I always wanted to learn to speak another language. But I didn't live where another language was spoken. So I studied Spanish in high school and later in college. But I found that learning a language was very difficult. I could only really learn to speak Spanish if I lived where Spanish was spoken. Not only that, I learned that the "thought world" of Spanish speaking people was somewhat different from my thought world, so I had to learn about that also and become familiar with the culture that evolved the language. Only then could I begin to learn to "speak" Spanish.

Reading ancient texts like the Bible or the Upanishads or the Tao Te Ching is every bit as difficult as learning another language with the added problem that these ancient scriptures are outgrowths of cultural settings we no longer have any identification with. We have no chance of understanding them without years of study under a qualified teacher and without familiarity with the communities of which they are a part. We can't truly understand the Bible outside of the community that "speaks the Bible". We can't understand Buddhist scriptures outside of Buddhist communities.

There is a story in the Book of Acts about an Ethiopian official who was reading from the Book of Isaiah. Because he was not a member of the Jewish community of faith, he was unable to understand what the book was saying. It was only when Philip, one of the disciples of Jesus, explained it to him that he was able to understand. (Acts 8:26-37)

Study of the ancient texts is an integral part of spiritual discipline. It is impossible to be a disciple without this discipline. It's also impossible to be a disciple without a qualified, disciplined and knowledgeable teacher. This means becoming an active member of a community of faith.


Find a faith community and sign up for an introductory class. Ask lots of questions and if your questions aren't received well, find another group.

SECOND, find a qualified teacher to study the scripture with. Remember that all people are not equally qualified. Keep an open mind. You will probably be surprised at what you read and may discover you have heard a lot of things that will not be borne out by what you read. You will also discover many wonderful things you never dreamed were there.

THIRD, pray for guidance.

My background is as a Christian pastor so that's how I walk the Tao. In studying other religions, I have discovered much that is very familiar. I have become a better Christian by learning about the eastern religions in particular and that there is much commonality in what the different religions teach. There are some things I believe other religions teach better than my own religion. At the same time, Jesus has much more in common with Buddha than with many popular religious interpretations of him. The Tao of Christ is an outgrowth of my understanding that Jesus Christ truly is a universalist figure and no religion, not even Christianity, can have a monopoly on him. Nor can a single narrow interpretation or theology of his life and teachings capture who he was and what he did and what it means for us.

If the pathway you intend to walk is Christian, then it is essential that you study the Bible. There are lots of ways to read the Bible, but don't try to start with the first book and read straight through. I'd recommend you start with the gospels of MARK and JOHN. These are accounts of Jesus' life and ministry by different authors, and they include different material. Together, they give a pretty complete picture.

I'd read GENESIS next. Incredible stories and some of the world's best literature. We can't understand western civilization without them. Try reading it out loud for the full effect. And the PSALMS are a must. Use them for devotions - one a day, at least.

An excellent way to read the Bible is to follow the Commentaries on the Revised Common Lectionary. This is a series of scriptures that are read on Sunday in many churches. This is an excellent link with commentaries that will help you get started.