Humanity has always looked to the transcendent, a human trait pursued in many ways. And who can really say which way is right or wrong regarding an inherent desire to transcend this earthly life when our time is up. The religious insist that they are right, and spiritual seekers say likewise.

So in order to solve this spiritual conundrum, I came up with thirty distinguishing features (and counting) of both groups, so that you may make a judgment. Please do not infer that these features are all right or all wrong, they are only different ways to approach a most interesting subject. And please, add your comments regarding any features that you can think of, both differences and, hopefully, similarities. The list is not in any order, just what came to mind. (Except number thirty, which I reserved because it probably is the most significant and meaningful).

Also, the list is not as restrictive and polarizing as it may first appear. Many of the features fall into gray areas and could belong to either category, i.e., some religious folks may lean toward a few seeker traits, while some seekers might lean toward some religious traits. Each category encroaches on the other persistently, so these are not hard and fast rules set in concrete.

Having said that, the list does highlight some areas of interest that can generate thoughtful reflection when comparing the two . . . practices? ways of life? and affords one an opportunity to investigate where certain differences might be reconciled - if it weren't for the troublesome language barriers and special jargon that can arise between the different traditions and disciplines; words that only complicate matters and separate them into disagreements even though the root principles might be identical.

At any rate, here's the list:

1. The religious have all the answers.
Seekers question all the answers.

2. The religious proselytize.
Seekers stay under the radar.

3. The religious have their rules of conduct.
Seekers question whether true virtue can result from rules.

4. The religious live by their "good books."
Seekers have thrown their books away in deference to first hand insight and knowledge.

5. The religious depend upon a supreme being for guidance.
Seekers investigate dependency on mental images.

6. The religious have their goal set as a future in heaven.
Seekers consider the reality of life at this very moment.

7. The religious are faith based.
Seekers depend upon personal insight and experience.

8. The religious are social.
Seekers are on a personal journey.

9. The religious tend toward isolation from other religions.
Seekers openly investigate all ideas.

10. The religious have fought many wars over their beliefs.
Seekers investigate the absurdity of violence.

11. The religious have churches.
Seekers have the forest, the mountains, the ocean.

12. The religious are traditional, holding onto past values.
Seekers live each moment anew, not dwelling on past or future.

13. The religious encourage the dualistic idea of a separate self making its way to God.
Seekers investigate who or what it is that acts and who it is that sees itself as separate.

14. The religious rarely consider practices outside of their circle.
Seekers consider all spiritual practices and religions in order to discern which truly leads to freedom and which only lead to further dependency, illusion, and bondage.

15. The religious live in images, mind pictures created by memory and discursive thought.
Seekers consider memory and thought to be merely tools to meet life's challenges, seeing through the false images that memory and thought promote as reality, and replacing both when possible with creative insight and awareness.

16. The religious find security in ideas based on memory and thought.
Seekers find security in direct insight.

17. The religious look to the future for their freedom.
Seekers look into each moment, here and now for their freedom.

18. Religion costs money.
Seeking is free.

19. The religious have their preachers and priests.
Seekers rely not on second hand information, but on direct, personal insight.

20. The religious follow the words of their saviors.
Seekers are not interested per se in what saviors and profits say, but how the saviors and profits lived their lives.

21. The religious are self righteous and vocal.
Seekers are humble and quiet.

22. The religious are contemptuous toward non-believers.
Seekers see belief as past ideation which they consider to be dead computer files, and prefer the aliveness of each new moment.

23. The religious have an authority.
Seekers question all authority.

24. The religious promise life after death.
Seekers consider and contemplate what it is that lives and dies each moment.

25. The religious consider freedom to be possible only after death.
Seekers consider each moment eternally free.

26. The religious change their religion as the world changes.
Seekers change as their interior work progresses and shifts their consciousness.

27. The religious think of God.
Seekers meditate in the absence of thought.

28. The religious follow scriptural law.
Seekers follow insight.

29. The religious love their saints.
Seekers create saints.

30. And finally - the religious have their dogma.
And Seekers?They have a cat, or maybe a hamster.

Smiles to all my religious, and truth seeking friends. May we all find happiness!…………e

Author's Bio: 

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary www.dhammarocksprings.org and author of “A Year to Enlightenment.” His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.