions. One is for more personal disclosure, as it’s so rare. And this rarity of sharing leaves the unconscious to act out and not let us be taught how to deal with our life challenges, through the help of their experience. Finding clarity, why this is the case from these esteemed guys as they deal with how individual challenge might alter the way they teach is quite important. As I hope you’ll agree with me, or I assume you’ll agree with me, this is almost unheard of, and the way we were taught and exceptions are rare. The second question or theme is how central are the actions and attitudes being of benefit tangibly to our community and world. And how much is there more of a reliance on tradition and practices? We’ll explore later this in great detail in this episode and beyond.
I just would like you to clarify which of the many, many religions spiritual approaches, um, what some people would view as invalid approaches even, or destructive approaches, but how, how do you discriminate? You know, what are you really talking about here in, in this particular set of themes? It’s clear to me that you’re, you’re referring to traditions, uh, spirituality, religion, but are you, is it all encompassing? Uh, obviously there’s major religions in the world with hundreds of millions of people and maybe billions of people that have been teaching, following, living their lives in accordance with these things. And yet there’s other ones that are, that are small sects that are small, uh, individual, maybe hundreds of people or thousands of people. Is it including all of those that we’re referring to here? Is there any discrimination?
Robert Strock: (08:27)
In reality is including all of those groups, large, small, and even a third group, which is people that are living religious and spiritual values, but might even be repulsed and certainly are resistant to traditional practices and beliefs. So, the real emphasis is trying to unite the actions and the attitudes that are so universal and really are agreed upon by the three groups that I’m starting out in introducing, you know, which really include the religious, the spiritual, and the people that live in integrity and are self-directed and their own actions and attitudes are really caring for the world. So, there’s a common denominator that I’m really trying to focus on.
And just to amplify that, because that last sentence you just said is really the, the answer I was looking for because in the beginning thing you said, which is really all of them, what I’m hearing in that last sentences, all of those that embody some type of value system, some type of attitudes, some type of approach to actions that have integrity or have some benefit. And because there are some that don’t, there are some belief systems that want to tear things down, and I assume you’re staying, you don’t include those in this conversation.
Robert Strock: (10:07)
Yeah. That’s an important clarification. And in the elaboration that will become clear that I’m really referring to the original teachers or the individuals that have attitudes, actions, and values that are going to be of benefit to the world.
Robert Strock: (10:32)
So the third theme is that there’s a large group of people who follow the vast majority of the actions and attitudes that the great teachers of the world that really wanted the world to be caring for itself, caring for brothers and sisters, that doesn’t in my mind appear to be individuals that want the self-referential quality that has been so dominant in the traditions, but really want the spirit of unity, cooperation, compassion, peace, trust, interconnectedness. So, we can live in a world that really cooperates and has the best chance to take care of everyone in it and the planet itself. And so this third group that is a large group, are people that I’ll refer to it later, but are like my father who really believe that living a life of integrity, of caring for other people, of being generous, of being honest, being hard working, do what you can to be self-sufficient no matter where you’ve come from, but had no formal tradition or spirituality that he believed in. I’m including that as a spiritual group, even though a number of them might gag. When I do that I also believe that the original teachers would want their congregations or dedicated students to live more like them, rather than put their dominant reliance on the traditions and practices.
Robert Strock: (12:27)
And this will be weaved throughout the shows that follow up. Now, as I say that, I want you to ask yourself, do you agree that the actions and attitudes that are benefiting the world are the core essence of spirituality, or do you believe, for example, that to pray and to meditate or to do rituals or to have certain traditions is more important than that? Now, my view is that meditation and prayer and these rituals are designed to kick us all into this compassionate action and attitudes. And when it doesn’t, then it’s up to the teacher and the student to really see, oh, I’m meditating on praying, but it’s not really connecting to compassion. And maybe part of my meditation and prayers really are more about creating only my own inner peace and maybe to a smaller degree that, and maybe it isn’t expanding to the world.
Robert Strock: (13:44)
And so it’s not anti meditation or prayer, of which I am a party to both, it’s really looking at, does it actually lead to a humanitarian instinct? Does it actually lead to one where we really do care about our brothers and sisters? So, when I asked, do you agree, do you agree to this? I want to repeat the question because it’s such an important question, as we start this series, do you believe the original teachers want their students to live more like them or put reliance on traditions and practices? This is so central to one of the ways that I believe we’ve gone off the road and we’ve created wars, alienation, social and economic injustice, and set up conditions for global warming, terrorism, nuclear danger, all kinds of parallels that we’re facing today, including corruption as well. I really honor the many people in the world who have the values and are dedicated to the attitudes and the actions that are at the core of all these major religions without following any of the practices. These values would include the qualities of compassion, honesty, trustworthiness, generosity, strength, and a very important one, which is authenticity, amongst many others. This large group of people that have a depth of integrity and caring for the greater world will be represented as a group that in my life, I have honored as having spiritual values and priorities, and they are frequently living the way the great teachings of the world have shown us.
Robert Strock: (16:07)
As I mentioned before, many of them would cringe if there were, if they were to be called spiritual or religious, because they don’t identify at all with the traditions practices or methods that various teachings utilize, this might be you. And it is also a part of me to summarize all the groups that could be living true to the actions and attitudes of the original teachers or what I’m deeming to be spiritual or religious, the beliefs of this larger set of groups that include all three might be faith or understanding, or secondly, they may have no sense of not knowing anything about the esoteric truths of life and death. And number three, they may even be agnostic or even hold atheistic views. This insight has naturally led me to ask the same question as before, is I don’t believe when we’re dealing with a subject, it can be asked too much.
Robert Strock: (17:34)
Would you rather believe what you do and follow with your practices and traditions, or live a life that resembled the one that Jesus, Buddha or your root teacher was. The answers as you’ll see are very interesting and have quite a bit of variety. You might think the answer is either yes or no automatically, and you’ll be intrigued to see the answers of a wide variety of prominent teachers and students. Can you take a close look at your beliefs one way or the other, and where are you left? Is there any flexibility to include the religious and spiritual, if you are against them, that prejudice exists too. And of course the vice versa, if you are religious and spiritual, is there any flexibility to include people who don’t believe at all, but their actions and their attitudes are consistent with your teacher. This is one of my greatest hopes for a takeaway from this series.
Just as you speak, and you talk about root teachers, you talk about the origins of different religions, uh, and the different value systems they reflect. Uh, I’m, I’m even called to remember an example where, um, in fact, you and I went to a Memorial, a funeral, uh, for somebody that was Orthodox in the Jewish religion. And we sat down and then we had to move and we sat down and we were told to move because the men were to sit in front. And there was a clear line of demarcation for women who had to sit and back. And that value was reflected in the way they viewed what was purest, what was best for whatever reasons. And it does go back to the origins and yet at the same time, so many other elements of that religion now have a completely different view. And so, and of course you could look at the Middle East, you could look at the value systems that are going on there relative to all kinds of limitations placed on women, for example. And of course women are not the only example. Can you speak to that?
Robert Strock: (20:26)
It’s a very complex question. I am for equal rights. I believe all the teachers were for equal rights. And if they weren’t in there way long time ago, it was because their population I believe was not ready for it. But I believe if any of the great teachers came today, they would honor the equal rights of all beings, of all classes, of all races and of women and men. That being said, if we were to address the religions of the west and the religions of the Middle East, I would say it’s so important that even though there’s a difference that we exercise immense tolerance toward their beliefs and attempt to communicate why we believe what we believe, but not through warfare, not through exaggerating the alienation, but also not through sugarcoating, the belief that all people are created equal.
So just to, to amplify what you proposed earlier it’s such an important question we need to ask ourselves, which is, do we feel it’s most important to live like the teacher, the original teacher, or do we simply believe that we almost, you know, and, and this has a pejorative sense to it. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll admit that, but robotically follow what has evolved over in some cases, centuries as the precepts, the habits, the, the, the various ways the, the manifestation of that religion has become, and one could argue, as you just said, uh, clearly that some of the things that those in the Middle East or the Orthodox, uh, situation I described before would be reflecting the values and the actual way the original teacher was living their life at that time with the values and potentially the limitations of the values the population, they, and the, the students they had at the time embodied, uh, how do you, how do you, how do you reconcile that it, it is, it is difficult. It is complicated. It is, which do I trust my, my, my today values? Or do I look back in time and say, okay, I take it literally.
Robert Strock: (23:14)
Again, as we’ve seen in our political environment, as we’ve seen in the history of the United States, we started off with immense bigotry toward blacks, our native Americans. And, and we come to see that blacks are an immensely valuable contribution to our society as much as ourselves. And so, the spirits of teachers, I believe, and of course there are many that are going to disagree with me, had to appeal to their time. And I think like has happened in America. Every free-thinking individual needs to look at the historic context of women being denigrated at that time. And they would not have been, the society would not have been ready for equality, or at the time of slaves, the country was not ready for slaves, but as we think it through, do we really believe that whatever we deem as God or universal truth is going to say, okay, number one is truly man.
Robert Strock: (24:31)
And maybe even white man. And number two is women. And they should walk behind us or blacks to walk behind us. Our native Americans should walk behind us, or Muslims should be thrown into a different category. I don’t believe that at all. And I believe that it’s important for all groups that have ancient teachings and I’m free associating to all countries that were founded on principles that were not as enlightened as our current day presents. I won’t say that our current day is enlightened, but at least it has some more equalized ideas that are struggling to be integrated. So, as we see, it’s so easy to diss another group that doesn’t have our orientation in the beginning of this introduction, that is one of the key places that we’re asking you to take a look at no matter where you find yourself, whether you’re an atheist, a Catholic, an Orthodox Jew, a Jew.
Robert Strock: (25:52)
Um, and I can say a Jew, cause I’m Jewish, Christian, a Buddhist, somebody that is agnostic. Are you flexible to see that you’re not certain you’re right? That actually the underlying quality of being a human being that cares about the world and your actions and your attitudes, how you use money. For example, all of these things are in my view, intuitively obvious that if there was a wise, if there is a wise God universal intelligence, it doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t seem like a very sophisticated concept. Even though in our current world, it is not the most popular concept. So, the effort of this series is going to be a unification of attitudes and actions and values as being more central than the identification with the original background and traditions and practices and see how much they convert into the actions that our perilous world needs to support our survival.
Robert Strock: (27:19)
And also the survival of the planet itself. In a way you could say that it’s another kind of me too. I also am guilty of identifying with what I identify with. And hopefully it would be seen as another kind of “Me Too” movement. I am a Christian, I am Jewish. I am Muslim. I am an atheist. I am an agnostic versus yes, I’m those, but I’m also a uniter. I’m also someone that’s thinking universally. I’m also someone that’s thinking about my brothers and my sisters, no matter what they believe or don’t believe. And if that resonates with you, I truly hope you’ll stay with us all the way through and see how we dive very deeply into nine separate beliefs and precise ways that we separate and we can unite. So, thank you very much for your attention. And I look forward to continuing this crucial series. What I believe is for the benefit of the unity of all religions and nonreligions and for the benefit of mankind.
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