“I follow what the Buddha said. The Buddha said that: ‘If you want to strike water, you don’t dig six one-foot wells. You dig one six-foot well.”
College pride is not something Santa Clarans lack. When deep in “interview mode” a scholar of religion inserts a “Santa Clara REPRESENT” complete with fist pump, you get the picture.
Today I watched one of the most accessible, compelling and interesting discussions on modern religious experience with renowned Bronco alum, Reza Aslan. (which will not embed, but can be watched by clicking here; second video on the page, HuffPostLive Full Interview)
In the almost 30-minute conversation, he has an honest, self-reflective and wide-ranging dialogue with the host. Unlike the more viral video (the first on the linked page) where he puts the smack-down on a Fox News reporter, Aslan is given the time, space and respect to present his vision as a scholar and a spiritual seeker.
Through a fascinating journey of immigrating to the US from 1979 Iran, converting to Evangelical Christianity as a teen, his time at SCU, to his eventual return to Islam, Aslan traces his ever-present draw to the transcendent.
Even after casting off his fundamentalism, he treats that period in his life with respect for its authenticity and power. He offers a simple, yet profound truth: when you feel the draw to something beyond materiality, you need help defining it – even to yourself.
Aslan defines the value of religion as being just that: an offer of symbols and metaphors that can help define those experiences that we cannot articulate.
Those feelings and intuitions that by their very nature, are beyond words.
This is something I’ve always believed about the power of religion in my own life. At eight, I was obsessed with the temples of Japan, once hiding in one because I didn’t want to leave. I had a real conversion experience at some of the Christian camps I was invited to as a teen. I felt the same standing in front of the Cristo Negro in Guatemala at 20. Transcendence rings again through my current practice of yoga.
Each is a different, and crucial aspect of my spiritual life.
At my conversion to Catholicism in 2010, I still had questions. I still do. My religious teachers encourage me to never stop having them. As Aslan notes, Catholicism is my chosen well, where I find the water that most nourishes my journey. Yet the patchwork of my spiritual past is valuable and no less valid.
In the end, “Whatever well we drink from, it’s all the same water.”