In human affairs, I view spirituality from three perspectives: personal development, relationships and social action. At heart, spirituality is one and indivisible. We are one ultimately with the source and sustainer of all creation. The three primary points of view reflect the need to bring consistency and integrity to culture. Peacemaking is at the core of this perspective.
I offer experiences from India, where I portray Mohandas Gandhi to bring his message, to illustrate this threefold perspective. Overemphasizing one of the three can inadequately address the goal of consistency and integrity.
The consequences can be devastating. From this perspective I must ask the question about the way we humans are acting in order to test our authenticity as spiritual human beings. “Is it spiritually consistent to destroy the Earth by toxic pollution, water contamination, nuclear radiation and weapons, and ecological devastation?”
I offer the following three interrelated approaches to spiritual reality:
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Sound child and adult development is basic to spirituality. ANUVIBHA, sponsored by the Jain religious leaders, offers ahimsa, or nonviolence, for human formation.
The Jain position is that society will become just and peaceful when every person learns to love and be nonviolent through a disciplined approach to meditation.
This approach uses spirituality and science to develop accurate perceptions of reality, ethics and just human relationships.
Intellectual and experiential education in human diversity and relationships brings about the possibility for living in diversity.
The World Peace Centre in Pune conducts educational programs that visibly and factually honor all religions and science with modern technology to pursue peace.
All the major religions of the world are symbolically represented at the center, which is within the Maharastra Institute of Technology. The center’s placement effectively illustrates that peace comes through spiritual understanding and right use of Earth’s resources.
The third approach to spirituality is direct action. India’s tribal villages are being deprived of their lands and ability to survive through their agriculture. Ekta Parishad uses organized mass actions to change the injustices of land distribution. In 2008, 27,000 tribal villagers walked from Qualior to Delhi demanding a fair system of land distribution and won concessions for a just system. The result contributes to the material well-being of society – and, I contend, the spiritual well-being of society.
Individual ahimsa, interfaith relational education and direct action are three major and distinct ways to end violence and to create a peaceful society. Each is fundamental.
Each is important. Individual consciousness and skill enables mature self direction, right relations and right action.
Education, leading to full understanding, gives direction to action.
Direct action brings about transformation and change. My point is that we need a comprehensive approach to spirituality, not a compartmentalized or fragmented approach.
To focus on any one of these or other specialized, limited perspectives is to ignore parts of our humanly created culture. We are part of a whole. The universe flows through each and every one of us. Life sustaining energies move unseen, yet are felt with every breath.
The humanly created toxins also move unseen through us. Pesticides poison our foods.
Dioxin, the most lethal chemical, seeps from plastic containers. Carbon dioxide fills our air and heats the climate.
Human-made nuclear radiation from mining, production, use and waste enters the body to maim and kill for generations. I cannot believe that these results are caused by authentic spirituality.
Nor can I accept that we cannot learn and change from these experiences. The warmth of the sun nurtures and sustains all that we cherish. All creation is wondrous.
Bernard “Bernie” Meyer is a member of the interfaith Fellowship of Reconciliation and Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.