Thursday, February 12, 2009

the golden rule

Tzu-king asked,

“Is there a single word which can be a guide to conduct throughout one’s life?’

The Master said, “It is perhaps:
Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.” (Analects of Confucius)

friday, 12 feb, 09

The spirit of Swami Satyananda is still alive here, especially among the older folks. They all still speak of his vision in similar words, that for him the central focus needed to be on spirituality. But along with that finding the truth that all religions share was a focus of his from his youngest days. And so a great focus on the Golden Rule, “Do not do unto others what you yourself would not want done to you,” and more recently the Global Ethic as pioneered by Hans Kung. Swami-ji decided that he had to do something proactive as well. Hence, with the encouragement and help of Mother Mangalam, he started this orphanage in 1952. It does boil down to Jesus’ own teaching about the greatest commandment, which is really two: Love the Lord your God with all your strength––spirituality; and love your neighbor as yourself.

That reminds me, how impressed I was by President Obama’s remarks at National Prayer Breakfast February 6th, and I wanted to reprint them in full here.
There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next – and some subscribe to no faith at all.

But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.

We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads, “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue. Sometimes, it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve ancient hatreds. And that requires a living, breathing, active faith. It requires us not only to believe, but to do – to give something of ourselves for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world.

In this way, the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.
* * *

I’m leaving today for a retreat with the WCCM in Genting Highlands. I’m leaving just in time: Mother has been spoiling me rotten. She keeps sending women up with more and more things for me to eat. (As if on sue, as I was typing that, a woman showed up at my door with a tin of tea made with roasted and boiled cumin seeds and curry leaves––“good for digestion and the liver,” the accompanying note says, and a contained of some kind of brilliant purple exotic tropical fruit.) She has been a marvelous host, and this has been a very good stay for me, especially since I have been able to get in touch in a deep way again with India’s immense contribution to me in terms of practical spirituality, both through the ambiance, the time for prayer and meditation, and all the reading that I have been able to do here.

Here’s the full quote from Sri Aurobindo that I cited on Tuesday, that I have found very affirming, and is sure to turn into a conference at some point:
An ordinary person who wishes to reach God through knowledge must undergo an elaborate training. One must begin by becoming absolutely pure, one must thoroughly cleanse the body, the heart and the intellect, one must get oneself a new heart and be born again; for only the twice born can understand or teach the (scriptures). When one has done this, one need four things before succeeding: the Sruti or recorded revelation, the Sacred Teacher, the practice of Yoga and the Grace of God.