This Saturday, I'm participating in a panel discussion with a group of faith leaders at the Heartfulness Meditation Center in Cleveland. The theme of the event is "Achieving Community Harmony Amongst Various Traditions and Paths."
It's a noble idea; getting everyone to live and work together in peace. And I've spent the last two weeks agonizing over what I'll contribute to the discussion. After lots of meditation, and a few sleepless nights this is what I came up with:
Buddhism teaches us that everything exists simultaneously in two separate planes of existence. There is the relative world that we are all very familiar with, and then there is the absolute world. In the relative world, our mind creates distinctions between everything. There is man and there is woman. There is good and there is bad. There is light and there is dark. Essentially, the relative world is a world of opposites.
On the other hand, everything is a part of Oneness in the absolute world. That is to say, everything is interconnected in ways that we'll never fully understand. More than that, everything in the universe depends on everything else for it's existence. So while everything appears to be separate in the relative world, when we step back into a place of stillness (via meditation or prayer), we realize that everything is also connected in the absolute world.
One way to think about this would be to look at the organs of the human body. Our brains are separate entities from our hearts. And our hearts are very different from our lungs. However, if the heart stops pumping blood, the brain dies. And if the lungs stop collecting oxygen, the heart can't pump blood. So in the relative world our bodily organs are completely separate and different from one another. But in the absolute world they are part of a singular human body. And that body requires all of them in order to be healthy and strong.
They're separate, but they're part of a single Oneness.
Similarly, human beings are all very different from one another in a relative sense. We have different races, religions, cultural backgrounds. However, in the absolute sense we are all part of a single Oneness called humanity. And while we can't track the connections between people as easily as we can track the connection between our organs, that doesn't change the fact that humanity needs many people of different races, religions, and cultural backgrounds in order to be strong.
There have been times in history when people thought that the way to create community harmony was to force everyone to be the same. They thought that if the world only had one race, one religion, one culture, etc., then there would be peace on Earth. But this is a mistake. These people were trapped in the illusion of a separate self, and they caused terrible suffering as a result.
In order to create harmony between people, we don't need to make everyone the same. After all, would you try to make a person healthy by replacing their heart with a second brain? Of course not, the heart is different from the brain, and that's a good thing. That difference is what allows a person to survive.
In order to create peace, we must pay less attention to the relative world, and pay more attention to the absolute world. We must learn Oneness, and appreciate the interconnectedness of all living things. Each person is unique, and different from everyone else. And that's a good thing. That difference is what allows humanity to survive.
By celebrating our differences, and learning to appreciate our interconnectedness, we can build a community where people live happily with each other. By recognizing the Oneness of all living things, we can achieve peace in our lifetimes.
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I'm taking part in an interfaith discussion panel on Saturday, Sept. 23rd at the Heartfulness Meditation Center in Cleveland. The theme of the event is Achieving Community Harmony Amongst Various Traditions and Paths. The event runs from 9am to 12pm, and the address is 5425 Warner Road, Valley View, OH 44125. You can learn more about the event and some of the other speakers by clicking here.
I'll be giving a talk for the Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance (C.A.R.A) on Monday, Oct. 23rd at 6:30pm. My talk will be entitled, "How Organic Farming Led Me to Being Vegan". I'll be discussing my experiences living and working on organic farms for 8 months, my Buddhist practice, and how the two led me to become vegan. The event will take place at the Cleveland Heights Public Library, 2345 Lee Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118.