Do You Really Mean ALL Paths?
Unity in Frederick on 04 March 2018
SONG (Bob Sima): Sunshine and Blue Skies, from Periphery
That song is a great reminder to me in the season of non-violence. Especially in the aftermath of town hall meetings, protests, and planned non-violent movements following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But as Bob sang, “It all happens for a reason, you see. They just haven’t gotten around to telling you what that reason might be.”
There is no way around the question on everyone’s mind… when will the US see the – now – common phrase “school shooting” removed from our news and our everyday vocabulary? What is our role in bringing forth the sunshine and blue skies in the middle of this particular rain storm? What is ours to do, individually, to bring about change to the collective? What are others doing to bring about change to the collective? And most importantly, can we see and acknowledge a path that is different from our own? Not only different, but what might appear to be in direct opposition to the vision that we hold for non-violence?
Unity churches often mention that they “honor all paths” of all who enter their doors. Let us replace the concept of physical “doors” with the spiritual concept of our personal “consciousness”. As we use our senses to experience the world we live in, we see things with our eyes and hear things with our ears that are seemingly unacceptable to us. Seemingly unacceptable to the path that we choose to walk. But does that make those things truly unacceptable in the grander vision of All Paths?
I don’t claim to be in the know of Universal Law or have the answer to that question that will satisfy the masses. I ask it to place a question on your heart that may trigger you, make you emotional, or even activate you into a blessed unrest of passionate and compassionate action.
Charles Fillmore defined a peacemaker as “One who has the ability to say ‘peace’ to the turbulent waves of thought and have them obey … who reduces to peace and harmony all the thoughts of strife, anger, and retaliation in his own mind.”
Notice that Fillmore refers to finding peace and harmony in one’s “own mind”. If we are searching for world peace out in the world itself, I believe we will be on an insatiable quest. Every world religion speaks of non-violence and inner peace to bring about the ripple effect of peace carried within. Peace and non-violence are therefore synonymous, and suffering is simply the inability to experience peace.
Let’s take a little journey through the major world religions, starting with the oldest, Hinduism. The Bhagavadgita declares that those who do not disturb others and are not disturbed by others are, in turn, closer to God. This state of non-violence is possible only when the three gunas – the qualities that define our personality and behaviors – are in perfect equilibrium or when sattva – a state of harmonious beingness – predominates. A person is violent when the gunas strive for dominance. Therefore the Hindu scriptures encourage the cultivation of sattva, which is the key to experience peace.
When sattva dominates, one becomes peaceful and non-violent and qualifies for liberation, which is the principal goal of human life. Yet liberation cannot be attained until one becomes fully non-violent throughout all of our energetic bodies. Hinduism teaches that when a person transcends the need to hurt any life forms or living beings, including plants, and can also feel the pain and suffering of others without being disturbed by it, they reach the state of perfection. Liberation then follows.
Which leads us into Judaism. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom (שׁלום), which is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness. Its frame of reference throughout Jewish literature is connected to the notion of shelemut, which means perfection or one who is well-rounded, balanced, and unblemished by any defect. Greeting and departing by saying “shalom” is a quick call or blessing to a state of grace in physical form, moral values, cosmic principle, and divine beingness.
In the Talmud, peace is one of the most esteemed values. According to Rabbi Shimon, three things preserve the world: truth, justice, and peace (Avot 1:18). Though peace seems to take precedence over truth, as the Talmud permits deviation from truth in order to establish peace. In addition, there is a whole category of rabbinic ordinances established in the interest of peace, and almost every major Jewish prayer concludes with an appeal for peace. The Midrash to the Book of Exodus states, “He who establishes peace between man and his fellow, between husband and wife, between two cities, two nations, two families or two governments…no harm should come to him” (Mekhilta Bachodesh 12).
Next is Buddhism. Buddhism is founded on non-violence and the development of compassion and loving kindness. The Buddha taught, “Do as much good as possible, avoid harm, and purify your mind.” This sounds very similar to the Hindu and Jewish concepts of perfection and liberation.
Paula Green, Director of the Karuna Center for Social Change, states that “for Buddhists involved in active nonviolence, Buddhism begins but does not end on the meditation cushion. The notion that Buddhism is passive is based on misinformation. One of Buddhism’s unique contributions to today’s nonviolence movement is its emphasis on the importance of spiritual training to develop the self-knowledge and awareness that creates skillful responses in a violent world. Buddhists understand that to heal self and society are one and the same, that inner and outer work are imperative and interrelated. As one engages in confronting society’s violence one must simultaneously acknowledge and tame the violence within the self. Personal and world peace are linked by the thoughts and actions of every human being; in myriad ways we each contribute daily to a violent or to a pleasant world.”
The Buddha was once asked by a disciple, “Would it be true to say that a part of our training is for the development of love and compassion?” The Buddha replied, “No, it would not be true to say this. It would be true to say that the whole of our training is for the development of love and compassion.”
In my opinion, non-violence and peace within Christianity is beautifully summed up by the Vow of Nonviolence composed by Eileen Egan and Rev John Dear:
———Recognizing the violence within my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Yeshua who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…You have learned how it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy’; but I say to you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.”
I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Yeshua:
- by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
- by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;
- by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
- by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.
God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it.———
Finally, we reach Islam. At the end of every formal prayer, practicing Muslims recite: “Our God, You are peace, and peace is from You.” The Arabic term for nonviolence as a life decision is islam. The Arabic term for nonviolence as a method is jihad. The Arabic term for the principle underlying both – decision and method – aspects of nonviolence is tawhid. Tawhid is the affirmation of the unity of God.
As Rabia Harris with the Muslim Peace Fellowship suggests, “For a Muslim, no principles are more basic – or more contested. Peace is an intrinsic attribute of the Ultimately Real. Whoever serves peace, serves God, and will enter the infinite among the servants of God.”
The Qur’an supports that divine call by stating, “O soul at peace, return to your lord well-pleased, well pleasing. Enter among My servants; enter My garden.” Harris continues, “If we do not plant that garden in this world, we will not be harvesting it in the next.”
In today’s world many of us claim to want peace, but our emotions often challenge that idealism. We convince ourselves that hurting or harming others is the only form of violence. When in reality, suffering of all magnitudes and of all forms – mental or physical – constitutes violence. As Fillmore suggests, we will not fully resolve that turbulence until we emerge from our emotional state of self-absorption.
I invite you into meditation. Become comfortable in your seat. Connect with your breath. Close your eyes. And consider where violence lives in your own heart. Not only the limited definition of violence that causes physical injury to another living entity, but the thoughts and emotions and impurities of your own mind that cause friction or callous or conflict within your spirit. The concepts that create a belief that your chosen path is the only path that will lead the world into a state of grace, a state of peace. Where are those concepts birthed? When do those concepts get triggered? When do you find yourself so disturbed by another that you are unable to find your own inner peace?
SONG (Bob Sima): Grateful World, from It’s Time
Bob opened the song mentioning fear as the suppressor of love and greed as the thief of the flow of life itself. Yet the resolve came through medicine – a prayer on the wind and a kiss on the land. Because as we allow ourselves to connect to the natural and unseen worlds that sustain human life on earth, we deepen our connection to our self. We open the door for peace within our mind, our heart, our words, our eyes, our spirit, our soul. We can then more deeply connect to the greater Self, the higher Intelligence, the All, Source, God. Call it whatever name causes every cell in your being to fill with Unconditional Love. From this place, we can vision the truly magnificent and grateful world that is available to support all of our prayers. For love. For peace.
Paulo Coelho, in Manuscript Found in Accra:
Your enemies are not the adversaries who were put there to test your courage. They are the cowards who were put there to test your weakness.
Have you ever wondered if the acts of violence that humanity has experienced over millennia are divine acts that purposefully trigger societies into action? Have you ever pondered if every act that we see as terror and fanatic and extremism are divinely inspired to raise the consciousness of the observers ready to make a shift in consciousness? Have you ever considered that every horrific act was methodically designed to test our weakness… to question it, to recognize it, to surface it, and to evolve beyond it? Have you ever asked yourself if these school shootings are intrinsic to the spiritual evolution of humanity, because without them we would not question our own spirituality and desire for inner peace? Have you ever really and truly questioned if ALL paths – violent or non-violent – are actually necessary?
Let me revisit a question I posed at the beginning of my talk: When we experience something that we label “unacceptable”, does it make it unacceptable in the Absolute sense? As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have the answer. But this is a question that I continue to ask myself.
If God is in every energetic particle of every thing on and within the Universe, I can’t help but believe that the ultimate ideal of non-violence, compassion, loving kindness, and world peace will only be revealed when we reach that state of grace, of perfection, of complete non-disturbance with everything inside and outside of us. These are all part of all basic religious teachings – highlighted today and referenced beyond this message.
Do YOU really mean ALL paths?
SONG (Bob Sima): If Your Hand Was in Mine, from The Movers The Shakers and The Peacemakers