Kathleen Norris asked these questions of fellow writers at a literary gathering and faced their anger for even raising the subject of religion at a writers' conference. She looks at these questions in an essay on Religious Inheritance in her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. The essay concludes saying:
A young man I know was stunned when he went to Thailand and tried to join a Buddhist monastery. Go back home and become a Christian monk first, they told him, learn your own tradition.
At an interreligious conference of Buddhists and Christians monastics held not long ago in a Trappist monastery, a reporter asked the Dalai Lama what he would say to Americans who want to become Buddhists. "Don't bother," he said. "Learn from Buddhism, if that is good for you. But do it as a Christian, a Jew, or whatever you are. And be a good friend to us."
Sit with this a while. What in his comment outrages or repels you? What attracts you? Where do you find yourself resisting what he says? Where do you find yourself assenting? And where does it lead? The Dalai Lama is not Miss America, and does not say what we want to hear. His remarks go to the painful paradox at the heart of religious inheritance: "whatever you are" is what you are born to and raised in. What matters is transformation, the life you make of it. And that is up to you.