This is pretty obvious, and perhaps a good reminder now and then.
Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Siddharta Gautama wasn’t Buddhist. And they likely would be very surprised – and perhaps dismayed – by a lot of what their followers have said and done, and what’s found in the traditions created by their followers. And I suspect the same would be the case for anyone whose followers started a tradition or religion.
Traditions and religions reflect how people interpret what someone said and how they lived their lives. They invevitably reflect the culture, wisdom, love, hangup, preferences, interests, and limitations of these people. And the main priority of any system – including spiritual traditions and religions – is to maintain itself. Anything else comes second.
Religions, and spiritual traditions in general, clearly have a value and a function. They serve social and psychological functions. They help regulate society, and they give individuals comfort and perhaps even valuable practices and pointers.
And yet, it’s good to be honest about what these traditions are.
They don’t reflect any final or absolute truth. Their main function is, inevitably, to maintain themselves. The individuals these traditions are based on may be suprised and dismayed by much in these traditions, including what we personally may be attached to.
They serve a social function, for better and worse – from stabilizing society to justifying and upholding injustice and questionable hierarchies.
They serve a function for individuals. From providing comfort and perhaps a sense of safety and feeling loved. To the other extreme of sometimes encouraging dogmatism, blame, guilt, shame, and forms of violence towards oneself and others.
And they provivide valuable practices and pointers for those who wish to go deeper, find transformation, and perhaps notice and live from what they more fundamentally are.