THE SPIRIT OF THANKSGIVING AS INTERFAITH

[editor’s note: this is an older letter by Rev. Leland Steward from Nov., 2015. Sorry, I was not able to update the site for a while]

 “Offering our skills, services, or time for listening can be a true expression of our gratitude and appreciation.”      –Richard Kimball, quoted in Science and Spirituality, page 146

One of the great challenges of our time is the effort to transcend the different faiths and find ways of communicating that speak a universal language of understanding.  Some call it being “spiritual” rather than “religious”; others simply use a language that omits the traditional terms of religion, such as God, prayer, grace, etc.  Science is in the process of introducing other elements that in the past had not been associated with the moral and spiritual life.

Thanksgiving is a time when we attempt to express our gratitude for the blessings of life that have come to us, and finding a way of expressing these blessings so that they give meaning to people of all faiths and no official faith.  I was present at a Thanksgiving party in which we began the evening by holding hands and sharing with the group what we were grateful for.  There was no sense in that sharing that what was being shared was relevant only to people of a particular faith.

To be able to enter into the interfaith world is to change from feeling that our faith is the only one that matters, to where we have respect for all paths, even if they are not officially religious.  We are encouraged to make the effort to understand the meaning in each path and to help each path blend into the larger picture of a world of diverse paths.

When the pilgrims first came to America, they had many challenges just surviving the winters, and in many cases clashing with Native Americans.  Thanksgiving was a time to give thanks for surviving in the new land.  The challenges now center around coming to respect each other and learning how to live without violence and war.  In many cases, the violence we are experiencing is the result of previous violence our beloved nation has inflicted on others.  Now is the time to be grateful for living in a nation which is learning to transcend its past and to forgive others for their violence toward others and toward us.  Together we must find a better way to live on this beautiful planet.

By learning the ways of interfaith, we will be helped along the path of mutual respect and forgiveness.  We are grateful for the opportunity to give up violence and to help create a world that is peaceful, just, and loving.

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!

GLOBAL MEDITATION AND WORLD TRANSFORMATION

“The nonviolent approach gives (people) new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage they did not know they had.”
~Martin Luther King, Science & Spirituality, p. 172

 

On Friday of this week, Deepak Chopra, M.D. inaugurated what was claimed to be the largest orchestrated worldwide meditation ever presented, 100,000 strong.  It was well  developed and undoubtedly had a wide and indepth influence.  People in the audience where this was held sat silently as they were told about the impact meditation can have on not only the inner life of the individual but also on bringing about world peace.  After learning about the potential influence meditation can have, a global meditation was held, with quiet music in the background.  The one-hour program ended with a process of bringing the audience slowly out of the state of meditation.

 

Meditation is important in the process of moving beyond violence and war.  The United States seems to be addicted to war, and the world now has an unusually large number of “hotspots”, especially in the Middle East.  Once again, Iraq is being threatened, this time by a group called “the Islamic State”.  Our response has so far been to do two things; first to send food aid, and at the same approximate time to fire drones into the country in an attempt to stop the potential take-over by the militants.

 

If our solution to problems such as this one, and also with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is to meditate, then all we would need to do is to sit quietly and meditate or pray for a solution to the various crises in the world.  There is a place for the spiritual solutions to these problems, but for most people the inner solutions are only one part of the answer.  The other part of what is needed is a change of consciousness in terms of how we handle our day-to-day living in the world.

 

Martin Luther King pointed out that returning violence for violence multiplies violence.  There is another way, the way of nonviolence.  Mahatma Gandhi called it “satyagraha”, which is declaring one’s truth and living by that truth, at the same time being willing to accept the consequences of that action.  When the people of India had a hard time living up to Gandhi’s way of nonviolence, he would fast as a reminder that they needed to follow his courageous lead.

 

The point is that for most of us there is more to helping bring about peace than just meditating, as important as meditation and prayer are to prepare us for our nonviolent, Spirit-centered action.   Nonviolent action needs training, and it needs courage and a respect for all life.  A new film has just come out called “Beyond Right and Wrong.”  Its point is that perpetrators and victims need to make an effort to understand each other and finally to transcend the times and attitudes which caused the conflict in the first place.  It is a way of practicing forgiveness and achieving justice.

 

All of us need times of meditation and prayer as a way of centering our lives and giving us the courage of our convictions.  But then, in most cases, we also need to be willing to serve the Highest Good in an active way, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.  What we might have to do through military service, can also be our own choice in a nonviolent way which is based on respect for all life and the transformation of the world.

 

May peace prevail on earth!!!