United We Stand

(Presented originally at the International Day of Prayer for Peace 2011)

I greet you with the Sanskrit blessing, “Namaste!!”  It’s used quite often and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but do you know what it really means?  With just that one word we sum up all of this wonderful blessing:

“I honor the place in you where Spirit lives

I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,

When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me,

Then we are One.”

“We are One”.  What a powerful thought, that we are all One.  It can be hard to remember that underneath all of the superficial differences, we are indeed, One.  I have lived around the world, seen a great many things, met a lot of different looking people—and yet, always there are the constant themes of life.  No matter your skin color, your language, your customs, there is always family, work, and home.  There is school, friends, and romance.  There are mothers and fathers and babies and grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.  There is birth, life and death.

Everyone is seeking to meet the same basic needs as the next person—food, shelter, a place in the tribe, even if the “tribe” is a nation.  Everyone is seeking to find some reason for their life, to answer for themselves the eternal questions of “why are we here” and “what does it all mean”.

And we should seek those answers, and we should look for Truth, wherever we may find it.  Some may tell you that the truth is to gain a lot of physical wealth or own the biggest car; others will say that having others to do your work and living off of their effort is the truth.  Some people say that truth requires condemnation or belittling those who are different and who do not acknowledge your truth. Yet others say that truth requires killing those who do not agree with you.  Is this really truth?

Of course not.  Truth, with that capital “t”, the sacred Truth of the Universe, is the word I began with: Namaste.  I honor in you that which is sacred, that which is Truth, and Light, and Peace and Love.  Sacred Truth brings peace and an end to strife; it opens doors, not slams them shut.  It accepting of all life, all people.  It welcomes diversity because variety is interesting but more importantly, we know a thing by its opposite.  We would not need a word for day if there was no night.  Yet the day is not somehow more superior to the night any more than night outweighs day in importance.  We need both.

So it is with people.  No one is inherently superior.  We are all sacred beings with as much right to exist as any other being.  In fact, as one of my most favorite sayings goes, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.  We share this human experience with each other, learning from our own lives as well as from the others around us.  Through conversation, whether an intimate one on one chat, a group of people in discussion or on a worldwide thread of web logs and social networks, we talk about what it means to be having this human experience and we share the information with all who will listen.

What does this information tell us?  Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing: that we are one, that the differences that we think are so important, so impervious, so set in concrete…are as fragile as a wisp of smoke, as ethereal as the fading whistle of a faraway train.  They are so minute as to be hardly worth all of the effort we put into keeping them in place.  Any difference we could ever discern has been a source of dissension at some point in our history—and we keep pointing them out.

But if those differences in skin color or race, financial status or sexual orientation are not a reason to consider oneself to be superior or another being to be inferior, then neither is your spiritual path.  We are all seeking the Sacred, even though we use different words and different ways of getting there.  As the saying goes, there are many roads for the journey but only a single destination.  The words we use to describe this are, in the end, worthless because we are all trying to describe something that is beyond words, beyond our human capabilities to comprehend.  Even the act of naming the Sacred diminishes it, makes it a “concept of the sacred” rather than a clear and concise object we can show, touch and see.  Yet we know that the Sacred exists because we can see it all around us, in each other and in ourselves.  It therefore unites us as the sacred, spiritual beings that we are and strive to be.  It makes us, in a word, ONE.

If we are indeed one, then I am you and you are me.  It is in my own best interest to protect the rights and liberties of all, to defend the weak and to lend aid to those who need it.  How can I not demand justice for all when I am a part of that all?  How can I condone tyranny, loss of human rights or anything else that denies the sacred union of life?  I want to share with you a statement by Martin Niemöller, a German pastor.  He spoke these words about the inactivity of the German intellectuals when the Nazis came to power, but I am substituting the names of groups who are being persecuted today in place of the groups he named.  Even with this change, it continues to send a most powerful message:

“First they came for the homosexuals

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a lesbian.

Then they came for the immigrants

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an illegal alien.

Then they came for the people who fought against their cruel governments

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a political activist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

And so I speak out now, to ask that we learn to put aside our meaningless labels and the descriptions that separate; to let go of outmoded ways of perceiving our fellow travelers on this wonderful journey; to always look into another’s eyes and see the bright shining Sacred Being who is looking back at us.

“I honor the place in you where Spirit lives

I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,

When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me,

Then we are One.”

Namaste!

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