Since a few years ago, after a major life event, I’ve been on this path of reconnecting with my spirituality. I was raised Catholic, and I was very happy to rediscover Catholicism as a grown-up… It was nothing like the faith I learned when I was in elementary school. I was fortunate to be with my (now) wife through her faith journey; although she was baptized Catholic, she had not received her sacraments. So when we decided to get married, she wanted to go through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), and I was happy to join her in that journey…
I learned so much: I learned that Catholicism is a mature faith, mature and secure enough to accept that science is compatible with its beliefs, and that God gave us intellect to explore the world. I also learned that you may not agree with everything the church says, and the church will still love you; just like in a relationship, you may not agree with everything your spouse says or does, but you still would give your life for them.
So that put me at peace with my faith, and I was blessed to be able to marry in a Catholic church and fully live my life as a Catholic again.
But this inquisitive mind wanted more…
And here’s where Eastern influences come in. Since I was in college, I’ve been practicing Aikido, sometimes called “The Art of Peace”; it’s a defensive martial art, and its name literally means “The Path of Harmony with the Universe” (Do=Path, Ai=Harmony, Ki=well, Ki means a lot of things…)
That’s when it started to get tricky. Because this whole concept of Ki, of The Universal, as Koichi Tohei calls it, sounds an awful lot like the God of Raimon Pannikar, or of Teilhard de Chardin… Shinzen Young equates Ki, or Chi, with the Holy Spirit, and with impermanence. Go figure.
As I practiced Aikido (never particularly well, sadly I have not yet been able to dedicate myself enough to earn a black belt… it could still happen!), I started noticing these moments of peace. Whether it was “flow”, when techniques happen to be perfectly executed (rare!), or whether it was a couple of words of wisdom from my Sensei, slowly but surely I started to notice that there was a more fundamental peace that emerged from practice.
And since Aikido is sometimes called “Zen in Motion”, I started learning about Zen, and reading about D.T. Suzuki, Suzuki Roshi, and Father Robert Kennedy Roshi (yes, Jesuit priest and Zen Master… cool guy!)
This led me to learn more about Buddhism in general, to listen to Dharma podcasts from the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA, and to read “The Joy of Living” by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
All very intellectually stimulating, but still a parallel path from my Catholic faith. So over the past two years, I find myself going to Catholic mass on Sundays, listening to Buddhist podcasts during the week in my commute, and generally trying to follow the precepts and meditating whenever I find the time.
Now I’m trying to put this whole puzzle back together. I am not a theologist, and much more brilliant minds have tried to explain this whole Thing with capital T. But here are my conclusions so far (illuminated in particular by Shinzen Young’s “The Science of Enlightenment”):
1) God is an emergent property of the Universe. It is not a guy with a beard.
1a) So when we pray to God, or the Saints, or the Virgin Mary, we are really praying to each other, to ourselves. We are all, collectively, every particle and vibrating string in the universe, God.
2) Based on the findings of quantum physics, it seems reasonable to believe that consciousness creates matter and energy. It “wills it” into existence by putting its attention on it. Before focusing conscious attention on a particle, it only exists as a probability field. Weird, but true (check it out).
3) The separation between self and others is an illusion. This means that our individual conscious selves are actually one universal field of single consciousness, or One Universal Consciousness (OUC) for short…
5) The universe creates itself and gives itself consciousness in an ongoing path towards oneness. Once we reach that point, I guess we are back to the Big Crunch, and we start all over again.
5) OUC=God. Our consciousness is really the God that we pray to. And it wants to go back to oneness, hence it is a God of love, of unity with all beings.
6) So what about enlightenment? Enlightenment means simply being able to perceive these universal truths about oneness directly, without intellectual processing.
This is as far as I’ve gotten so far. This is the first time I try to articulate all this, so it’s probably not very coherent, but my engineering mind wants to understand and organize.
May all beings be happy and free from suffering. May God/Us/OUC bless us all, help us realize oneness.