"Imagine No Religion"
by George Pitagorsky
Recently a 94 year old woman was reported by the police to have been paralyzed from the waist down and stabbed several times by members of a mob of Buddhists on a rampage to kill Muslims. The abbot of a Buddhist monastery reported the killing as a ruse by Muslims to make Buddhists look bad. The chief of police, a Buddhist, acknowledged that it was Buddhists, but denied using the word cruel to characterize the crime because he didn't want to take sides. Buddhist religious leaders are preaching hatred and motivating their followers to drive Muslims from their country, out of fear that the Muslims will take over.
This boggles the mind and pains the heart and yet is so common in history that no one should be surprised by it.
Religious leaders preach hatred of the members of another religion and their followers go on killing sprees. Maybe I am surprised that this time it is Buddhist monks preaching hatred, but why should I be? Greed, hatred and ignorance are universal poisons found in followers of every religion, along with the antidotes, love, compassion and wisdom.
Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus killing one another, Protestants killing Catholics and Sunnis killing Shiites, Ultra-Orthodox Jews turning children against less religious parents. It is the dark side of religion.
All religions preach non-harming. Yet they all seem to make exceptions when it comes to perceived outsiders.
Any belief system that supports the idea that its adherents are better, wiser or more in line with the Truth, sows the seeds of hatred. As long as there is sense of us and them, there is the likelihood that "them" will be demonized or pitied in some way at some time. That will inevitably lead to violence or at the very least discrimination.
"Imagine No Religion."
I don't think John Lennon meant no ethical principles, no kindness, no compassion or no rituals for experiencing Oneness. He did not mean no prayer, no teachings and practices to improve the individual and make for healthy relationships.
I think he meant that it is time to stop thinking that it matters what Religion a person says he or she follows. It is time for good hearted people who believe that the principles embedded in and underlying their religion are the important things, as opposed to whether others practice in one way or another. As long as one religion teaches its followers that converting others is holy or that others are bound for hell, there is war. As long as one religion teaches that its way is the only way, there is war.
Mahatma Gandhi said "Truth is one, paths are many." When we look beyond the surface of empty ritual and misinterpretation we find that religions are about using skillful means to cultivate loving kindness, compassion, peace, social stability and the wisdom to see the big picture. Religions seek to overcome the poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance. The words and the techniques may be different but the ultimate goal is the same. When the words and techniques become the main focus and the ultimate goal and its values are forgotten, Religion loses its power, its leaders become corrupt and its followers lost.
My Christmas, Chanukah, Solstice, Kwanza and New Year's wish is:
May we see the dissolving of ideas and institutions that divide people;
May we promote the ideals of loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy for all beings, no matter who or what they are;
May we see a time when religious leaders teach their followers that there are many ways, not one way, to follow a path to Heaven, Nirvana or Paradise and live a righteous life on the way.
Jesus was not a Christian. The Buddha was not a Buddhist.
When we acknowledge our oneness and open our hearts, perhaps we can resolve the problems we face as co-dwellers on our planet and actually follow the words and examples of God, saints, avatars, and the many wisdom holders who continuously remind us of the highest values and aspirations.
� 2013 George Pitagorsky Top