Something to Believe In
By gaining clarity on the differences between feng shui, religion and spirituality, we can understand how each might fit into our lives
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I enjoy your articles tremendously, but recently after bringing up the topic of feng shui with a group of friends at church, I got an earful. Their viewpoint was that feng shui is a religion, and it goes against what we believe. Is this true? Also, I have always been curious as to the difference between religion and spirituality and what makes a person spiritual, rather than religious?
The first part of your question reflects a common concern for those with religious beliefs. The viewpoint that feng shui conflicts with religious beliefs suggests a lack of clarity about what feng shui actually is. Feng shui is not a religion — nor does it bring luck, or “black magic,” used to drive out evil spirits. It is not about worshipping deities or subscribing to superstitions.
Feng shui is a body of wisdom centered on energy flow and how it affects us — a tool used to manage energy having no geographical, cultural, or religious boundaries. No matter what your religious beliefs or unique set of life goals are, you can use feng shui wisdom to better support yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
• Various schools of feng shui. A part of the confusion with respect to religion comes from a school of feng shui known as “BTB feng shui,” which originated from the indigenous Bon religion of Tibet before the introduction of Buddhism. However, over thousands of years, as the body of wisdom traveled from India to Tibet and then to China, it evolved, losing its religious connection and incorporating indigenous teachings and philosophies.
Its current teachings have nothing to do with Buddhism and everything to do with simply and effectively creating more comfortable and harmonious environments. No matter what school of classical or traditional feng shui you subscribe to, in its most basic form, feng shui uses no religious statues or lucky figurines in its teachings.
• The marketing of feng shui. Feng shui is often marketed as something easy and fun, and “new age feng shui” uses Asian decor and symbolism, associating it with “Zen-like,” or peaceful, environments. In these manifestations, happy Buddhas, lucky gods, and divine deities, are used as a part of the trend, but without religious significance.
• Religious figurines. Traditional churches are “against” feng shui because so-called deities are used and promoted as “good feng shui.” The truth is that you can be Christian and use feng shui, substituting a figurine of Jesus for the Buddha to provide “good energy” to the inhabitants of the home. Feng Shui never challenges, replaces, or in any way undermines a person’s religious convictions or values and can align with your religious beliefs.
• Religion versus spirituality. With regard to religion and spirituality, you can be religious without being spiritual and you can be spiritual without being religious. You can also be religious and spiritual, as they are not mutually exclusive. Religion and spirituality are just labels, representing different ways of focusing on God and what God means.
Followers of religion and spirituality share a common belief in and desire to enter into a deeper relationship with a Higher Power of some kind, and both are seen as “paths to God,” with some distinct differences in their approaches. Here are a few:
• Experience versus belief. Religion requires you to follow a particular belief system that the church (or place of worship) and its authorities have established. Spirituality places less importance on structured beliefs and focuses more on growing consciously and evolving to our highest level personally.
• Fear versus love. Although most religions state that God is loving and forgiving, they also teach the concept of sin and the consequences of wrongdoing; whereas, spirituality is entirely love-based, without the concept of sin or judgment.
• Heaven versus heart. Many Western religions refer to God as a supreme being in the heavenly realm, watching over us. In spirituality, God is considered omniscient, without gender, and found in all things animate and inanimate. Spirituality sees no separation between the “Creator” and “Creation.”
• Outer versus inner. Religion places more emphasis on outer forms and rituals and organized doctrines, while spirituality is less concerned with these things, focusing more on one’s inner experience of God and living a heart-centered existence.
• It’s more than what you do. The bottom line is that being spiritual is not about what you do or who or what you believe in. Spirituality is a matter of your state of consciousness and your approach to life. By choosing to live with a greater connection to your spirit, you can be inspired by your own life and not necessarily by something outside of you.
Alice Inoue is a life guide at Alice Inoue Life Guidance LLC, a company committed to assisting people in living empowered lives. Visit www.aliceinspired.com to read her blog, sign up for her newsletters and download useful feng shui tips.