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What is a tradition? The classic dictionary definition is

Tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way… To transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.

Traditions have symbolic meaning or special significance, with some of them being more special to us than others. Traditions can help add color, light, sound, taste and flavor to our occasionally mundane lives. As we go and grow through life and spend time with different cultures, and their ways of doing certain things, we may also have an opportunity to absorb their traditions and enhance our own.

However, there are hurdles that face our traditions. For instance, when crossing national boundaries, the desire of immigrants to preserve traditions can become a challenge. This is particularly true when the cultures of the immigrant and the host country are vastly different. One choice is to compromise – to bend but not break, to allow the tradition to flex, and be infused with the fragrance of the new culture. Some of us may be resistant to assimilate the traditions of the societies we live in – for fear of losing our past traditions. We may choose to be hard, non-compromising and rigid in our attitude. This may keep the tradition(s) pure for a little while, but invites the inevitable conflict(s) within families and communities.

Religion and its practices are well-known for their affinity for tradition(s). Holidays, celebrations and festivals are opportunities to renew old traditions, and, on occasion, establish some new ones. The memories and records of these traditions in our lives become intertwined with, and may even surpass the religious significance of these celebrations! The traditions can hence become the means with which to preserve those specific values which the particular religious community wants to nourish and grow.

A traditional Rangoli decoration for ‘Diwali’ – India’s ‘Festival of Lights’

Photo by S. Majumdar / CC BY 2.0

In a spiritual context, we my inherit certain practices, and we may develop some of our own as we weave our way through life. How can we decide which of these practices will eventually become traditions which we may want to preserve? How do we preserve our own traditions, while remaining open to the traditions of others? Do you feel that this need to preserve traditions is a ‘red-herring’, a distraction on our spiritual journey? Or do you feel that this is part of our purpose, our mission, our legacy?

I invite you to reflect on this topic, and then join us in our weekly #SpiritChat on Sunday, November 3rd 10th at 9amET on twitter. Share your thoughts, and some of your traditions with us. These Sunday morning conversations on spirituality have almost become a tradition for many – I hope you will get to meet some of these good folks! Namaste.


P.S. I invite you to test out the special chat site developed by @tchatio for #SpiritChat at http://chat.spiritchat.org – we hope to ‘filter’ the displayed chat stream of any ‘non-traditional’ visitors during the live chat 😉