“Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. …Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.”
—Dalai Lama, Science and Spirituality, page 177
Moral and spiritual values have been developed by the various religions of the world, and at the end of the civilizations of past generations these values have often come into conflict with each other. One of the obvious ones right now is the conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Islam. These two sects, having had their point of origin with the birth of the same religion, they have had slight theological differences which have been magnified into major areas of contention.
The differences between religions have been sources of disagreement that have often led to conflict and even war. What we need to be aware of is that we are now moving beyond these separate civilizations into the need for a planetary civilization. This is not to say that the previous civilizations are going to disappear. What is needed is what we call “unity-and-diversity”. It is the necessity of accepting different ways of life – different races, cultures, religions, and life styles – and at the same time a new creation that encompasses all of these differences as well as their similarities.
What is being called for is a global ethic and spirituality which is powerful and which has the capacity to unify all of these differences. Some people have called this state of affairs “oneness”. At the spiritual level this is true, yet at every other level we have differences to accept and live with. That is why the Unity-and-Diversity World Council has come to use the term “unity-and-diversity” as the actual need. We cannot and should not expect all differences to disappear in the process of finding peace and harmony. Rather, we need to be good listeners and to respect the differences that are very real and need to be understood and appreciated.
To resort to war is to have failed to find more lasting solutions that involve understanding and mutual respect. These ethical and spiritual solutions take more courage and responsibility. The world is gradually rising up and saying that there is another way, and that it is time to find that way and put it into practice. Mahatma Gandhi called it “satyagraha”, which means to declare your own truth and live by that truth while accepting the consequences of your action. Martin Luther King called it “nonviolence”, which sounds negative but is really a new way to live without violence.
We are at the time when a global ethic and spirituality are necessary, and all of us need to do our part to help bring it about.
Spirit is One; paths are many!!