Some of us agree that fundamental to our understanding of living well is an encounter with the “ineffable” that cannot be satisfactorily described. There is this “I’ that is separate and distinct, but also this “One” in which we participate.
Further, religion is an attempt to promote and protect that encounter, but since religion is a set of forms to follow it can become divisive, stale and even abusive. My Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist friends as well as an indigenous American shaman I know all say the same happens in their communities. Some people get it. Others miss the point and begin to treasure the exercises rather than encounter with the “One” the exercises point us to. They begin to reassure themselves because they know stuff and practice stuff and are different (better) than people who don’t. Because I hear this tension between “encounter” and “form” in so many places, I think this is universally human problem that cannot be resolved by picking better community, doctrine or ritual.
Once a man went to a river for a bath and found that the river was in flood. As he approached the rushing water, he saw a scorpion being carried away by the current. He took pity on it and thought, “Ohh, he is going to die.” So he reached forward and took the scorpion out of the water. As he was taking it out, the scorpion stung his hand. As he got stung, he jumped and the scorpion fell back into the water. Again he felt pity, “Oh, I am so sorry. No, I will not let you die.” He took it out, got another sting and again dropped it.
A friend was standing behind him watching the whole thing. As he reached in to take the scorpion out of the water one more time, the friend said, “You fool. Every time you pick up the scorpion, it stings you. Don’t you have any common sense?” “Well,”‘ the man said, “I don’t know about common sense. All I know is my nature is to feel pity for something, to be compassionate and, if possible, to save it. That is just the way I am.” The friend replied, “But don’t you see that the scorpion is stinging you and will continue to sting you?” The man explained, “What can I do? That is its nature. I cannot change its nature. And in the same way, you cannot change my nature.” He did not hate the scorpion because he understood and accepted the nature of the scorpion. Let our nature be like this. That is our true nature: loving and giving. Of course, you can probably just use a stick to lift the scorpion out.