“I left Europe as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” Perhaps the most famous quote of Raimon Panikkar, it embodies the interspiritual approach of multiple religious belonging. Rather than the metaphor of needing to dig one well deeply (which implies that if one tries to dig many, all will be superficial and not reach water), the metaphor here might be that in order to dig a deep well, one needs a variety of tools: not just a spade, but also a pick-axe and a wheelbarrow. The claim is that one can commit to and belong to more than one religious tradition; part of the contemplative discipline demanded, then, is that the contraries claimed by very different traditions find an integrity within the practitioner who holds their tension. Clearly the commonalty across the traditions will be in their shared insistence on spiritual practice and disciplines, rather than in their theologies or doctrines or metaphysical views.

Mirabai Starr in her person enacts multiple religious belonging strongly, too. Born of secular Jewish parents and raised in a context of a plurality of different religious traditions, Mirabai argues that the Spirit is simply big enough to encompass all possible traditions and that the calling of Spirit will bring a corresponding openness in the practitioner to pursue whatever traditions speak in depth and authenticity to her. If spiritual reality is a beautiful jewel, the numerous different spiritual practices, disciplines, and traditions are merely different facets of the same jewel – and one might need to gain facility in viewing the jewel from different facets in order to be faithful, rather than a dogged fixation to only one facet as “the one”.

Matthew Wright is another example: on the one hand an Episcopal priest, but also a Hindu sannyasi and a member of the Sufi order.

Centro Interculturale Raimon Panikkar

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