Monday, May 2, 2011

Camaraderie: Reflections by Singhashri

Sharing the story of one’s spiritual path in 10 minutes is not an easy thing to do. So when Jason Wyman asked me to speak about mine at his recent S. Kitchen, Seeding Reflection, Cultivating Intention, of course I agreed! I’m always up for a challenge and an opportunity to reflect on how I’ve gotten to where I am. I shared this honor with my good friend, Suvarnaprabha, lovingly referred to as Suvanna, Creative Director at the San Francisco Buddhist Center, my spiritual home.

When we arrived at Jason’s warm, inviting abode we entered a room full of tantalizing smells, laughter, and a hint of curiosity. As always with good conversation, we shared our stories, asked and answered questions, heard about the experiences of others, and reached a deeper level of understanding about ourselves and others. Personally, I found it inspiring to make connections with others in the room who practice in quite different traditions than I, such as the Christian and Pagan traditions. What stood out to me from the conversation was the emphasis that all traditions place on spiritual community, walking our paths with others, supporting one another to discover more deeply our most authentic selves and encouraging each other to express ourselves and our path in our own unique ways.

In Buddhism the connection between those in the spiritual community is called “spiritual friendship,” and in my tradition (the Triratna Buddhist Community) is treated as just as important a personal practice as meditation and devotion. I am so grateful that this is emphasized in my tradition. In a society that values individualism and competitiveness, I find it refreshing to find a religious tradition that honors both the importance of individual growth and the connections that seekers make with one another on the path. In the West the focus Buddhism places on the efforts of the solitary meditator and the importance of loosening our attachments can be misinterpreted as a call to disengage from society and relationships. But spiritual friendship challenges us to work with our minds in relationship to those
around us, so that we develop compassion for all beings and the wish that everyone, not just ourselves, find happiness.

The S. Kitchen provided an opportunity for me to see that spiritual friendship can also go beyond the boundaries of any one tradition. No matter what path we choose, we can encourage and support one another to find happiness in our own unique ways. What an important reminder during a time when religious intolerance and radical ideology threaten to tear us apart as a human race. I hope for other opportunities to connect with spiritual practitioners of all faiths to find common ground in our search for the truth.

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