In America it seems that once we understand it is wrong to persecute those different from ourselves, the acceptable answer is to keep those people at arm’s length. Separating ‘them’ from ‘us’, pretending that they do not exist or do not affect us. We build up our walls, and put on our blinders to keep out anything different or ‘bad’. We should know that different does not mean bad. I dare say most religious and spiritual traditions have good to offer. And most of those traditions would encourage us not to keep this good for ourselves, but share it with others. Through we come from different walks of life, we all have good to share. In a time where violence seems to be erupting in every corner of the world, there is no time like the present to start spreading that good around.
It can be tempting to build walls against the odd and scary, or simply the unknown that lies ‘out there’. But for the spiritually inclined it is just as important to look outward to share as it is to look inward or upward in reverence and meditation. If you first shut out the world, next you will cut out your loved ones, then finally yourself along with your deepest beliefs and experiences (Sri Chinmoy, 222-223). All of your faith and work developing a great relationship with the divine will be for nothing if it is not readily shared. There is nothing wrong with building up your life to be happy, safe, and full of spiritual riches. Protect it, but do not hoard it for yourself. Instead let it be a beacon, a light for others, an inspiration.
When people from many walks of life draw on their spiritual traditions to better their community, there will be instances of overlap as they encounter each other in our increasingly small world. There may be misunderstanding or even conflict. But when wisdom and peace remains cloistered, there is no overlap. Instead there are gaping holes left largely untouched by good, leaving only pain and confusion. If we can learn to listen and respect each other when our desires to help the world overlap, it will be much better than holding each other at arm’s length. Then we can move past tolerance to true harmony, and work in goodness to improve the world we all share.
Sri Chinmoy. The Divine Hero: Winning in the Battlefield of Life. 2002. London: Watkins Publishing.