September 1, 2014

Whatever Your Name: on religious tolerance and acts of terrorism

Written in response to to the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2002.

All world religions offer this spiritual solution to the problems that confront all humanity, this Path to salvation. Those who choose other hateful solutions have left their religion's Path. Yet, as we lament their misguided decisions and terrible acts, we must remember to feel compassion for the sinner even as we condemn the sin. Understanding karma as we do, we must pity them for their weakness and their lack of faith in the God they profess to serve.

Whatever Your name, Shiva, Vishnu,
the Genius who inspired Scherazade,
Savior of the Jains,
the pure Buddha, lotus-born God,
I am sick. The world is my disease,
and You are the cure,
You, You, You, You, You, You, You.

-- Layla (translated by C. Barks)

In times of such national tragedy we need to remember our common source of consolation. The hatred that brought about the destruction of the World Trade Center and the myriad lives that have been lost is a symptom of disease, the sickness that follows whenever we turn away from our common source of love.

We not only share a common spiritual existence, we are the same existence. As John Donne wrote, "And when [the Church] buries a man, that action concerns me, for we are all of one Author - a single volume. In this story of our existence, if one man dies, that chapter is not deleted from the story as if it never existed ... it is translated into another, better, language. Every chapter of every man's life is so translated: some by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation; and his hand will assemble all our scattered pages again so that we may reside in that library where all the books will be open to one-another."

The human psyche is of the nature that it always must abide in something. When it does not abide in God, it abides in objects of passion; and when an archetype such as the enemy shadow is involved, the Devil raises his whip indiscriminately to lash convenient enemies. This is what we see with terrorist mentalities. They have turned away from God to embrace evil.

Zen requires that we strive for equanimity in our lives. We all feel the forces of anger and fear. We all feel negative emotions arise in us from the depths of our being. But we are bound by the Precepts to which we have pledged our lives to uncover the causes of this fear and anger, to expose these emotions to the light of reason, and softly to eradicate them. This is the only way we can become immune to their power over us. This is the essence of any mystical discipline.

All world religions offer this spiritual solution to the problems that confront all humanity, this Path to salvation. Those who choose other hateful solutions have left their religion's Path. Yet, as we lament their misguided decisions and terrible acts, we must remember to feel compassion for the sinner even as we condemn the sin. Understanding karma as we do, we must pity them for their weakness and their lack of faith in the God they profess to serve.

And also we must be mindful not to blame innocent members of a religion for the actions of those who claim association with the innocent. We must leave retribution to our leaders, hoping that their response will not be based on anger but on the need to bring to justice those responsible both for committing these acts and for sanctioning and facilitating them.

Meanwhile we mourn. We pray and we wait.
What Allah said to the Rose
And caused it to laugh in full blown beauty,
He said to my heart
And made it a hundred times more beautiful.

- J. Rumi

Articles by Chuan Zhi

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