Belief Systems and Rain

I had a conversation with a blogging friend a few days ago, in the course of which she asked me if I knew why it was that so many Westerners seemed drawn to Eastern beliefs, especially the more ‘esoteric’ ones.

I briefly mentioned the fascination the East has held for Westerners throughout history, and the fact that many in the West have drawn away from traditional religion – specifically Christianity – in the last fifty or sixty years especially, and that leaves a void: when you have been brought up within a belief system, that needs to be replaced by something. The Beatles nudged a whole generation in that direction by visiting the Maharishi in Rishikesh in the 1960’s / 1970’s, and there followed a whole slew of books on the subject, many seeming to want to outdo the others in sheer weirdness. But even before that there had been a lot of interest in both Buddhism and Hinduism from the late Victorian period onward, with a number of popular books available.

I can’t claim to be immune to this, either. I also rejected Christianity long ago, but felt I needed something to take its place despite deciding the concept of gods had no place in my life. The world is a wonderful and incredibly beautiful and fascinating place, all of which is explained perfectly well by science. But I do need something to satisfy the spiritual part of me – a part that, surely, all of us have?

I have read a lot about Buddhism, and for a long while thought of myself as a Buddhist. In a way, I still do, although I can’t entirely buy into the belief sets of any of the three major schools of Buddhism. But I did read Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor. I can’t remember the details of the book, but that is unimportant, it’s the message of the title in this case. I like Buddhism. I like its core message, which pared down to basics is simply to be kind to everyone and everything. It is the only religion I know that has no need for gods. Oh, sure, they’re there if you want them, but no one is ordering you to have one.

This doesn’t have to be ‘esoteric’ or ‘eastern’, either. It can apply just as well here in the west. And it doesn’t require sacred writings or rituals, I find poetry or a walk in the woods does just as well for me.

I’m listening to the heavy rain as I write this – which is something that seems to happen a lot at the moment, but is something I find particularly soothing. I wonder at the origins of this; is it something primeval, hidden deep in my DNA from the times we lived in caves or rough shelters and we could take comfort from the fact we were snug, and perhaps large sharp-toothed beasts were taking a similar break somewhere and not out looking for early humans to eat? Or is it perhaps just a forgotten memory of a very calming experience I once had, which my subconscious has decided to hang onto for my benefit, but without telling me why? I am aware of a few of the times I’ve experienced it, such as lying in a tent at night hearing the pounding of the rain on the canvas, with a wonderful feeling of warmth and snugness. Then there was another time in the mountains of Spain, coming across an abandoned cottage just as a rainstorm hit and spending the next half an hour or so just sitting on a bench and leaning against the wall, listening to the rain and thinking. I’m sure there must be many more.

In these rainstorms, I feel as though I’m immersed in nature – something that always makes me feel calm and relaxed, and which is but a step from what the Japanese call Forest Bathing. Forest Bathing is essentially taking a walk in woodland, using all your senses to connect with that environment. This reminds me strongly of meditation, especially meditation as I learned it in a Buddhist environment, which is where I’m going with all this rambling. If I have an actual religion now, it has to be nature. A belief in nature as something important, beneficial and precious. I wouldn’t ‘worship’ nature – ‘worship’, for me, has connotations of supplicants on bended knees with hands clasped together intoning religious dogma and praying, but I do have strong feelings of respect and admiration for nature, which I suppose you could call the same thing.

It just seems a pity that more people don’t seem able to accord it the same respect.

21 thoughts on “Belief Systems and Rain

  1. Nicely done Mick. All organised religions leave me cold and like you the natural world is chaotic enough for me. And like you, bad weather when snug is a delight. Esp. Rattling sash windows when I’m under the duvet takes me straight back to my inner 7 year old.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Mick, this post interested we a great deal as I to don’t practice a religion although we are traditional had celebrate Christmas and Easter. I too like Buddhism and can understand its appeal to Westerners. If I had a religion, it would be nature 💚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally with you on it Mick. Moreover, how we saw it of all the westerners coming to India was less because of Gods but more of what and how they saw cosmos in this chaos, be it Beatles, Julia Roberts or more recently Will Smith, none I suppose leaned towards Eastern faiths because of a God but may be because they could find a sage/saint/ a guru they could identify with, spoke with while spending their living life in ashrams, in nature while astounding themselves by witnessing the cosmic chaos that goes around here in India or largely South Asia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To feel one with nature is also intrinsically a Buddhist belief, the interdependence of all things, dependent origination , shunyata. A walk in the woods can also be a walking meditation. Rain is also considered life giving and a blessing in our part of the world ( not, of course, during excessive rain !) so it’s probably the atavistic part of me that responds to it, very much like the way you do. A wonderful post, enjoyed reading it.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It does seem easier to find a guru – or whatever one wants to call it – in India, although we do now have quite a number of Buddhist communities in the West, and each will have a teacher connected with them. There are also Hindu communities, but I very much doubt there is much of a crossover with Westerners there.
      I have visited a couple of ashrams in India, although not because I had any interest in spending time there, and didn’t feel any attraction, but have also spent some time in Buddhist monasteries and I admit I could have spent longer there just due to the atmosphere of peace.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Buddhist monasteries are truly islands of peace, the world seems far away once inside them. Although Hindu by birth, I’ve practised Buddhism for many years now and can understand why you’re drawn to it. Inner peace is hard won and valuable, especially in these times.🙏🏼

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Carl Jung was keen to this issue a century ago, and typical of him, he came down on both sides of the issue, lambasting those that went east and abandoned their own heritage, yet while providing an amazing introduction to the I Ching, and crediting his insights into synchronicity to have been bolstered by what he learned from that amazing text. Yeah, a fascinating subject. Someday we will not be east or west, north or south, just global.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the interesting thing with religions is not so much where they originate, but what happens to them. Here in the west, one could almost be forgiven for thinking Christianity originated here, it seems so completely westernised. And I know that most Buddhist teachers expect the same to happen with Buddhism.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.