The rituals of religions across the world are deemed to be sacred by those who practice them. These acts of holiness are believed to bring us closer to our Divine Creator. During this time of year, the winter months, we find celebrations of many types being shared by families and friends of various traditions. One must wonder, however, by focusing on these particular actions, have we lost something greater in our good intentions?
In every tradition, there are tenets that are squirreled away in our holy books and revered teachings that are expounded on the pulpit, but are forgotten by many in our day-to-day lives, even during the holiday season.
The following are examples of teachings of tolerance, patience, and acceptance in various traditions.
Some refer to this as the Golden Rule by which, if we live within its guidance, we will find true happiness. This Christian teaching from the Holy Bible, has grown beyond those of this general belief system, to be applied by many, even those who identify themselves as agnostic or atheist, as a great rule of thumb by which to live. Remembering another’s needs for dignity, truth, love, and charity, seems to invite the best in us to shine toward our brothers and sisters. It is not just this biblical entry, however, that inspires us to remember this thought.
In one of the earliest revelations in Makkah, the Holy Islamic Prophet, Mohammed, revealed,
1. By the time!
2. Surely man is in loss,
3. Except those who believe and do good, and exhort one another to Truth, and exhort one another to patience.” – Qu’ran 103:1-3
This message asks us to have faith in God, speak of that faith, be generous in our willingness to understand those around us. What a powerful message for anyone who happens to believe in anything whatsoever.
Through the Lord’s messenger, Mormon, as he communicates to his son, Moroni, the Saints from the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are advised to prepare the way for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ with this quote found in the Book of Mormon:
“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against…those… that turn aside the stranger… saith the Lord of Hosts.” 3 Nephi 24:5
When one turns another away in their time of need, clearly God is saying that judgment will be met against them. When we see another person’s hand longing for comfort, fraternity, or assistance, we are called upon to see them and act lovingly.
In the Tanakh, the Jewish Book of Mosaic law, we read,
When you have the power to do it [for him].
28 Do not say to your fellow, “Come back again;
I’ll give it to you tomorrow,” when you have it with you.
29 Do not devise harm against your fellow
Who lives trustfully with you.
30 Do not quarrel with a man for no cause,
When he has done you no harm.” – Proverbs 3:27-30.
Again, we are faced with how we approach our brothers and sisters with a charitable heart. We are asked to find peace and generosity to those who have treated us accordingly.
While Buddhism has a collection of book on which it is based called the Dhamma, Buddha himself taugh orally, as did Jesus Christ. Buddhist philosophies and foci on their essence of truth is well reflected in the fourth Noble Truth, which is the path leading to Nirvana. This is the Buddha’s Middle Path, which is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path because of its eight components:
Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, Right Thought and Right Understanding (which includes the realization of the Four Noble Truths).
In attaining these eight “right” conditions, one finds ultimate peace within and that peace is reflected without, affecting all those around him or her.
The Upanishads, the scriptures of the Hindu tradition of Vedanta, show us that when we recognize that we and our brothers are one in the atman, or self, we will see no difference in one another. When we see that there is no separation between two parts of the greater spirit, any good we do for others, we also do for ourselves, as well.
14. “For where there is duality, one smells another, one sees another, one hears another, one speaks to another, one thinks of another, one knows another. But where everything in one has become self, how can one smell—and whom? How can one see—and whom? How can one hear—and whom? How can one speak—and to whom? How can one think—and of whom? How can one know—and whom? How can one know that by which one knows all this? How can one know the knower?” – Brhadaranyaka Upanishad: The Great Forest Teaching: Book 2 Part II 11.4:14
The last eight words in the Rede of Wicca, the Earth-based religion, we find the following:
“And, it harm none.” It is a complete statement that we can bring harm to not one person in our actions. When we are sure we will not injure anyone else, then we are free to act as we choose.
Every tradition has a variation on the theme of unity, recognition of others as connected to us, and a call for peace, caring, and understanding.
One must ask the following question, “How is it possible that when from every corner of the globe we are offered the same message, we still continue to ignore, maim, and kill our brothers and sisters for our own selfish reasons?”
Divine Creator has spoken through every language to say the same thing over and over again. Nature has shown us that when one species annihilates another species, the destroyers, too, die from lack of food, thereby teaching us once again that we must care for those around us.
We are all diminished by selfishness and forgetfulness of others. We are all enriched by reaching out to one another in love, compassion, understanding, and peace. Even those who watch these acts of kindness and cruelty are impacted by what they see.
So, as we celebrate our sacred winter holidays and as we approach 2010, let us call to mind how many ways we can encourage joy for others, radiate peace toward others, build compassion in others, and share these qualities from within ourselves with others.
Let us remember one another in love, peace, and harmony.