Can Different Spiritual Practices “Oppose” Each Other?

You mean like lighting Hanukkah candles and giving Christmas presents? Following Buddhist mindfulness practices like the Noble Eightfold Path even as you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God and model your own approach to a life of loving your fellow man after His own? Or chanting Sanskrit mantra during your meditation hour while singing Latin or Hebrew hymns in church or synagogue?

A spiritual practice is most often founded on love and a profound sense of connection with the world and humanity. Practices don’t tend to cancel each other out, but rather as an athlete may do a variety of physical exercises spanning different disciplines, all the while training his brain with chess and good reading, or a businessman studying the martial tactics of Sun Tzu while engaged in otherwise philanthropic pursuits – isn’t balance always a key in any pursuit?

But now what if you’ve gone to an extreme? What if, say, your devotion to the Catholic faith demands that you self-flagellate while your budding interest in Buddhism is directing that you not harm even a fly. What then? You’ve got a dilemma, and some decisions to make. What if you’ve got a meditation practice directed by a Zen master who advises you to find that space between the thoughts, to be silent and find Mu – nothingness, while another vaunted sage directs you towards the practice of self-inquiry? Now you’ve got questions for your teachers and you’d best bring those questions and get clear on the seeming contradictions.

So yes, and no. Some practices may oppose one another. Others not. There are so many definitions of spirituality and then so many practices among so many cultures, it’s almost hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be at least a little opposition sometimes. But at the heart of it, the spiritual practices are all seeking the same thing, aren’t they? Self-knowledge and/or realization. Knowledge of and/or a relationship with the Creator, Joy and harmony, enlightenment or simply a life of simple, honest satisfaction, not to mention happiness, good health, prosperity and brotherhood to name but a few. And any practice or combination of practices that gets you there is probably good, while those that butt heads, cause confusion in you and take you farther from the goal might need to be looked at for adjustment in some form.