The highest hope for humanity lies in everyone evolving toward an attitude of tolerance and mutual acceptance based on respect and the recognition of our inherent underlying unity.
The title of this essay uses ‘versus’-ironically implying it is an argument. However, I propose that universal unity is not an argument but rather a positive basis for productive and beneficial discussion.
At present, the general tendency is for any ‘true believer’ to dispute over who has the right answers to questions that are ultimately unanswerable.
Truth remains truth no matter who believes what. Yet no one can prove which version of truth captures the whole truth.
This reminds me of a traditional spiritual teaching story, where four difference blind men are trying to describe an elephant by the limited input of what they feel with their hands. One describes the trunk, one the tail, another the torso and yet another the feet. All are correct in their perceptions, though their descriptions differ drastically. They argue, unaware that no single one of them describes the whole elephant.
Rather than concentrating on differences and points of contention, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus our attention on the positive factors that connect us all?
Recently, an atheist friend said to me, “Not one priest or prophet can prove a god exists…all such belief has been taken on faith.”
I responded, “The same could be said of the non-existence of God. No scientist, rationalist or atheist can prove God does not exist-and such a conviction is a form of faith, too. I think taking a strong stance against religion can be as negative and divisive as taking a strong stand between religions. Rather than arguing over differences, why not focus on our common ground?”
What is a common ground that includes both atheists and religious or spiritual believers of all kinds? What positive factors connect us, no matter what we believe or disbelieve? What does everyone benefit from, no matter who or where we are? What remains the same regardless of which angle of perspective it is viewed from?
I think the answer to the latter question is easy: unconditional selfless love.
For the other three questions, I think a practical assessment may prove optimal. An obvious common ground is the ground itself-the Earth. Our current destructive lifestyles and negative tendencies may endanger existence itself. It is in everyone’s mutual best interest for us to learn to nurture the planet (and each other) rather than neglect or abuse Mother Earth.
Unconditional love can serve as an ideal remedy for the dire state we find ourselves in, both in terms of Earth-issues and the contention between rival religions. It has the power to dissolve factors like greed, selfishness, hatred and division that contribute to the Earth’s predicament, the misunderstandings between people, and cultural clashes.
Understanding our underlying unity helps us realize what happens to one affects the whole. A holistic worldview holds no room for war, corruption or enmity. Should enough people radically alter their worldview from ‘segregated’ to ‘holistic’, the shift in attitudes that would collectively ensue could prove as miraculous as giving sight to those four blind men describing the elephant.
When viewed with a panoramic lens of perception, the collective synergy of all constitutes the ‘whole vision’.
A Holistic Paradigm, Rooted in Love
While it might sound both unrealistic and idealistic to think all humanity capable of embracing a holistic worldview, I think it is worth striving for.
We might find ourselves surprised by how receptive those whom we consider ‘opponents’ might prove if given the chance.
I would like to share a vignette about an encounter I had that illustrates how pure love has the power to transform people’s attitudes.
The story takes place in New York City, but first I need to share a bit about my Guru, Amma. I’ve been living in my Guru’s ashram in Kerala, India, for almost two-and-a-half decades.
Amma, has become an internationally recognized leader in spirituality, and her vast charitable network and humanitarian activities earned her the Gandhi-King award from the United Nations as well as many other awards from various institutions. The media and press refer to her as “The Hugging Saint” as she has hugged over thirty million people with her unconditional divine embrace.
Amma’s followers consider her an embodiment of unconditional love.
A Personal Story About the Transformative Power of Love
The incident I wish to share occurred about fifteen years ago. I had been traveling on Amma’s six-week tour of the US.
The programs in New York City, my hometown, took place in the Universalist Church on Central Park West, right next to the building I had lived in as a teen. My job was to greet new people and help orient them to the way Amma’s darshan worked. One day, a man dressed in a fancy suit, who looked like someone from Wall Street, approached me with a frowning face.
“Good morning, Sir, would you like a program?” I smiled at him and proffered a small brochure.
He swiped the brochure away with distaste and barked, “I don’t want to know about Amma. Just want to see my daughter.”
“Who is your daughter? Maybe I know her?”
“Do you live in India?”
“So does my daughter. I’ve not seen her in years.”
Turns out I knew her and she was a friend of mine (her name is left out for privacy purposes). “I can get her for you, as I know where she is posted. Just wait ten minutes until my shift is over.” I gestured toward a chair perched inside the entrance.
He grumbled and sat down. “No time to wait. I have things to do,” he muttered with knit brows.
He’s seems a lot like my own dad. Observing his impatient posture and condescending air, I thought perhaps all he needed was some kindness and compassion. After all, Amma’s amazing presence cannot be understood unless felt. His negative attitude blocked the flow of grace.
A few minutes later the flow of arrivals waned. I walked up to the suited man and in a casual tone asked, “Sir, why not look at this brochure while you wait? It might help you understand more what your daughter’s doing.”
He glared in response and frowned, tight-lipped.
“It’s your choice, of course.” I looked to the side and waved in greeting to a new arrival. Someone else started handing them a brochure. Ah, seems Amma wants me to keep talking to this guy. I turned back to my friend’s stern dad. I looked at the floor so he would not feel accosted. “I’ve always wished me own father would come meet Amma instead of berating her from afar. But I can’t blame him. How can he know who she is without experiencing her love directly?” I paused and glanced at his expression, which had relaxed a notch-barely imperceptible. He’s softening!
Just then someone tripped over his foot and his impatience flared back. “I’m sick of waiting here.” He sighed. “If you cannot go find my daughter right now, I’ll do it myself.” He stood up.
My shift-replacement arrived on the spot that instant and took the brochures from me. I smiled at them and then at the man. “Seems I am free now. Come with me, I’ll take you to her.”
He looked startled and the relieved. “Okay.” He started walking behind me. “Thank you,” he whispered.
My friend seemed stunned to see him there. She and I exchanged knowing looks, as she was aware of how negative my own father had been when it came to talking about Amma.
A few hours later, I sat meditating right next to Amma as she hugged each visitor. I opened my eyes after about half an hour and got a shock when I spied my friend’s dad approaching in the queue to meet Amma. There were about five people ahead of him in the line. What startled me were not only his unlikely presence there, but also the obvious transformation evident in his countenance.
Instead of a shrewd, stern businesslike manner, his facial expression looked as open and innocent as a baby.
Astonished to see him in the line at all, I felt fascinated by his transformation. As he knelt to enter Amma’s embrace, his face was only about ten inches from my own, and our eyes met for a split second. My hairs stood on end. His eyes were moist with tears of gratitude.
In the middle of the long hug Amma gave him, he burst into tears and bawled without reservations, utterly open and vulnerable.
It was an epiphany for me as much as it was for him. The cathartic release of his fear and negativity made his face glow and become beautiful, even. So that’s what hides inside my father, too, I thought as I wiped away a single tear traversing my cheek. Amma broke his outer shell. She introduced him to his soul.
Unconditional Love is the Key to Solving All Conflicts
I believe all people have the potential to function from a fundamental level of interconnection-a state that cannot be communicated simply through ideas-yet it can be experienced when one’s heart is open.
It is within this holistic vision that all religions and paradigms of belief coincide.
It is like the safe zone in a game of tag. Standing within that circle of love, it is impossible to view others as enemies or rivals.
All actions stemming from those shared roots-sourced in loving acceptance-could serve to bridge the gaping cultural divides prevalent in today’s world.