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Excerpted from It's a Meaningful Life by Bo Lozoff. Copyright © 2000 by Bo Lozoff. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"The great faiths have consistently made it clear that our internal work and external work are interdependent and never fully separable."

Bo Lozoff, It's a Meaningful Life, Part 4

So each of us has an essential choice to make: Do we trust a growing modern notion that life is chaotic, random, and morally neutral, with no greater significance than whatever we ascribe to it? Life's a bitch and then you die. He who dies with the most toys wins. Or do we choose to trust the compass of the sages and saints -- that life has profound meaning, and each one of us can touch the Divine. If so, it makes sense to familiarize ourselves with some of the classic maps and rules of the road, and make sure we are on a path we believe is a good one.

Many years ago, my wife, Sita, and I chose to take our chances with the teachings of the sages and saints. The more we studied and practiced, the more we noticed that every great religion or wisdom tradition revolved around the same two main principles, one dealing with internal spirituality and the other dealing with external spirituality:

1. The internal principle says that each of us, in silence and solitude, can touch and eventually merge into the Divine Essence deep within us. We could call this principle Communion. Religions may differ on their names or ideas for what it is that we commune with, but they all agree that through diligence and earnestness, we can commune with the Highest Force imaginable, whatever we may wish to call it.

2. The external principle all the religions share is a simple ethic about how we are to regard others. We are instructed to love and respect all of creation, to be forgiving and compassionate and generous, and to dedicate our lives to the common good rather than merely to personal success. A universal word to describe this principle is Community. We are to have a spirit of Community as the primary motivation to guide our lives.

While Rumiís "one task" may seem to suggest that perhaps Communion is the only important goal, the great faiths have consistently made it clear that our internal work and external work are interdependent and never fully separable. Without loving and caring for others, most of us stand little chance of communing with God, no matter how many years we may spend in silent prayer. Service to Godís creation is a potent form of prayer. Communion and Community may be seen as the common twofold prescription written by the great religions as the means to fulfill our "one task" of God-realization.

Great figures like Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Teresa of Avila, Ramakrishna, Baíal Shem Tov, and countless others have left behind a wealth of teachings, stories, practices, and examples that show us how to balance the principles of Communion and Community so we donít get completely lost in the confusing maze of worldly life.  Such practical guidance abounds; we are not left alone to figure out how to live spiritually.

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