“The fundamentalists of every faith remain blind to the truth that the “sigh within the prayer is the same in the heart of the Christian, the Muslim, and the Jew.” I have seen this unity with my eyes, heard it with my ears, felt it with all my being.”
― David James Duncan
My dad once told me an interesting story.
There was a man, who for most of his life was not spiritual, and had never been to a mosque. One day, he had a flash of insight, and felt compelled to change himself for the better. He decided that he would finally go to the mosque and pray. As he was about to enter a mosque, someone passing by stopped him, and warned, “Don’t go to this mosque; shias pray here.” So he changed direction until he stood at the front of another mosque. But again, someone stopped him, scaring him by saying “Are you going to pray here? But this mosque is filled with sufis.” So on he went until he found a mosque that did not belong to any minor sect. But yet again, someone stopped him, stating, “This mosque is corrupt because they recite ‘amen’ loudly in the prayer.” The man, deeply frustrated, said to himself, “To hell with going to the mosque! I’m just going to the movie theatre and watch the latest blockbuster.” So off he went to the theatre, and sitting in the same auditorium as him were shias, sufis, those recited ‘amen’ loudly, and all other believers from differing schools of thought.
Although this story is about religious sectarianism, I feel like it applies to faith and spirituality in general. We sometimes get sucked into this fear and hatred mentality towards those who follow a different faith tradition than us. And yet, we feel completely comfortable sitting next to them in the movie theatre, shopping in the same grocery stores, and pretty much all other public places.
Why is it that when it comes to God, the creator of us and everything we enjoy in life, including movie theatres, we struggle or even flat out refuse to see others as having the same spiritual goal? The answer is that we make the conscious choice to focus only on our differences. Then we take it to the next level, by creating rigid absolute “truths”, all the while feeling overconfident that by putting down those different, we are doing God’s work on earth.
But if we choose to lift the veil of fear and suspicion, we will feel free and joyous at the realization that in the end, we all aspire for closeness to the Loving One. Even our morals and values are the same. We all believe in wanting for others what we want for ourselves. We all believe that because because our mind, body, and soul is created, and so is everything else around us, that we are indebted to the All Powerful by staying grateful and within His limits. And of course, we all understand that this earthly life is temporary, and that at some point we will be audited for everything we ever thought, said, and did during our stay here.
So lets try and make an effort to feel genuine compassion and care towards everyone. We sometimes unknowingly take on the burden of deciding whether so and so will go to heaven or hell. It’s really none of our business. What IS our business, is to be loving, caring, and open with each other. And we definitely need to make it our business to cooperate with the faithful from other traditions in order to serve as good role models for later generations.