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The Great Teachings Are the Same

The recent ethnic-religious riot in Indonesia between the Muslims and Christians reminds me of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, who said, "We do not want churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God, as the Catholics and Protestants do. We do not want that. We may quarrel with men sometimes about things on this earth. But we never quarrel about God. We do not want that."

It seems as though mankind has fought and quarreled over whose beliefs about a set doctrine of religious teachings are actually the "truth" for as long as these doctrines have existed. It's been a turf war over God if you will. The irony of this is that the fighting, whether verbal or physical, goes against the very teachings that these combatants profess to follow.

I wonder if the Muslims that were destroying things in the riot have read the Hadith, the traditional accounts of Muhammad's sayings and actions. Muhammad stated, "I am the closest of all people to Jesus, son of Mary, in this world and the Hereafter; for all prophets are brothers, with different mothers but one religion." While talking to one of the Jewish faith, Muhammad also praised Moses. What do you think Muhammad would think of these recent riots? This hatred and violence would disgust the Prophet who once said, "The most odious of men to God is the one who is most quarrelsome."

Many teachings have been reworked so that followers worship certain figures rather than follow the guidelines taught by the great visionaries. It is much easier to worship Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and so forth, than it is to live by the guidelines they established. I do not wish to single out one religion, for the trouble is that many religions insist upon pointing out the other's differences, calling them faults, without acknowledging their own. Appallingly, members of one faith often engage in violent and destructive actions toward others solely because of a difference in faith or opinion. It's like a friend of mine says, "It's not God I have a problem with, it's all His fan clubs."

Rather than squabble over differences, we should all look at wise teachings from any source and use them to better ourselves. I have to agree with the eighteenth-century Japanese Zen poet Ryokan, "When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same."

Personally, I consider myself spiritual and not religious. I have chosen to follow the path of the warrior, placing emphasis on the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit. My spiritual teachings have come from a multitude of sources, and I continue to learn and apply spiritual lessons into my daily living. The spiritual path, like the path of the warrior, is lifelong, and mastery is simply continuing to stay on the path. Each of us must choose our own course, and we must have tolerance for those who travel alternate routes.

I would like to encourage everyone to read the next few passages with an open mind. Do not dwell on who said the words, but think of the meaning behind them. Envision a community, a country, better yet, our world with everyone following these simple guidelines. Euphoric? Yes, but like John Lennon and Martin Luther King, I can dream.

From Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching we learn that simplicity, patience, and compassion are our three greatest treasures, and that peace should be our highest value. We learn that happiness comes from doing for others and wealth comes from giving to others. And finally, "Love the world as yourself; then you can care for all things."

From the Dhammapada, an anthology of statements of Buddha's teachings, we are reminded of similar principles, "Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy." Buddha also taught that the master harms no living thing, and again we hear a similar theme, "See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?"

Again, from the Hadith, we hear Muhammad's words, "There is a reward for your treatment of every living thing." Muhammad also encouraged people to give ungrudgingly and to not withhold, and taught that "None of you is a believer until you like for others what you like for yourself."

Finally, one of the most known sayings of Jesus, who offered us such a benevolent code of morals. Known as the "Golden Rule," it echoes the earlier writings of Lao-tzu and Buddha, just as Muhammad's words later do. Such a simple rule on paper, so why don't we follow it? "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31)

This was originally published in the February 12, 1997 issue of the Korea Herald.

The Tao Warriorship Art

Article reprinted from Alain Burrese's web site The Tao of Warriorship focusing on body, mind and spirit.

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Hard-Won Wisdom from the School of Hard Knocks

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