Sunday, October 08, 2006

What you do versus where you are

I had a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee, and we talked for some time about my current field of inquiry, conversion. I am writing an extensive essay on the topic of conversion, contrasting Evangelical Christian conversion against Tibetan Buddhist conversion. I wanted to get my friends thoughts on the topic. We agreed on the idea that conversion is more than a rite, but rather a process that takes a lifetime (or in Buddhist circles, many lifetimes). The question of how to break free from the rite and experience the process came up. My friend said that each person is different, and so the process is going to look different for each person. I asked him then if he thought there was one path with many “different” people on it; or if there were many different paths. He said something very profound, and I took it as a lesson that I needed to center myself yet again. He said that the “path” is not where the emphasis should be placed. Rather the emphasis should be on what you are doing on whatever path you are on. I would state it this way: it’s not as important to be on the right path, you must be on “your” path, because the definition of it being your path will only be found in how you interact with it, not by how some outsider defines it.

My friend went on to tell an analogy for this idea. He said that there is sometimes a very defined path, lit by lanterns, but his heart calls him to the woods, off the lit path. And it is only in the woods that he can truly be alive. I pointed out that there are dangers in the woods, it’s not as safe as the “lit path”, but he said that to fully engage the process of faith, and by that also conversion, there is always some danger. But in those instances you must rely on your faith, which is of course the whole point.

I often get so focused on making people understand that there are many paths to God, and Truth, that I forget the path isn’t the important part. It’s what the path calls out of you; what you do in relationship with your journey that is important. A good thing for me to remember as I journey down my own path, and share in the journeys of others.


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