George S. Ledyard wrote:
These days we have a split occurring in our country in which increasing numbers of people describe themselves as "not religious" but as "spiritual". This individual re-invention of the individual's spirituality has both positives and negatives. The danger is that with people being able to pick and choose whatever hodge-podge of ideas they believe in, one can find that practice becomes less about bringing oneself into accord with the Will of the Kami but more about structuring ones views to fit ones pre-conceptions.
I come from a traditional Catholic background, but I believe that this sentiment is as true in that tradition as it is in Zen, Shingon, Tendai, Shinto or any other spiritual exercise of any useful duration.
Longevity is a test of utility in any spiritual exercise -- that is living tradition.
I would note too, and this echoes Ledyard Sensei, that the root meaning of "religion" is Latin "religere" = "to bind fast" or "to moor" as with a boat. To lose religion is to lose the things that bind us to one another. But even considering it indivdually the loss of religious tradition, of all kinds, is concerning.
Tradition is the keel of the boat, mystic contemplation the sails.
Many first realize the need for spirtual support in dire times. With tradition the boat can be steered safely away from rocks even when you find yourself directly upwind of them. Without tradition the boat will inexorably be blown downwind and end up on the rocks. The wind of spirit neither cares about nor is impacted by the rocks. You are not so lucky. With tradition you can steer your way toward safe harbor from storms.
If your situation is less precarious, you may not realize the peril so soon, but the boat lacks the same control before the inexorable wind of spirit. You may simply be swept out to sea, far from your necessary support, drown in the upset of unsheltered tempests or merely die of thirst surrounded by unending, and undrinkable water.
Spiritual exercises are not trifles or things to be dallied with unwisely. They change you. Wisdom exists in traditions and the experiences (good and bad) of others (wise or foolish) that they make available to learn from. Spirituality apart from a viable tradition is exceedingly dangerous.