Do we see the truth in diversity or only the differences?
As soon as we leave our little neighborhood and enter the world at large, we are bound to meet people that have different religious, political, and cultural beliefs. During those encounters, do we see the common threads that unite humanity, or do we just see the differences? If we seek the truth, wish to grow, want to gain knowledge and understanding, wish to know peace and experience happiness, we will be open-minded. We will be tolerant. Tolerant, not in the sense of putting up with the differences of others, but in the sense of welcoming the diverse ways humanity expresses itself. If you love flowers, dont you love lilacs and lilies as well as roses? If we love people, shouldnt we love Muslims and Jews as well as Christians, Iranians and Somalis as well as Italians?
All religious and ethical traditions teach tolerance. They express it as the Golden Rule. It is taught everywhere, proving there is truth in diversity, proving there is more to connect us than separate us. The truth is there, if only we look for it. Take a glance at how the Golden Rule is taught around the world:
African Traditional Religions: One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.
Bahai Faith: Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.
Buddhism: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.
Christianity: So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Confucianism: Do not unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.
Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: do naught to others that which if done to thee would cause pain.
Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
Jainism: A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.
Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire law; the rest is commentary.
Sikhism: Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved then, hurt thou not anyones heart.
Taoism: Regard your neighbors gain as your own gain, and your neighbors loss as your own loss.
Zoroastrianism: That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.
Are we practicing what we were taught? As we look at the hot spots around the world, whether it be Yugoslavia, the Middle, Near, or Far East, Africa or Ireland, or anyplace else, the answer is painfully clear. Intolerance is commonplace and the cost in human suffering is devastating. No loss by flood and lightning, said Helen Keller, no destruction of cities and temples by the hostile forces of nature, has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed.
Although it is religion that teaches us the Golden Rule, tragically, it is also religion that often is a cause of hatred and war. Sikhs rise against Hindus, Christians against Jews, Jews against Muslims, Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims, Protestants against Catholics, and so on.
We need to realize that others believe in their truth for the same reasons we believe in ours; mainly, they were taught it as children. For instance, I was born in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, New York City and raised a Catholic. As a teenager, I was convinced that my faith was the only true religion. Yet, if I were born in Pakistan, Id probably be a Muslim; in India, a Hindu; in Tibet, a Buddhist, and so on. We dont like to admit that we cling to our faith not because it is the only true religion, but because it is our cultural heritage. Once we awaken to this truth, we can be tolerant of the religious practices of others and live in peace.
Who isnt attracted to infants and small children? When we see them at play, we realize they are purer than we are. They are tolerant. Uncorrupted, they trust and love everyone. No wonder Christ said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Would you like to be a minnow in a pond that believes thats all there is to the world? Wouldnt you rather be a soaring eagle that can see to the furthest reaches of the horizon? Open-mindedness, or tolerance, broadens our vision, gives us clarity of perspective, and heightens our understanding and appreciation of others. So, from this day forward, lets vow that the only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance.