Monday, April 8, 2013

Beyond Names

Outside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Mahatma Gandhi, the famous Indian peace activist was a Hindu who had deep respect for the many different religious traditions. He devoted his life to find insights from the various different paths people follow in pursuit of the truth.

In referring to how he understood the nature of God, Gandhi once said, "Though we know Him by a thousand names, He is one and the same to all of us."

One of my reasons for offering these daily meditations on this blog here in the desert retreat house,  is to foster a sense of respect for different religious traditions,  and to seek insight from them in pursuit of the truth.

Personally, I am a committed Christian (an ordained priest) and I seek out the insight of other paths BECAUSE I am a Christian. 

When I look at the life of Jesus and study his teachings, I see someone who never treated "others" as "different." At a very deep level,  Jesus was aware of the cosmic unity which is at the heart of all creation. He respected that unity and fostered relationship. 

As a Christian I also want to avoid treating"others" as different,  recognizing that we are all connected to one another.  We have so much to learn from one another.

The picture I have posted today was taken during a trip my wife and I took to Istanbul a few years back. 

We went to Istanbul after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and when we arrived in the city, the sight of mosques, minarets and "calls to prayer" were,  at first, somewhat disconcerting to me. I remember entering the famous and historic "Blue Mosque." Much like the first time I entered a Buddhist Temple in South Korea, the experience inside the mosque immediately seemed so foreign to me. 

But, like my experience in Korea, the walls of difference very quickly fell apart. I was surrounded by fellow pilgrims, all of us with our shoes off because we were on holy ground. I joined in kneeling and praying. All of us calling God many names and yet the same to all.  

Almost daily I read one or another of the many Sufi wisdom sayings (The Sufis are part of the mystic tradition of Islam). I found one today that seems very appropriate for this post:

"In my soul there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church, where I kneel. Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist."

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