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Can You Worship Or Meditate In A Mixed Metaphor?

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Jim Youngman posted this link for Daniel Nahmod's music. Daniel has several videos on youtube which I downloaded for a quiet time playlist. While listening to "One Power" I had a question. While the song is a statement of belief or what makes sense to me, as a song to worship with or meditate on it seems to be problematic when lyrics say


Call it God, call it Spirit, call it Jesus, call it Lord,

Call it Buddha, Bahá'u'lláh, Angel’s Wings or Heaven’s Door,

But whatever name you give it, it’s all One Power, can’t you see?

It’s the power of the love in you and me.

Can one worship using vocabularies from several traditions at the same time? Using Proper Nouns seems different than regular nouns.

I think the following might be less problematic.

It’s the freedom of forgiveness.

It’s the sweetness of release.

It’s the joy of inspiration.

It’s the sunshine on your face.

This or a single image in the song "I want to be like water" seems to work better.


In an interview Huston Smith, author of "The World's Religions, said that it upset him to go to his church and hear talk about the Buddha in worship. He was a Christian. I am making a distinction between songs on which to meditate and songs which express one's understanding of religious pluralism.


I know that whatever works for me will be the first answer. That's not my question. What I am interested in is whether one's view of religious pluralism creates the possibilities of worship or meditation which uses the vocabularies of different traditions in a single time of worship?


What do you think?



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I do not see pluralism as any sort of denial of the narrow way. The way is narrow. I see it as "selflessness". Therefore, whatever "meditation" I live would not seek to be plural in the sense of conjuring up the words "Buddha" or "Christ", never mind any mixing of the two, Selflessness is beyond image.


The "way" to such selflessness is nevertheless wide, as each human being is unique.


(I'd just say that at the level of our intellect, it is the relationship between what is seen to be "unique" with "selflessness" that gives my own brain the wobbles. The symbolism of my own "way" (Pure Land) is that the undifferentiated nature of enlightenment is represented by gold, and the uniqueness/suchness of each by the lotus flower. So the Pure Land is full of infinite golden lotus flowers.)


At my own level I seek to say "thank you" at all times.


Of course, in dialogue with others, various names must come into play.

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Can one worship using vocabularies from several traditions at the same time? Using Proper Nouns seems different than regular nouns.


What I am interested in is whether one's view of religious pluralism creates the possibilities of worship or meditation which uses the vocabularies of different traditions in a single time of worship?





Yes, I think so to both questions. If one is in worship and it is not an idol, it seems one is going deeper than the names that are spoken. After all, it is what they point to that we honor/adore and love. The one power that is in and through what those names might represent. If they have a negative connotation to one as they no doubt will have in some who are unfamiliar or even familiar with the terms , it seems to me best to be ignored or find a more appropriate place that uses the single image or is as the second example that you have used. How can an answer other than what mirrors "whatever works for one" be given to your question?



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I think there is a problem only if one is ascribing some particular superiority or exclusiveness to the god-image/identity associated with any of those names. Which to me, would seem idolatrous.


It also seems to me that use of such lyrics in a song used in meditation or prayer may have a limited effective applicablity. If one's mediation is directed toward that aspect of God-perception, that whatever the religious and cultural language, it IS still the same, one God being addressed, and that across the spectrum we are all really spiritual brethren worshipping the same one God, it "works."


However, that is only one of the many, even countless aspects of God, and our relationship to/with God, that may at a given time be the primary focus of our mediation or prayer, and using a song with those lyrics might be entirely ineffective. I am sure others, like myself, has a rather broad range of music choices from which we choose whether for intentional meditation on a particualr aspect of our relationship to God, or to suit the mood and mindset we may be in at the time. Both lyrics and melody or style of the music that is most appropriate at any given time or occasion of meditation varies.


I think also there are times this will require, at least for some of us, music selections chosen from within a particular tradition, with which we have a formed association with certain words, images, metaphors, with the specific aspect of God and our relationship to/with God.


So I'd have to say I think using a song such as the example is neither appropriate nor inappropriate for worship meditation in general, but dependent upon the aspect or element of one's own God perception being contemplated in the meditation. For contemplating the universality of God for all mankind, yes, I might choose such a song, but when my contemplation is toward seeking my way through a difficult experience or circumstance in my life, I may well pop in a Christi Lane on continuous play to listen to "One Day at a Time" and "Foosteps", often then foollowed by other selections of joy and gratitude and celebration so I do not remain focused on the 'problems' without recognition of also my blessings. Both are appropriate and effective for each kind of use, neither are appropriate across the board in any and every occasion of mediation. When I simply shoose to meditate without focus, allow whatever to come up, I most often choose instrumentals without lyrics, and those for which there are no sets of lyrics I have previously associated with them. But even there, the type music, tone, melody, all do set different tones, moods, for that mediation. Sometimes I may find after beginning one, it just doesn't 'feel' right, and I choose another, until it does.





Edited by JenellYB
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For me each name -- Buddha, Christ, etc., conjures different images to mind. They may be just words ultimately, but I don't relate to all words the same way. Not that there's anything wrong with mixing metaphors. But I can see why it wouldn't work for many. I suppose the only danger that could be present is the possibility of eroding the distinctive teachings of particular religions. Each system of religious thought and language is an organic whole that finds strength and richness internally.

Edited by Mike
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These lyrics seem to celebrate the communilities amongsy religions. I don't think I would want to use them as a basis for meditation or prayer either, rather more as a celebration of the many aspects of the Divine Ground of our Being. I call myself Christian because I find in what I can discern of the life and teachings of Jesus the best possible model for my life. However, we know precious little, historically, of his life and teachings so I am not afraid to find wisdom and succour on other paths as well. There are beautiful passages in the Dhamapada, the Baghavad Gita and the Qur'an that supplement and even illuminate the Bible.


So, yes, I do think we can worship using images and vocabulary from a variety of religious traditions. That said, I don't like the lyric quoted by Dutch so much and much prefer his alternative.



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I think your question kind of refers back to another thread where we talked about wanting to worship with people with whom we have a connection.


I have absolutely no problem mixing metaphors in my personal reflection time. I also don't mind celebrating commonalites and differences when I am in an ecumenical gathering. As far as using symbols or metaphors in prayer (which for me means contemplative prayer), I try to avoid them and focus on an awareness on an awareness of the divine - pushing against that cloud of unknowning.

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