Saturday, May 9, 2009

Engaged Spirituality

The story of Guru Nanak's encounter with the Yogis brings to life the importance of an engaged spirituality. According to Sikh tradition, Guru Nanak originally visited countless spiritual centers, spreading his message of longing for God. At one point, he ventured up a high mountain to a sacred site in the Himalayas. Upon seeing this lone wanderer, a group of nearby Yogis flocked to Guru Nanak asking him: "Have you come join us?" Looking around at the type of life these Yogis were living, Guru Nanak quipped: "Join what?" Set aback, the Yogis responded: "You appear to be in search of God. If you want to achieve your spiritual goal, you must first renounce the world and join us." At this, Guru Nanak exclaimed: "You have not renounced the world, you have run away from it. The world is on fire, and you have the knowledge of how to put it out. What kind of spirituality is this that leaves humanity to suffer?"

As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed not only to spiritual growth and transformation but also to involvement in the world. As the aforementioned story illustrates, the two must not devolve into polarized antitheses: just as asceticism fails to grapple with the harsh realities of human experience, so too empty worldliness fails to take into account the spiritual dimension of the human heart. Instead, an engaged spirituality calls us to constantly balance between these two worlds, allowing each to interpenetrate and inform our thoughts, actions and ways-of-being in community.

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