“Love Everyone”

We listen to Swami Vivekananda (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”) exhort the Graduate Philosophy Society of Harvard University on 25th March 1896: “Love everyone as your own self, because the whole universe is one.” What does this loving mean?

Thich Nhat Hanh, in “How to Love” teaches us that “True love includes a sense of responsibility and accepting the other person as she is, with all her strengths and weaknesses. If you only like the best things in a person, that is not love. You have to accept her weaknesses and bring your patience, understanding, and energy to help her….” 

The psychologist Erich Fromm writes in “The Art of Loving” that “the main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism.” Thomas Merton explains this in “No Man is an Island”: “The beginning of love is….the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

Evening in Coimbatore — photograph by the Bibliophile

In a letter to his son (14 years young), written on 10th November 1958 (“Steinbeck: A Life in Letters”), the author and Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck writes: “There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect….The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.” 

If we want the world to heal and bloom, we would do well to ponder something in Swami Vivekananda’s lines deeply — he says love “everyone”….

Peace 🙂

The planet’s health is our health

In a piece published by Lion’s Roar on 1st December 2020, we read Thich Nhat Hanh:

We often forget that the planet we are living on has given us all the elements that make up our bodies. The water in our flesh, our bones, and all the microscopic cells inside our bodies all come from the earth and are part of the earth. The earth is not just the environment we live in. We are the earth and we are always carrying her within us.

In “Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson”, Rachel (who was one of the launching-forces of the modern environmental conscience) writes that life’s “living protoplasm is built of the same elements as air, water, and rock.” She goes on: “Our origins are of the earth” — part of “the natural universe”, part of “the whole stream of life.” We are not separate from Nature.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, mystic, and scholar of comparative religion, sings in a poem titled “On Sweet Irrational Worship” (published in (“In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton”): “I am earth, earth….”

In a pure-gold OnBeing conversation on 16th September 2010, Joanna Macy, the ecologist and Buddhist scholar, tells Krista Tippett:

We’ve been treating the Earth as if it were a supply house and a sewer. We’ve been grabbing, extracting resources from it for our cars and our hair dryers and our bombs, and we’ve been pouring the waste into it until it’s overflowing.

But our Earth is not a supply house and a sewer. It is our larger body. We breathe it. We taste it. We are it.

Photo by Jacek Dylagon Unsplash

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’s 2019 Global Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services” points out the main forces that contribute to our assault on Nature are “underpinned by societal values and behaviours that include production and consumption patterns, human population dynamics and trends, trade, technological innovations and….governance.” 

Our very way of life is causing harm, and we appear to have forgotten (or are choosing to ignore) something obvious, yet profound.

The Head of the UN Environment Program, Inger Andersen reminds us  (in a UN First Person report published on 5th April 2020) — “the health of people and the health of planet are one and the same”.

Peace 🙂

Prayer from the heart

In “Thomas Merton In Alaska – The Alaskan Conferences, Journals, and Letters”, a record of talks, notes, and journal entries that Thomas Merton wrote in 1968, shortly before he passed on, he teaches us about prayer: “You don’t get to God through a system. You speak from your heart”.

Mary Oliver begins the poem “Six Recognitions of the Lord” (“Devotions”) with a similar teaching:

I know a lot of fancy words.

I tear them from my heart and my tongue.

Then I pray.

The Tatar-American poet, Adnan Onart, writes “The Morning Prayer”, and takes us beyond words:

In a poor Istanbul neighborhood,

at the ground floor of our house,

my great-grandmother says:

It is time for morning prayer.

If you pray, she says, pure as a child,

from this corner of the room,

an angel will appear.

I am five years old closing my eyes.

Allahü Ekber.

Essallamü alleyküm ve rahmetullah.

I am fifty opening my eyes.

In Boston, Massachusetts,

in a not so poor neighborhood

at the top floor of our house

praying my morning prayer.

From that corner of the room,

my great-grandmother appears.

thebibliophile — the sky this morning, Coimbatore, India

It appears that the sky has been praying all night, and the sun is appearing in a corner…..

Peace 🙂