The laundry outlet shudders as the water flows out. A bee hesitates and looks for an island in the stream, but misses the single yellow flower that’s broken through a mass of rotting leaves. A plane drapes a deep drone over these as it passes blindly overhead. Each of these is a literal fact in the world, but each is also a finger pointing at the moon.
Jesus spoke the Truth in the contexts of his culture, Judaism, and Roman occupation. Others wrote it down years later, and councils selected among the stories to form the official Bible over a century after that. The Christian churches then interpreted these stories into the various dogmas that define Christianity today. While the church might be the bride of Christ, modern Christianity is a finger pointing at a finger pointing at a finger pointing at a finger pointing at the moon.
Buddha spoke the Truth in the contexts of his culture, Brahmanism (a reference to Hinduism at that time), and the clans and castes of central India. As with Jesus, the stories were written down years later and officially compiled even later. As with Christianity, the Buddhist texts are now variously interpreted and extrapolated and there are various sets of Buddhist instruction available today. Modern Buddhism is another lengthy sequence of fingers.
Certainly Jesus and Buddha are more luminous and profound than the shuddering laundry outlet, but we must remember that Christianity is not Jesus and Buddhism is not Buddha. Both Jesus and Buddha are accessible to our consciousnesses through their words – in this way, they are as immediately available as the hesitating bee – but the organizations that have grown up around them are secondhand. Helpful, yes. Important, yes. But fingers pointing at fingers.
As you can tell, I immensely enjoy and find spiritual wealth in both Buddhist and Christian texts. I also resonate with shards of light I gather in other religious and spiritual texts, in ecstatic poetry, in music and art. I mean no disrespect to any tradition.
But, let us remember the importance of immediate experience. Let meditation, prayer, and mindfulness be our first and primary methods of understanding ourselves and the divine. The Beloved speaks to us in religious and spiritual texts, absolutely, but also in direct experience – in life and the never-ending flux, blessings and grief, miracles and faith. There is no book or preacher that can possibly supersede the relationship forged in mysticism.
You can spend a lifetime seeking to understand every facet of these fingers without edging closer to the infinite and eternal. Without mysticism in your spirituality, you can have only interpretation and ideology. So, while you have time, seek directly to travel in the direction these fingers are pointing – seek that infinite, holy Moon. You’ll be glad you did.