“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
- H.H. the Dalai Lama
In all of the political and social hubbub going on in the US right now surrounding the issue of gay marriage, one of my friends shared this lovely quote from the Dalai Lama. It’s such a wonderful thought that warms my heart.
Last fall I had what was a big revelation for me: for yogis and for Buddhists, religion, spirituality, and faith is a personal issue. Christians have it on good authority that they should preach to others – Jesus specifically said to go out and spread the good news, after all – but in Eastern religions, there’s no such mandate. Yogis and Buddhists, in an ideal world, just go about their business, conducting their lives according to their own beliefs and without any imperative to share their faith, although they may if they wish, if they’re approached by someone who genuinely wants to know. I love this concept, that belief is a personal matter. Think about any conversation or argument. We get so focused on making our point, making the other person see things our way. When we remove that desire to win the argument, then that frees us up to behave differently. When we don’t have to convince the other person, we have more freedom to see things from the other person’s perspective. We can act more kindly. It’s a quieter sort of faith system: you don’t have to prove the strength of your conviction to anyone but you.
I think much of what’s wrong with my country right now can be traced back to a need to proselytize. There’s a difference between sharing your ideas and telling someone about your beliefs, and forcing someone into following your beliefs. Many people get hung up on the idea of converting others, enforcing their own values, winning an imaginary war. But what’s the point of that if you hurt other people in the process?
I think Jesus’s phrasing is interesting because with news, even good news, you can take it or leave it; you can allow it to affect your life, or, like a story about a puppy rescued from a well, you can think, That’s nice and move on. Jesus just said to spread the news, he didn’t say to impose it. The counterargument to that would be, I think, that in other places in the Bible Jesus says that he’s here to make a new covenant, to which my response would be, first of all, show me the spot where Jesus says who can marry whom, and secondly, wasn’t his big new commandment about loving others? Don’t you think Jesus would be on board with the Dalai Lama’s statement here? Jesus certainly acted as though his religion was kindness. I wish that concept, the way Jesus behaved, was valued and acted upon more often in some Christian communities.
Can you imagine if we all loved our neighbor unconditionally and treated others as we would want to be treated, the way Jesus told us to do? Can you imagine what would happen if we all decided that our religion was kindness?