I'm pausing from outlining building a spiritual foundation to talk about the Koran burning threats by a pastor in America. In some respects, this will also be an important basis for continuing this discussion because it shows what happens when we start to focus on "the other" and not on ourselves.
But They Did It To Us
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. You would think a pastor would know this, but obviously, he's gotten lost in his own hate. And that's sad, and it's deeply concerning that anyone can be in a spiritual leadership role and be so full of vitriol. There are plenty of reasons to hate someone else. If you go back far enough in history, we can all find plenty of terrible things down by someone else to someone in our lineage. In holding onto that hate and that pain, we all are lost. It's the downward cycle. I happened to be a Buddhist event in Berkeley yesterday called Sanghapalooza, and one of the speakers mentioned that hate only perpetuates hate. Love can stop the cycle of hate. No matter what someone else has done to us, if we truly want to be spiritual, loving, and kind people, then we have to find our way to love.
911 Was a Tragedy
There is no doubt that 911 was a tragedy. So many people were hurt. And then a greater tragedy occurred as the U.S. began lashing out at other countries. The legacy of 911 continues with what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's so easy to hurt others; it's much harder to heal ourselves.
And now with a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, those filled with hate and revenge have found a new way to spread their disease. A peaceful Islamic center is not a threat. The U.S. prides itself on freedom of a religion, and that means that an Islamic center has equal right to be put just about anywhere in the U.S. There is no threat to helping people to learn about Islam especially with over 1 billion muslims in the world. In my eyes, it's absolutely essential to have more Islamic presence in the U.S. to show people that there's an enormous difference between Muslims and extremists.
What Are Extremists?
Ultimately, extremists want power and control. Many suicide bombers are pulled out of very poor situations. With some rich leaders in extremist groups offering money for the family, the suicide bombers can get talked into these extreme acts. When you have nothing, you are desperate. Do you know what that's like? It's easy for someone to talk you into something so crazy in the hopes of helping your family and going to Heaven when you have absolutely nothing and no other hope for betterment in your life.
The bin Ladens of the world want power. They see that the U.S. has power, and they want it for themselves. It's not about religion. Religion is a marketing tool to get people to sign on to do it for Allah. The five pillars of Islam say nothing about killing other people. For those of you who are interested, the five pillars are believing that Muhammad is God's messenger, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. The Jihad term is meant for fighting inner demons and has been grossly contorted to serve the extremists' desires for power.
Where Are Extremists?
They're here--in our hearts. The pastor threatening to burn Korans isn't the only one. He merely shows the level of hatred already in us. If you want to stop extremism today, take a look at yourself and all the ways where you have reacted abusively and meanly. Clear that evil from your soul, and you begin to diminish the power of any such pastor, suicide bomber, bin Laden, etc. This is the start of a longer path, and we must use our voices and our love to be heard to stop people from acting so horrifically. As we become clearer, the absurdity of burning a holy book or fighting a holy war becomes more apparent. It becomes almost laughable because you start to realize that you're no different from "the other." The other that you had hated so much was really just you all along.
The Spiritual Path Is Urgent
But the darkness won't let go easy, which is why turning to the spiritual path is urgent. We all need to deepen our understanding, our compassion, and our love. We need to learn how to stand in our authentic power to dissuade and overcome such hate and extremism in ourselves and--when needed--those in the world who would do violence. It's a perilous time, but good people need to stand up now. No religion is ever about pain--that's simply power, greed, and control trying to hide behind yet another mask--Muslim or Christian.