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Question of faith: Are religion and spirituality the same thing?

Spirituality and religion go together hand and glove, like a dancer and the dance. Spirituality is the impulse to live a life of beauty and awe; religious systems channel, support, train and direct that spiritual impulse. In Judaism the tension in this duality is expressed as KEHva and kavaNA. KEHva in Hebrew means fixed, regular; for example, the statutory prayers prescribed for specific times and occasions. KavaNA means intention, directing the heart; in this case, praying with mindfulness and feeling. The rabbis of old, who themselves prescribed the prayers, believing that their ritualized exercises -- spiritual "practice" -- trained one toward leading an ever more blessed lif! e, cautioned, "Don't make your prayer KEHva" -- routine, unconscious. Just as the ballet master teaches steps, but then urges the student even during routine exercises: "Dance!" -- so too our sages urge us to remember that it is our spirit that brings life to the dance, and dance to life.
Rabbi Shoshana Dworsky, associate Jewish chaplain, Macalester and Carleton Colleges

Spirituality and religion are interweaving strands of human beings' experience of the Holy. Spirituality is a sense of personal connection to other people, the environment and a higher power; religion is the outward expression of a community's experience of spirituality. Religion provides a structure that can include creeds, liturgy, sacraments, holy writings, music and symbols, revealing how the community has experienced the mystical connections between God and people, and providing a framework for repeating the experience. Often the religious forms do evoke deep spiritual response, for individuals and for the community. It is this spiritual connection that gives religion its meaning. Without it, religion is empty and idolatrous. Jesus challenged the religious leaders of his time to abandon forms that kept them from truly loving God and their neighbor.! The challenge is still ours today. Vital religious faith can thrive only when religion finds ever-new ways of responding to people's spiritual experience. Spirituality thrives when it finds expression and nurture in religion. And human beings thrive when they attend to both.
Rev. Lydia Huttar Brown, St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Sunfish Lake

All the practices from all the streams of Buddhism offer a way to live in compassion and wisdom in activity -- right in the midst of everyday life. In the Zen stream, the words "religion" and "spirituality" are equal, along with the words "spoon,"ax" and "snow." Words, although necessary, are pointing at concepts and thus are at a distance from intimacy with the very things and activities that they indicate. In the Zen tradition we use the word "practice." We do sitting practice, work practice, walking practice. The answer to the question, "Are religion and spirituality the same thing?" is "Practice." We are simply doing our best to completely do whatever is in front of us without adding anything. As one of my friends recently said, "Don't put frosting on the frog." The result of all this practice is kindness in activity. That's all. A poem by Antonio Machado says, "All your words were one word. Wakeup." We can forget about being spiritual or religious. Then religion, spirit! uality, spoon, snow, ax, birth and death are exactly here, now without being a problem for us.
Rev. Myo-O Marilyn Habermas-Scher, Soto Zen Buddhist priest, Hokyoji Zen Monastery, Eitzen, Minn.

Sandy Dinanni, published by the Star Tribune, Tuesday February 7, 2006

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