"Every day I add another piece to the religion that is my own. It's built on years of meditation, chanting, theological study, and the practice of therapy — to me, a sacred activity. But I use my own inspirations, knowledge, taste, and understanding to give shape to this religion that suits the person I am today. I'm a more mature person, I hope, than that boy of thirteen who became a monk, and I need a religion for a grown man in the maturity of his years.

"I don't want to convert anybody to my way, and I don't want followers. Yes, if you want to learn more about what I've discovered you can study with me, but my hope is that you will create a religion of your own. I'd reverse the missionary urge: Instead of converting others, I'd like to help them find their own path.

"Many people, like me, have a background in formal religion or are attached to a particular tradition. You can shape a religion of your own by going deep into your tradition, understanding its more subtle teachings, not being too literal in your interpretations of it, and feeling free to take it in directions that have meaning for you. The main thing is not to be passive with it but actively engaged. It can be a rich resource and a good starting point.

"When you decide to create your own religion, you will want to study the traditions of the formal religions with a fervor you've never known before. You'll discover how valuable they are and how much beauty and wisdom lie in their art and texts and stories and rituals and holy images. You'll want to learn from Buddhist sutras and the Gospel teachings and the Sufi poets and the sayings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. You will be amazed at the beautiful precision of the Kabbalah and the acute spiritual sensitivity of the Qur'an — all because you know what it's like to search for spiritual insight and express your spiritual feelings.

"You may also discover, as I did, that so-called secular literature and art complete your spiritual education. You won't know what religion is until you read Emerson and Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Samuel Beckett and Anne Sexton, D. H. Lawrence, Wordsworth, and W. B. Yeats. You won't know how to be spiritual until you finally know how to listen to J. S. Bach and Arvo Part. You will be astonished at what the painters Lucas Cranach and Rene Magritte can offer your religion. These, of course, are some of my favorites."