Archive for category Buddhism
The following is a reprint of an article from News Observer.com.
Voices of faith: How can religion help eliminate prejudice?
WE ARE ALL EQUAL
Rushdy El-Ghussein, former president of the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City:
It is natural for people to group together with others who are similar, but this can lead to prejudice and other injustices against those outside the group. Islam is a guide to prevent this tendency.
The primary concept of Islam states that there is only one God who has no partners. All mankind are creations of God and dependent on him equally. The Prophet Muhammad declared that all mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab. Also a white has no superiority over a black, except by piety and good action.
This concept is developed in Islamic acts of worship. In congregational prayers, attendees stand shoulder to shoulder in humbleness and obedience to God. The rich and poor, old and young, leaders and subordinates all form lines, prostrating and worshiping God at the same time and place.
Zakat and other charity are intended to help those in need, and fasting gives some understanding of hunger, resulting in compassion toward the poor. People become more aware of others’ feelings and needs and hopefully more helpful and supportive of others.
During Hajj, Muslims gather from all over the world. Men wear identical simple clothing and all perform the same rites. Malcolm X was transformed when he performed hajj. Muslims are also told to be kind and generous to family and neighbors and to be just in all relationships, regardless of faith.
DIFFERENT PATHS TO GOD
Arvind Khetia, engineer and a Hindu: Prejudice, by definition, is a preconceived negative opinion about another’s race, religion or culture. Prejudice is psychologically damaging and demeaning to its victims and results in injustice, hatred and violence. Thus, prejudice creates a corrosive social environment and consequently consumes all that is essential for social harmony.
Although all religions preach love, equality and social justice, prejudice still persists. At times, religion itself fosters prejudice when it claims to be the only true religion. Such exclusiveness gives a false sense of superiority and breeds prejudice against people of other faiths because it is not recognized that the goal of God-realization can be achieved through different paths.
Hinduism being inclusive believes that people following different spiritual paths are all striving to reach the same goal. Also, Hinduism maintains that despite apparent differences, there is an underlying spiritual unity as the Infinite Self (Atman) is in the heart of all beings. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna states, “When they see the divine in every being and their consciousness is unified by the spiritual practice of meditation and yoga, they see everything with an equal eye.”
Therefore, to eliminate prejudice, one must inform oneself about other religions and cultures with an open mind, interpret religion in its spiritual context and recognize the spiritual oneness of all. Only then can religion put an end to prejudice born of ignorance.
VOICES OF FAITH
Send your questions for one of our panels of religion columnists to Helen Gray at The Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesus was notorious for surrounding himself with the ordinary, the lowly and the unsophisticated, people that we might think of as ‘losers’. This shows Christians that God’s love is not reserved for the beautiful, the wealthy, the powerful – the world’s winners- but that God loves everyone. However, as Christians focus on Jesus as God we tend to forget that he was a rabbi, a teacher, who’s simple message was difficult for many people to grasp. It seemed that the more someone was schooled in religion, the more powerful or affluent, the more thick headed that person was likely to be.
At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
But for the worn out, the tired –the ones looked down upon as stupid and infantile – Jesus’ message seemed to click with them. Somehow the “losers” got it.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Why did Jesus’ message seem to resonate with the lower classes and not with the intelligentsia? Was it simply because they were suffering and desired relief? Was it because they were victims of a collaboration between religion and empire, ready for social change? Or was there more to it than that?
And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
What was Jesus saying here? That he hung out with “sinners” because they needed his healing grace but not with the Pharisees because they already had their act together? Doubtful. More likely he was being sarcastic, pointing out that these ‘simple’ sinners, unencumbered with years of scholarship, lofty ideals and the belief that they owned special knowledge, were open to his teachings. Their minds were not cluttered and weighted own with heavy doctrines and dogmas. After all, they weren’t paid to think.
Unlike their righteous rulers, who understood how the world worked, the ignorant common man suspected that something was not quite right with their lives, that something needed fixing. Today we know that it was the righteous who probably needed fixing the most. So, why didn’t Jesus spend more time with them?
Maybe because he knew it would be a waste of his time. Those who already “know” all the answers are just too hard headed, too rigid, and too afraid to consider many counter intuitive messages. Instead he spent his time with the common people and from them he called his apostles, his best students. Maybe it was harder for an educated, successful man to follow Jesus than it was for that camel to thread the needle.
For that matter, how do we know that Jesus only called those twelve men? Maybe they were the only ones who initially heard his call, hearing something of value in it. Maybe they were the only ones who understood enough of it to teach it. Later, they too became Masters, like Jesus. They proved this with their willingness to sacrifice their own lives rather than lose the Way.
Another teacher, who lived 3000 miles away and 500 years earlier, spoke in ways that pre-echo Jesus’ teachings.
My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail.
My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning?
If you want to know me,
look inside your heart.
Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.
The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.
Perhaps this has some bearing on why Paul and Timothy were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” Could it have been because the word – the Good News about a way of living with and in God – was already being spoken there?
The kingdom of God is available to you in the here and the now. But the question is whether you are available to the kingdom. Our practice is to make ourselves ready for the kingdom so that it can manifest in the here and the now. You don’t need to die in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, you have to be truly alive in order to do so.
Anyone can practice some nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence. To help soldiers move in the nonviolent direction, we have to be in touch with them. If we divide reality into two camps – the violent and the nonviolent – and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact.
It never helps to draw a line and dismiss some people as enemies, even those who act violently. We have to approach them with love in our hearts and do our best to help them move in a direction of nonviolence. If we work for peace out of anger, we will never succeed. Peace is not an end. It can never come about through non-peaceful means.
When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
understand, and you show that you understand, you can
love, and the situation will change
The problem is whether we are determined to go in the direction of compassion or not. If we are, then can we reduce the suffering to a minimum? If I lose my direction, I have to look for the North Star, and I go to the north. That does not mean I expect to arrive at the North Star. I just want to go in that direction.
Thich Nhat Hanh