Sunday, October 9, 2016

It's not as important how we pray, as it is that we pray

For the sake of peace and the survival of humanity, what is important is not so much how we pray, but that we pray. 

So many people are angry and suspicious about religious difference, and disturbed by the idea of people not worshiping the same way as them. I’ve never understood this. 

Nervousness about the unknown is understandable if you see something you may not recognize as prayer or worship unless someone explains it to you. But most of the time, it seems that people argue and generate mistrust and hatred over religious differences that they would see are similar enough—in the ways that truly matter—to their own way of doing things, if they would only suspend their judgment long enough to look more closely. 

Why can’t we look at the glass as half full instead? Even if we don’t understand other people’s methods, at least those people are praying and worshiping and seeking to do good things for their community, and even for the world. 

There are so many different types of people, with so many different needs and perspectives, that it makes sense we have so many different ways of connecting with and seeking to honor the spiritual force of the universe—whether we call it God, the Mystic Law, or simply the Universe. 

The major world religions have similar enough core tenets at heart, if we strip away everything that’s been attached to them since their founding. Thus, the cultural, stylistic, ritual, and other differences are not a problem unless people make them a problem. 

Looking back through my older blog posts, I came across the concept of Integral Spirituality, presented at the June 2012 meeting of the Michigan Professional Communicators with interest in religion and cross-cultural issues.

One presenter at that meeting paraphrased religious theorist Ken Wilbur’s concept of humanity’s spirituality evolving through stages, starting in ancient times with the superstitious, then the mythic, then the rational, and now the pluralistic. In the future we will have what Wilbur calls Integral Spirituality, in which the religions don’t blend into one watered-down mono-religion, but rather move from simply coexisting to collaborating by integrating traits from each other to create more rich and diverse spiritual communities and religious experience. 

As an SGI Nichiren Buddhist, I can see Integral Spirituality as part of kosen-rufu. In contrast with the requirement in some other religions that everyone in the world must practice that religion in order for the highest level of society to be achieved, the idea of kosen-rufu in Nichiren Buddhism does not require that everyone in the world embrace and practice Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

Nichiren described that the critical mass to achieve kosen-rufu is one-third of the world practicing Nichiren Buddhism. For kosen-rufu, one-third of the world can still be even downright antagonistic toward Nichiren Buddhism, while the remaining third is more or less neutral to it. 

This is more realistic than expecting everyone in the world to do the exact same spiritual practice. Regardless of the validity and benefit of a religious teaching, there will always be at least some percentage of the world that disagrees with it, for whatever reasons. Every religious founder—including Nichiren—talked about being persecuted until death, and anticipated such opposition to their teachings continuing on into the future. Thus, the idea that this opposition will someday simply evaporate and everyone will cooperate with no disagreement is not likely to happen any time soon. 

I think that the idea of religious antagonism can gradually give way to a worldview where cooperation across cultural and religious lines is the norm, which doesn’t necessarily have to mean that everyone will eventually all practice the same religion. 

Regardless of the myriad misunderstandings and problems created by having so many different religious opinions and practices, I do believe that these differences all still exist for a purpose. 

If there wasn’t so much variety in the ways people are spiritually wired, and in the ways they choose to see the world (including even choosing to see and practice differently than how they were raised), then we probably never would have ended up with different religions in the first place. 

Illustration by Karla Joy Huber, 2011; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, highlighter


  1. Whether I'm at Baha'i gathering, which is the Faith I call myself, or my yoga class where the instructor refers to herself a Buddhist Christian, I feel that the devotion I offer up is heard the same, by the same God that listened to the prayers I said as a Catholic child.

  2. Well said, Ann ~ Thank you so much for reading, and for commenting. I always love reading what you have to say here. :) ~ Peace <3

    1. As always, you're very welcome! I love reading your views too.