There are only two religions in the world—religion that restricts and religion that releases.
Religion provides a set of assumptions (beliefs) and practices with which a person can experiment to recognize aspects of life they had not recognized before. If a person does not engage in the experiments, or if they are unwilling to let go of previous assumptions as their experience advances, the mind is restricted and they cannot grow, regardless of their religious preference.
That is not to say restrictions don’t have a role to play. Restrictions are part of the formula for success in any field. If I want to do one thing very well, I must restrict the expenditure of energy in other fields so that it can be focused in the direction I choose. This is restriction with purpose.
For restriction to be constructive, it must always be accompanied by release. Streams empty into rivers because the wider banks of the river provide a release for the restricted streams. Psychologically, this process is similar to sublimation, in which attention is restricted in one field and released into another. Restriction without release is a recipe for disaster, and we see such disasters in many areas of society, including in our religions.
The most intimate and comprehensive of all releases is the release of the identity from its restricted form (First Mind) into its open form (Second Mind). This release is what every religion points to—and there’s not a person on the planet who is not capable of it, religious or otherwise.
So when you see fancy words and big books in a religious context, remember: the purpose is release through experimentation. Look through those eyes without being distracted by wayward interpretations and you will find gems.
Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of Michelangelo’s Medicine and the upcoming book Is This a Dream? He tweets @DrAnoopKumar.