Tutelage and Freedom

Isn't it interesting that those people we admire the most and sometimes even worship in our respective faiths are those who rejected and even opposed the popular religion, the status quo and the contemporary expectations of their peers? We are grateful to them for having the courage borne out of necessity to find out for themselves what the truth is. If they didn't do it, we believe, then we wouldn't be where we are today. There are the founding figures like Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Paul, the Buddha, Muhammad, and others. I also think of other figures such as Kirshnamurti, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Chogyam Trungpa, Thomas Merton, Rumi, Heschel, M. L. King Jr., the Dalai Lama, D. T. Suzuki, and so on. Such people have not only broken away from the prescriptions of the past, but have even redefined the belief systems and thought patterns of the faiths or movements they have challenged.

One of the things common to all the above people is that they were thoroughly raised under the tutelage of the faith, belief system, or philosophy of their own people group. However, at some point, signs of their latent heterodoxy poked their heads through the apparent normalcy of their lives. Jesus at just 12 years old showed precocious tendencies when he asked probing questions of the elders. And Krishnamurti who, at a very young age, rejected a career of guaranteed success when he disbanded the Theosophical Society of the Order the Star to teach on his own.

Religious and spiritual communities need to balance these two forces. On the one hand, we need to provide our children with a comprehensive and even deep understanding of our faiths or philosophies, but at the same time provide them with the freedom to explore and discover their own paths. Why, their own path might be a kind of trail blazed for the sake of so many others! But my experience has been that religious communities and cultures provide the former and punish the later. Convention is rewarded and dissension is crucified. You venture too far from center and you are excommunicated.

We need to encourage and honor our pioneers.


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