Tolerance – Food for Thought

A friend of my family member is contending with a warring staff. To try to remedy this, he ordered a cake from my family member, for that staff – a cake with the word ‘tolerance’ boldly emblazoned on it. This caused me to reflect on the word tolerance and its implications in our lives. Tolerance, in this context, is the ability to be at peace with opinions or habits that one disagrees with. Few of us possess this valuable trait. But why is it valuable? Tolerance is the precursor to peace and, therefore, to happiness, both internally (or personally) as well as socially. Life with a focus on other’s opinions, behaviours, and habits is a frightfully restless one because we have little control over what others think and do. Intolerance will therefore serve as an almost endless source of emotional inflammation. When internal intolerance is expressed to others, it becomes even more dangerous. Intolerance (or the absence of tolerance) is the very reason for the religious wars that have destroyed entire cities, even in these “civilised” times. It has caused hundreds of years of unnecessary conflict, destroyed societies, families, and countless lives throughout history. Yet we hardly ever seem to learn from these seemingly obvious lessons nor do we acknowledge the significant benefits that tolerance can bring to our lives.

Why is it so difficult to see the benefit of this necessary human value in this magnificently diverse world? I think part of it has to do with the necessity for certain degrees of intolerance. You see, there are different degrees of disagreeable things. Certain things in society, or in a workplace or family, should not be tolerated. Some of these are obvious, at least to most of us. For example, sexual misconduct, or violence are not condonable actions and must be dealt with firmly. In Hinduism, we refer to this as Manyava or ‘righteous anger’. But I fear that the lines of where our anger should stop become blurry after these obvious examples. Where righteous anger stops, tolerance should start. To tell where that line is, each of us will need to acquire intellectual strength or wisdom. This will allow us to exercise discernment or discrimination between right and wrong. Once each of us has this wisdom strengthened, then we can deal appropriately with each case in which we disagree with subjects, actions, or persons.

But once we demarcate the things that we need to tolerate, how do we then truly tolerate them, such that the restlessness of intolerance is replaced with a sense of peace. A remedy to intolerance is to acknowledge that each person’s beliefs, behaviours, and habits are partly a result of that person’s experiences up to that point, and since not all experiences are chosen, we could find room to forgive disagreeable beliefs, behaviours, and habits. Then we each have to acknowledge that we too are not perfect, and that our own beliefs and reactions to others beliefs are subject to our experiences thus far, and even those could change, at least in part, as our experiences change. Even intolerance to other’s opinions is a weakness, a disagreeable habit, a necessary trait that we need to work on to improve ourselves. Notice how the great souls of this world, the Mother Teresa’s, the Mandela’s, the Gandhi’s had great degrees of tolerance and this was one of the attributes that gave them their remarkable equanimity and composure. Fortunately, we each have grown and matured through the years, and we each are capable of continued mental, emotional, and spiritual evolution. Others around us, like us, too will grow, and your disagreeable team member or family member may grow to be your best friend in just a few years.

But the easiest way to overcome intolerance is to think, speak and act from a place of love – this unconditional love being the foundation of all major religions and the antidote for all strife. But how do we love someone we can barely stand? Love comes naturally when we see that, regardless of a person’s beliefs or behaviours, each of us has God installed within us (known as Spirit in Christianity and Atma in Hinduism) and that, through this linking Spirit, we are all one – united through God. This principal concept is something worth meditating on, to bring it into our conscious awareness and have it assist us in opening our hearts, thereby allowing the peace that unconditional love brings to flow unimpeded into our lives. This core principle could then translate to practical and implementable thought processes and create a tolerable and even joyful workplace, family, and society.

So as you would want to be forgiven for your past indiscretions, ‘forgive those that trespass against us’, and always make room for each person’s evolution, for comradeship, and for the bond that we share through our humanity.

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Love more, live more – Unity Mama.

 

The Message Behind the Royal Wedding

“God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them”, from the moment this powerful biblical quote was spoken to open the royal wedding ceremony of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle, I was struck by an undercurrent message acknowledging us all to be equals, brothers and sisters, regardless of race or nationality, with love being the only criteria earning us honour. This invitation to look beyond humanities historical social boundaries was unsaid, but to me, it was acknowledged, in the words marking the “power of love”, perhaps, the power of love to unite people across all social barriers. When mixed-race becomes the stuff of royal fairytales, this marriage may provide a spring of courage and a spark of renewal for interracial or multi-cultural couples across the world. This sentiment of love being the foremost consideration, was echoed by all the speakers of the historic wedding.

“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.”

Rev. Michael Curry

Besides Britain’s elite giving a royal nod to a beautiful mixed race couple, it was touching to see the throngs of British citizens celebrating the event with as much fervour and zeal as they would have any historically typical royal wedding.

All weddings leave a tear in my eye and love in my heart, but this union left me with hope, hope for the entire world, hope that the power of love is set to break cultural barriers that society has long placed upon us, hope that love will triumph and humanity will hold hands in trust someday soon.

By Natasha Subbiah

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Changing the World Through Relationships Between People of Different Races, Ethnicities, Cultures, Religions and Nationalities

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to two dear friends who are in a loving and happy relationship despite the fact that they are from two different cultural backgrounds albeit within the same religion. This fortunate encounter reminded me that it is not just inter-religious relationships that cross boundaries, test limits and set new standards for this world, but that there are all types of people building bridges of love across all our social boundaries all around the world. It was also a reminder to me of how these kinds of relationships can teach people that associate with these pioneering couples, be it friends, family or colleagues, how love can and does transcend social and cultural groupings and that destroying these “mind-made” boundaries can and does bring more love and joy into our lives.

There may be trepidation over differences and stress over social acceptance; but it is clear to recognise the opportunity these relationships present to the couple and to those who are in contact with the couple, to learn how to love more openly, to practice reducing your ego, to experience and enjoy the diversity that God has created in this glorious planet and hopefully, to discover that different is not that different at all.

If you have found yourself in a committed relationship with somebody who is not from the same country, culture, language, race, religion or ethnicity as you, and you are worried about upsetting the “normal” in your family or friend circle, remind yourself of the opportunity you are presenting to the people you love, for spiritual growth through learning to love more expansively. Think further to the children that the two of you may produce that will not learn these boundaries from the start and will get to experience love without the fear society impresses on us. Understand the value of your position as an example to others of how the world should operate, that is, loving all without the obsession over differences in nationality, race, culture, religion or differences in sexual orientation.

Let us value each other for the souls within each of us and let us live with the hope that others will have the courage to do the same through our loving example.

By Natasha Subbiah

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What about the Kids?

The doubt most commonly expressed when on the topic of interfaith or inter-cultural marriages is, “What about the kids?”.

I was dating my husband for 6 years before we were married, and in that time we agreed on an approach towards raising our children, considering that we would be practicing different religions in the same home. We currently have 2 young children (my eldest is almost 4 years old and my other is 1 year old).

Living in a world that is plagued by hatred and intolerance which is breeding violence and discontent in all parts of the globe, predominantly between and within religious groups; we aspire to raise our children to be free of the burden of prejudice and hate. More than that, I would like my children to grow up with an appreciation and indeed, even love, for all religions, races and spiritual paths. I try to provide my children with opportunities to be able to learn and benefit from all the world’s major religions. I would like my children to see and experience the grandeur of God in all of God’s creation, including in all loving religious practices. We would like our children to have peace and love in their hearts always for all people regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. I would like our children to appreciate the diversity of this wondrous planet whilst understanding the truth of our ultimate and absolute unity.

Given all these hopes and aspirations, we have chosen to teach our children both of our religions since we are most wealthy in knowledge of these, as well as bring in integral information from other major religions as we ourselves learn of them. I as the stay at home mother play an important role in encouraging our children to practice both religions during much of the week.

All major religions agree that God is ultimately nameless and formless, omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, (including Hinduism and Christianity, which are the religions we practice); so this is what my eldest is taught. He is then taught that the different names and forms attributed to God are just God appearing to man because of His love; in different ways, in different places with different cultures and in different points in History.

I believe that children raised in a home where there is more than one religion being practiced have the unique opportunity to watch and experience love, tolerance and respect between religious groups more often than most (provided that the adults in the home act with maturity, love and respect as well as a lack of competitiveness and lack of egoism).

As I expand my knowledge on the core philosophies of religions, I see that major religions agree on moral and ethical codes of conduct and so children in multi-faith households can have access to greater wealth of resources to feed their moral and spiritual development.

Children of interfaith descent may be the bridges we need to build a more cohesive and peaceful society… world peace anyone?

Thoughts for Success in an Interfaith Relationship

Most relationships come with challenges, no different is the relationship between people of different religions or different cultures. If we see these challenges as opportunities for self reflection and personal growth then we can greatly and ceaselessly benefit from an interfaith relationship. Through the years I have noted many characteristics that I can change within myself to better serve myself, my interfaith relationship and my interfaith family. I admit that it has taken a long time for me to go through this process of refinement and I must acknowledge that I do have a long way more to go. Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind when facing the added complexities of an interfaith or inter-religious marriage, based on my personal experience.

Do not be competitive, especially on the topics of religion, race or culture. There is no room for competitiveness in love. This is an extremely damaging pastime and will win you no love or respect. Value the role of your partners religion in this world and in your partners life and accord it respect and eventually even love. It may take you some time to come to this place, but after 12 years I have feelings of peace and love for my husband’s chosen form of God and it is indeed a beautiful and natural feeling once you open your heart. This in no way takes away from my love of my own religion since my religion encourages love of all.

Not being competitive includes not speaking down on your partners religion or culture especially when you are not directly asked for a view. If you do have to disagree on a certain philosophy, do so in a respectful manner whilst acknowledging if there are aspects of that philosophy that you do agree with. I admit that I am guilty of being negative about certain aspects of my partners religion. I always abandon such a topic and I always regret it.

You should rather choose to be understanding. Understand that your partner has a different history, different experiences, different affiliations, and different fears stemming from his/her different background. Acknowledge that you may have been very different had you had the same upbringing. Try to understand why things are done the way they are in your partners religion. Try and understand your partners emotions and fears and your partners families emotions and fears based on their belief system, even though at times their fears are unfounded.

Focus on common ground instead of the sometimes superficial differences between your religions. The most important thing is that you both are likely to share common values which you have each inherited from your respective, religions, cultures and families. As I learn more about my husband’s religion, which at face value seems quite different, I find more and more in common with my own religion. Do not be tempted to constantly bring up those things that are different between your religions, these are the things which usually have no tangible impact on your physical lives.

Be supportive in your partners practice of his/her religion. Remember that there are many damaging pastimes in the alluring material world and praying to God (regardless of which name or form or lack thereof, you may choose to worship) is usually not one of them. Indeed focusing on spiritual practices and charity activities can add deep and lasting joy, peace and mental fortitude to your partners life; and can help ward off mental agitations and diseases such as depression. Be sure that, in a loving relationship, you can never be truly happy if your partner is not happy and fulfilled. Never underestimate the value of peace as a prerequisite for happiness. Spiritual practices are a significant tool for acquiring peace. Allow your partner to dip in to this inexhaustible stream of joy without him/her having to contend with your hesitancy or negativity first.

Do not speak or act in anger. When angry, take some time out to try and understand your partners words or actions better and then respond from a calmer footing. In anger we often say things that we don’t fully mean and this can cause untold and often irreparable damage. If we do act or speak in a hurtful way, apologise sincerely.

Do not be egotistical. Often we prevent ourselves from loving fully, we prevent ourselves from compromising on superficial things and we prevent ourselves from choosing to live in full joy because of our pride. For example, we stalled our wedding for over a year because we couldn’t agree on how to do it. My ego was definitely in the way. Eventually I gave in on most accounts, having a very small religious ceremony of my husband’s faith and then a larger “universal” or non-faith-specific reception. It ended up being a very loving affair but we hardly think back on that one day because we are so busy enjoying our marriage and our family. The wedding was not that important after all. I am sure I would have so much less love now had I chosen my ego over my love. However, this does not mean that we must not each insist on respect.

All of life’s relationships challenge us to be better, challenge us to drop our boundaries and expand our horizons, challenge us to live fully in love in thought word and deed. Use your interfaith relationship to find your truly wonderful True Self.

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Sending universal love to my interfaith family.

Lessons From an Interfaith Home – How to Hold A Peaceful Conversation About Religion

Religions won’t always agree; so how do we make a relationship with a partner of a different religion work knowing this? First, we have to be at peace with not agreeing on certain things. Much of the beauty, drama and vibrancy of this world, is that which is different from what we are and what we are used to. Being exposed to new and contrasting opinions is one of the adventures of life, embrace that. Sometimes though, those differing opinions may harm your ego and cause you hurt and pain. It is difficult to tell you how to handle such situations because each one will be unique. Don’t let your ego (or a reflection of your own ego onto God)1 get in your way of peace. Who knows what the truth is besides those that have directly witnessed it. The rest of us are at the mercy of what we have been told, passed on from person to person. The religious, rightly or wrongly, rely on faith to guide our hearts. Each religious person does this, therefore we should respect the religion of the next and be at peace with your partner not accepting the same ideas as you. Focus instead on those many things that most religions do agree on.

It has been my experience that some views maintained by some religious groups are particularly hurtful to those that do not belong to that group. If your partner expresses one of those hurtful opinions, then let him or her know how that makes you feel openly, calmly and honestly. Do not do this in a “waging war” kind of way, because war begets war. Speak always in a calm but feeling manner. Always be honest, but always be composed and compassionate in your approach. Encourage logical dialogue to seek out common ground on a topic. Do not believe that there is no home for logic in religion. Without logic, we are little better than animals. Logic and faith can live together and both should be employed in this aspect of our lives.

An activity my husband use to engage each other on religious philosophies is to use made-up “case studies” and apply the philosophies or laws of our religions to these case studies. We then discuss the justness of these laws in our opinions. What is important is that our philosophy on basic moral values (such as truth, love, non-violence, peace, right conduct) are aligned. When we use these values like a Litmus Test in any case study or real life challenge, we will then almost always come to the same conclusion, and this is where it matters.

Remember, it takes maturity to have a peaceful conversation about religion and it takes composure and humility not to become inflamed in the face of disagreement.

1Often we reflect our own personality traits onto God, expecting Him/Her to be much like us – power hungry, egotistical, competitive. But to me, God is beyond these human traits and we need to move beyond them too. After-all, who is there for God to compete with? Whether you call God Him or Her, Higher Consciousness or Higher Self or Light or Love, we can probably all agree that there is no equal.