For our courses, it is important to become familiar with the following terms and the ways they are defined in the context of our work. We will be discussing these in class, online forums, and personal mentoring sessions. Please reflect on these terms and definitions in your journal.
“Humanity stands at a crossroads between horror and hope. In choosing hope, we must seed a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to life drawing its inspiration from perennial spiritual and moral insights, intuition and experience. We call this new awareness interspiritual, implying not the homogenization of religion, but the recovering of the shared mystic heart beating in the center of the world’s deepest spiritual traditions.”
— Brother Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart
“Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another, an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of metaphysical or supernatural reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or nirvana. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayer, and so on.”
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium
“Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit
such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others.”
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium
Spirituality pertains to the essence, or the spirit of our very existence. It entails an intuitive wisdom and experiential knowledge—gnosis, sophia, prajna, hokhmah, da’at, hikmah—that transcends our senses and intellect. It is the natural instinct that draws us to the conscious essence at the core of our being. It is the innate impulse that connects us to a higher power, a universal essence, a divine entity, the primordial state of being, or the Ultimate Reality. It is the instinctive impulse for wisdom and compassion, to be loving and altruistic. Spirituality gives an ultimate meaning and purpose to human life through which we can evolve to our greatest potential.
The terms “Interfaith” and “interreligious” pertain to the impulse to find shared values, principles, and customs among the world’s religions, and to work together with tolerance and respect for the common good.
Interfaith programs bring together people of various religions to share their beliefs, ethics, customs, principles, rituals, rites of passage, and holidays. These programs generally focus on the social values and cultural forms of different religions, and avoid metaphysical and institutional differences that lead to conflict.
The term “InterSpiritual” pertains to the contemplative, meditative, and mystical experiences that are the foundation for spiritual practice. Interspirituality connotes an inclusive state of contemplative consciousness that merges with those spiritual experiences that were the creative force for the major religions. It holds the promise of a genuine sharing of our respective spiritual experiences, and a conscious joining at the deepest levels of our being. InterSpirituality represents the next phase of understanding and connectivity between people of different spiritual traditions.
Contemplation may be characterized by deep concentration, as well as profound inner observation, insight, analysis, and non-conceptual intuition; both involving and surpassing the intellect. It is a profoundly reflective state of consciousness that can arise, for example, while sitting in silence, reading, being in nature, or engaging in art or music. Spiritual contemplation can be a quality of consciousness that rests within porous boundaries between non-conceptual meditative absorption, and subsequent conceptualization of transcendent experience. Contemplation is our means of consciously traveling back and forth between the sacred and the profane; the divine and the worldly; the mystical and our ordinary reality.
Meditation is a technique for attuning consciousness, which—depending on the individual, the technique used, and the spiritual context in which it is done—may lead to altered states of awareness (including profound focus and tranquility), usually considered beneficial or transformative for individuals and groups.
In this specific usage, meditation is an activity that enables human consciousness to fulfill its potential to be tranquil, one-pointed, blissful, non-conceptual, wise, compassionate, intuitive, and unified with the truth of our existence. (This truth, and/or its name, may vary depending on each tradition and each individual.)
Prayer is a powerful psychological tool for setting our purpose and intention, for focusing our energy on an intended result. Whether prayer is directed to a divine being, a higher power, within our self, or into the universe, we are evoking a deep personal wish that is far more profound than the mundane desires that generally run through our minds. Prayer activates the capacity of our consciousness to actualize or manifest our most profound and benevolent aspirations for ourselves and others.
InterSpiritual Meditation is a universal process drawn from the world’s spiritual traditions. It helps individuals to cultivate inner peace, wisdom, and compassion. Its seven-step process enables people of different spiritual practices to create engaged contemplative communities based on empathy, understanding, shared contemplative intentions, and compassionate service for the common good.
Each of the seven steps provide containers within which meditators can include the wisdom and methods from one tradition, a variety of traditions, and from their own personal life experience.
Just as each biological species has its own unique genome that gives it life and vitality, so are the founders’ spiritual experiences to the life and vitality of each religious tradition. The job of the contemplative is to re-experience this spiritual original genome in order to breathe life and vitality into each tradition. Without this, traditions die and fossilize. Just so, human spirituality must be revitalized by direct experience.
Just as biological diversity is required for the health of each individual within each species, so is spiritual diversity required for the spiritual health of the planet. Just as species must rub up against each other to reinvigorate the life forces required for survival, so must religions come into contact to stimulate each to regenerate their essential life force.
Biological and Spiritual Diversity
InterSpiritual Meditation is not a genetic hybrid. It is not a new religion. It is a process wherein meditators from each tradition can help each other revitalize the unique spiritual genes required both for spiritual diversity and personal spiritual realization. The vitality, viability, and relevance of all religions, spiritual traditions, and people depend, directly or indirectly, on interaction with each other. Indeed, the survival on the human species may depend on this interdependent interaction with the deepest levels of our inter-being-ness.
The term “open-source” comes from the language of computer programmers who share code with each other from various sources to enhance their respective programs or operating systems. This implies an openness to share and to benefit from the wisdom gained by others. Yet it also presupposes that each programmer has learned basic skills of a specific programming language as a foundation on which to build and to include the insights of others. Just so, InterSpiritual Meditation builds on the wisdom and processes of many diverse contemplative traditions. As with computer programmers, InterSpiritual meditators will benefit from a grounding in a single contemplative tradition as a foundation for open source spiritual inquiry, sharing, and adaptation.