We never liked the terms "spiritual but not religious" (SBNRs) or "nones" for people who describe themselves as not being affiliated with a religion. The negativity built into those terms make them inappropriate in this age of pluralism and multifaith activity. When we talked to Rami Shapiro, one of the most creative, eclectic, and witty spiritual teachers of our time, we were pleased to hear him refer to the spiritual seekers who now comprise 20 percent of the American population as "spiritually independent" individuals.
This term brings to mind political independents, people who find good ideas and policies in different political parties but choose not to join one in particular. They are less interested in where ideas come from than in how they contribute to creating the world they want to see. Similarly, Shapiro describes the spiritually independent as "people who share the same existential questions as almost every other human being but do not confine their search for answers to any one religion." After years of study and writing on all the world's religions, this teacher has identified five core questions which can serve as a starting point for these "seekers without borders" and others to explore the wisdom of the ages:
1. Who am I?
2. Where did I come from?
3. Where am I going?
4. How shall I live?
We are grateful to SkyLight Paths for publishing this timely paperback book in its Illuminations Series and for encouraging our recent E-Course "The Way of the Spiritually Independent with Rabbi Rami." It a perfect resource for our times when there are more materials available for those on a spiritual journey than ever before and people are turning to a wide variety of sources for wisdom and inspiration. Shapiro shares sacred texts and passages which fall under the umbrella of "perennial wisdom." Here you will find material from such diverse sources as Talmud scholars, the Desert Fathers, Lao Tzu, Meister Eckhart, Kabir, Ramakrishna, Howard Thurman, and many others. On facing pages, Shapiro adds his own commentaries for each text, relating it to traditional teachings and modern applications.
Shapiro has found Eknath Easwaran's "Passage Meditation" to be a practical and profound way of making these texts and teachings your own by memorizing, repeating, and contemplating them. Here are a few of the central points of perennial wisdom, according to Shapiro:
• The Oneness of God
• The multiplicity of Creation
• Everything as a manifestation of the Source
• God as the Whole and the Part
• The wonder and beauty of your True Self
• The universe as your Body
• The mystery of the Ancient One and the mysteries of humans
• The charge to live courageously; practice peace, compassion, and justice; and be fearless in the face of death.