Finding Original Intent: A Key to Practicing Interspirituality

Finding Original Intent: A Key to Practicing Interspirituality August 18, 2022

If you are interested in interspirituality, you have to ask one key question before you engage in any practice: ‘What was the original intent?’

To underline the importance of this question, I am going to share two stories. Both of them have been around for a while. Feel free to skip ahead to my conclusions if you’ve already seen them.

The Cat and the Monks

In a quiet monastery in the Himalayas, a group of monks gathered and meditated every morning when the bell rang. One day, a cat came into their midst and started meowing and rubbing against them, causing quite a disturbance. The monks gave the cat some milk and food to get rid of it, but that didn’t work. The next day, the cat came back looking for more food. So, the monks put the cat in a room, gave it food, and then let it out after the morning meditation was over.

From then on, the cat would come every morning when the bell rang. Someone would feed the cat, put it in the room, and let it out afterward. This went on for years. Then, the cat died. It caused quite the commotion. “Where are we going to find another cat?” the monks exclaimed. Their ritual had been ruined.

The Meatloaf

A woman was making meatloaf. She placed it on a tray, cut the ends off, and put it in the oven. Her son asked: “Mom, why do you cut the ends off the meatloaf?” “I don’t know,” she replied. “It’s how we’ve always done it. I’ll ask my mom.”

So, she called her mother. “Mom, why do you always cut the ends off the meatloaf when you make it?” “I don’t know,” she replied. “That’s just how my mom used to do it.”

So, the woman called her grandmother. “Nana, why did you always cut the ends off the meatloaf when you made it?” “Because the oven was too small,” Nana replied.

Original Intent

Both stories have the same moral. To fix a problem, a certain way of doing things is established. That way becomes a habit. The habit becomes a tradition. Over time, the original intent is lost. People keep up with the tradition, unaware of why it was instituted in the first place.

The monks didn’t need a new cat to be able to meditate and the woman no longer had to cut the ends off the meatloaf because her over was large enough. Both traditions were outdated.

Mechanical Repetition

Every religion could periodically reexamine and reevaluate traditions by asking questions: What was the original intent? Does this way of doing things still serve a purpose? Do we need to change our ways?

Sadly, few groups have created such a process, which means that many rituals have become mechanical in nature. People continue doing them for one simple reason: “That’s how we’ve always done things.”

Use Discernment

But those of us who practice interspirituality are seekers, not followers of tradition. That is why discernment is needed. Before incorporating a new idea or practice into our routine, we must ask, ‘What was the original intent?’

Granted, we may not always be able to answer that question. It’s not like every ritual comes with an origin story. In that case, we need to use our imagination and ask another question: ‘What is the likeliest reasoning behind the creation of this idea or practice?’ Our imagination will offer clues.

Our Interspiritual Recipe

Adding a belief or practice from another tradition is like adding spice to a recipe. Plenty of spice mixes are salt-based. This means that if we find another salt-based spice mix, it will not improve our recipe. A balanced blend of spices is what we are looking for.

Understanding original intent helps us create a balanced interspiritual recipe.

Gudjon Bergmann
Author and Mindfulness Teacher
Amazon Author Profile

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Picture: CC0 License


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