EMBRACING ALL FAITHS by Revd. John N. Merrill
All my life I have believed you should look at the whole and not just one aspect, for everything is connected. For this reason my path and development of my deep spirituality, is not based on religion alone, but upon what I have seen, felt and touched. Through the centuries the great sages have all been very open and appreciative of other faiths and paths for one simple reason, all have a beauty of their own. I believe we should be open, understanding and appreciative of all faiths, for don't they all have the same destination?
Asoka who brought Buddhism to India said we should all respect other religions. Recently the Dalai Lama in his Sunday Sermon wrote - “Each religion has its own distinctive contributions to make and each, in its own way, is suitable to a particular group of people as they understand life. The world needs them all”
We certainly do, for the colour and variety of all the different faiths of the world, is one of the most important and enjoyable aspects of life - variety is the spice of life. All have much to offer but none is complete on its own. I do not advocate a “World Faith” for that would be wrong and exclude many important texts and messages.
Three months ago I walked to Assisi to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis. The walk was truly life changing and full of amazing moments. Reaching Assisi and reading about him along the walk, seeing places where he meditated, his simple life, where he received the stigmata and the basic tunic he wore, all impressed upon me why Assisi is a pilgrimage centre for not only Roman Catholics but Buddhists, for his life mirrors Buddha in so many ways. Assisi is also the place where the last Pope, Pope John, encouraged all the faith leaders to meet and join together him in prayer.
To demonstrate my openness and embracement, I do many pilgrimages to Roman Catholic shrines, such as Santiago de Compostella, Trondhiem for St. Olav, and in Britain to Canterbury, Walsingham and many others. Although not a Roman Catholic – I am a Christian but have strong leanings to Tibetan Buddhism (in a former life in 1450, I was a head Lama in northern Tibet) and Taoism. I am at home saying mass with Catholics going to Walsingham, taking mass in French in France, chanting with the Chinese Buddhists, chanting with the Hare Krishna, meditating in a Jain, Hindu or Sikh temple, attending a Jewish Bar Mitza, being part of a Christian service, sitting in a kiva in New Mexico with the Navajo and talking to a shaman or sitting in a stone circle feeling the stones talk with Mother Earth below.
This is the richness of life, not to have a blinkered view but an all embracing one, experiencing and enjoying all forms of worship. The understanding and on going knowledge never ends, and the places to visit and appreciate just grow and grow. The more you see and learn, the less you actually know.
As part of my journey at the tender age of 65 I began training to be an Interfaith Minister.; a logical progression of my path. Now ordained, two years later my thirst for knowledge and understanding remains my passion. I enjoy days of solitude, communicating with nature and treading Mother Earth and walking beneath Father Moon. No one word sums up this all encompassing experience, I am just a universal monk embracing and honouring all faiths. I have had many reincarnations and know that I have only two more before I “hang my boots up”!
So be bold and knock on the door - “ask and you shall receive”, and visit a temple, church, cathedral, pilgrimage site, sing with the Hare Krishna's, walk a labyrinth, or sit beside a tree and let its unrivalled knowledge flow into you. You will be enriched beyond your dreams. Forget materialism and wealth – you came with nothing and die with nothing. Just enjoy the simple life, now and surrounded to nature and the basics of life. Never worry, for you will always have enough, for we are all connected and the unseen flow of energy permeates all and everything.
Revd. John N. Merrill – 30/10/2012