Writing this editorial soon after the Paris terror and horror, I can’t help but think of what differences in religions, ideologies and doctrines can do. Managing our differences for peace may well be the most powerful skill we humans can have in this time of global terrorism! As this is the Christmas editorial, I ponder on Jesus Christ, one of the greatest peacemakers in history. Besides, it is His birthday: Christmas.
If He was walking amongst us, what would Jesus say or do? There are many peacemakers and one who immediately came to my mind is: Mother Teresa. She was a Christ-like figure. Other Christ-like figures also existed in other religions and spiritual traditions, chief of which is Krishna, (his name is differently spelt in different texts). In the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses, Krishna was most revered and even till today, he is worshipped in thousands of temples everywhere by Hindus. Lord Buddha which means the Enlightened One, was also a Christ-like figure. In Islamic tradition, the prophet Mohammad was certainly an Enlightened One. Christ-like qualities for me are best reflected in the eight beatitudes found in the new testament of the Bible.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10)
In some sense, all these virtues in the beatitudes are also advocated by all religions and in Confucianist teachings. For me, in short, the essence of all religions is love (or in Ren, meaning human-ness, the Confucianist virtue par excellence). And now these three remaining: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians !3:13).
Unwrapping this thing called love can take a long time and many words, for it encompasses a whole bunch of other virtues: compassion, respect, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, tolerance, human-ness, reciprocity, just to name a few. Then it brings people into the picture as well. Love does that. People we love, pets we care about, places we visit as shrines, and so the list goes on. Love is often Other-directed, an arrow shooting forward and outward. But this Christmas as I ponder on the many and varied aspects of love, a story from my own spiritual path bounces up in front of me and refuses to go away. It is a mantra which says: look after yourself. Many forget about our own Self as we tear around shopping and wrapping presents, cleaning and cooking.
Caring for one’s Self and one’s own health is often forgotten. Not over eating or drinking, not stopping our well-being programme just because it is Christmas.
Recently, I re-read a lovely story from India, a parable about 10 holy men who went on a journey. These holy men walked for miles and finally came to a halt at a torrential river. Worried that one of them could be swept away, they held each other’s hands tightly to cross the rushing waters and once safely across, one of them counted to make sure that there were still 10 of them. So he counted: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9! One missing! Another counted. And another. But all of them counted only nine. No matter which holy man counted, there were only 9 holy men out of ten! So they all sat down on the river bank and wailed with sorrow. A horseman happened to ride by. He stopped upon hearing this loud wail and enqu
ired. We lost one brother, they told him. “Let me count for you.” So the horseman counted and he came up with ten! He told the holy men : “You forgot to count yourself when you were counting, oh, holy men.”
This Christmas, do not forget to count yourself. To give yourself a lot of loving and presents. It is called self-love. It is charity to yourself.