All I know is....

All I know is
... nothing wise has ever followed those words. It is the poster saying of the intolerant.

Pre-911, the Western world envisionsed the Middle East as full of radical paramilitary Islamic terrorists just waiting to attack Western targets out of pure hatred.

Post-911, the Western world envisionsed the Middle East as full of radical paramilitary Islamic terrorists just waiting to attack Western targets out of pure hatred, but the idea has taken firm hold.

Traditionalists argue that Islam is not a violent religion and that the Christian majority in the west hold the many responsible for the acts of a few. Armed with the power of the internet, Christians fight back with quotes from the Qu'ran, quotes of violence that seem to back up their image.

When asked of this, I asked the Christian questioning me if they were aware of their own violent tradition. Was it not the Bible that said, "He is without guilt cast the first stone?" I mentioned parts of the Old Testement that had shocked me as a child, but was not shocked to find out that this person, fully educated to the college level, firmly believing they understood their Christian history, knew little of it. There are many stories of the Old Testement that are best not told in Sunday School. As an example of this, I went to a Bible commentary website. I had mentioned an odd curiosity of the Bible in that almost every time a woman is mentioned, it is followed by something negative(the subject of a later post). To find an example of murder or acts that we would deem horrible or evil, I typed in the word: woman.

It brought me to a section in Numbers, when Moses is with the army, freed from Pharoah, fighting their way to the 'Promised Land.' They have beaten an army and now must decide what to do with the survivors. As a good people, we would assume they would let the survivors go. Sadly, this is not the be. Moses orders that his army kill all the male children. Yes, children. No matter two or twelve, they are to be murdered. Women who were married to men slain in the battle are to be killed as well. It seems the devirginized woman are of no use. Moses does, however, keep all of the virgin women and children as treasure. (see excerpt from Numbers following this post)

It sounds like a story from a barbaric tribe or how the Christians imagine that the Muslims would behave. Sadly, that is not the case. I did not have to dig far.

I have often said that war is a disgrace, but there are times when you have no choice. In those times, war is among the soldiers and any country or people that bring war to innocent people, women and children at least, forfeit any morale stance in whatever cause they fight for. There are very few rules in life that you should follow at all times. Sometimes we must lie to protect someone or kill to save our family. When we kill children, what are we protecting them from? Shouldn't someone be protecting them from us?

Too often in the West, the intolerant majority point fingers. Ghandi once said to change within yourself what you want to see changed within the world. We cannot go about pointing fingers and casting stones at the past of Islam when we see a history with just as much bloodshed.

Tolerance is a beautiful virtue. Tolerance is much harder to maintain than almost any other goal. It is easier to hate than to love.

I read a story told by H.H. Dalai Lama in which he tells of a Tibetan refugee who had spent most of his life in a Chinese prison. The Chinese, after invading Tibet, had tried to turn the Tibetan people against the Dalai Lama. One could face gruesome torture for simply refusing to denounce him. This particular prisoner stayed for a very long time, facing torture and, no doubt, long sessions of propoganda. He told H.H.Dalai Lama that at one time, he almost became weak. H.H.Dalai Lama asked how so. He said he had almost lost his love for his captors! You see, within Buddhism, it is understood that one must love the good neighbor and the bad one, the one that blesses you and the one that curses you. This man was saddened by the fact that he had almost lost this love and compassion. Most of us would be full of hate, but this man was full of love. That is tolerance.

Someone once said to me (as many have said to many others) that "All I know is... There is only one GOD and that GOD is GOD. You aren't supposed to worship anyone else."
"What about Jehovah?" I asked.
"But those are all words for GOD in other cultures, just as other beliefs are another manifestation of something beyond our normal understanding. Jesus never used the word 'GOD'. He spoke Aramaic. Jesus also didn't see GOD as his contemporaries did. Many things he says dispute the Old Testement. The same is true for Mohamet. Buddha saw something different than his contemporaries as well. It seems to me that this 'something' is hard to grasp and that most people fall back into old habits and superstitions, basic traps of the mind, and the veil between them and what these wise men could grasp is cut off. If we could all be saints, the world would not be as it is. It stands to reason that any religion will be made up of a majority of people that don't understand it, truly. Just holding to tradition for tradition's sake would not have given us any of these men, or any other great religions figures."
"All I know is..... GOD is the only GOD and the Muslim people GOD isn't GOD. They just fight people. We have to get them first," she explained.
"Is there no room for tolerance," I asked.
"No. We have to protect ourselves."
"Wasn't it Jesus who said, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.' His last talk with GOD is to ask forgiveness of those who will kill him. I am just one man with limited awareness, but perhaps this is the message that you should follow:
All I know is... there may be terrorists, but we must forgive them.
There may be people who would slander our religion, but we must forgive them.
There may be people who would take our lives, but we must forgive them.
Hatred sows a seed of hate that bears fruit. That fruit is what our children will eat. Do you want to feed your children hatred and intolerance?

We all have great religious icons to look to for this type of "super-human" kindness and tolerance. Perhaps they are not in your Mosque, Church, or Temple. Not everyone can see clearly the light of the sun, for some, while searching for their own reflection, will get lost in the reflection of the light, and see it for the sun. When man sees himself in the light of religion he brings harm to the world.
All I know is.... tolerance sows seeds of love and compassion and that is a fruit I would like my children to feast on.

excerpt from Numbers:
And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. 14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. 15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.


"You Have No Right To Ask"

"You have no right to ask," was the response of the Eritrean government when pressed over human right violations. The newly formed country has come under fire from former supporters for imprisonment of religious practioners, both Christian and Muslim, and journalists. The military have been banned from participating in religious activity, or face serious consequences.
Amnest International Article-
Secondary Article-
Religious Persecution in Eritrea



I thought I would begin with my own initial experiences of "religion" and insight. I don't feel that I, growing up in the West, have ever adopted an "Eastern" viewpoint. There is a beauty to Eastern culture, running quite contrary to Western culture, that can grip someone who has lost faith in the materialist, reason-based, Western ideals. This sort of effect does not typically occur as a child but in adulthood.


The "Western" viewpoint takes root in childhood, as each child is taught a way to conceptualize their everyday experiences. Each individual child takes in an experience and compares it to their developing worldview. As far back as I can remember, I found that these two ideas rarely agreed. My individual experience of events did not agree with the socialization ideology of my region. There seemed to be another side of all things which no child or adult around me could see, almost like seeing an apparition that was invisible to all others.
I can remember as I progressed thourgh early schooling, year to another, the children around me adopted new views, mannerism, thoughts, habits, and ideas. While there were small differences, the general structure of these changes was apparent. The gradual absorption of these habits, rituals, and mannerism did not seem to "download" and "start running" in me so well. Something within me seemed to be broken.
Facial expressions, hand gestures, ways of walking and talking, sounds, words, vocabulary... they all failed to work so well with me. It was as if my "Operating System" did not recognize these strange programs. I spent a great portion of my childhood trying to figure out what was broken and learn how to fix it as quickly as possible. I wanted to adapt to this environment and adapt these mannerism and learn how to coincide with those around me. Instead, the human experience, at all times, felt almost false.
I made attempts to understand this problem and I asked those around me if they had similar experiences or observations. I can still remember from very early childhood a particular girl's response to my inquiry:
"What the hell is wrong with you?"


At around this same time I began to notice that things that others derived a sense of pleasure from did not bring about that same effect in me, or at least on the same apparent scale. I also began to feel like life was some little trick, like a donkey following a carrot held out in front of him with a stick... a carrot he will never reach, but keeps walking nonetheless. When someone in class would offer me a piece of candy, I would eat it, and leave the experience worse off. At that moment, the candy had brought about a craving for candy which could not be satisfied by one piece. The horror of it all was that when I would attempt to satisfy this craving by purchasing a treasure room full of candy and walking down the candy-buffet, I also found myself worse off. I would eat too much candy and feel sick, tired, and get a headache. Was there no solution? Was there no middle ground?
I also had the same observance with sleep. I either had way too much, or more often, very little. I was later diagnosed with a sleep cycle disorder, a disorder in which my brain is constantly on, and when I reach deep stages of sleep, my mind is ripped from it with thought, and therefore true rest is unattainable. I was told that 8 hours of sleep for me was equivalent to only about 4 or 5 for someone else. Basically I lack restful sleep and so I never find that perfect balance and attain a "perfect night of sleep" where I awake refreshed.
I began to feel that there was a hidden taint to all things pleasurable and that happiness was an impossibility.


Another event which sticks out in my mind was when a person from another country looked at a river and called it a stream. I corrected them and told them it was a river, but then wondered how I knew so. I begin to try to find the point where a river ends. At what size, depth, width, or rate of flow does a stream end and a river begin? Can there be such a place? There was no actual point of change so how could I know one from the other?
This moment shook me and everything in the world lost much of it's form. Did anything exist? I couldn't even prove to myself that a river existed!
I found some relief when I looked at my own body. There I found a shell, in the form of skin and it was easy to say what was my body and what was someone else's body. But I made the mistake of listening during biology class. I found out that cells constantly die and new cells are formed. The food we eat becomes muscle, sinew, bone, hair, and perhaps even fuels an individual thought. I am food, I realized... but I am also not food. I was something else. Where was I? I started to feel like the river.
What connected the me of now with the me of then? If every cell in the human body has been replaced within 7 years, what part of me is me? My thoughts? Even those change!
Another vivid memory is looking in the mirror as a child and feeling no connection to the face. The sight perception has not thought of, "I am looking at myself." It was a face but I had the experience as if I was looking at a picture of someone else's face. It didn't belong. I also had a similar experience with my name. I had a daydream in which I was outside of the vessel in which my name held firm and had no grasp of how it had been assigned to me, what it was, and where it was. It was as if the concept of NAME short-circuited.
Things really became confusing when a new experience began. I was in the middle of speaking with someone when I lost the anchor with myself and began to drift from that state of mind. For a moment, I could sense and feel the micro-calculations that went into every word and within every sentence, and how each word was meant not only to express an idea, but to establish a concept of ME within that person's mind, but in the manner that I wanted it to be so. I could see that all human conversation, in my mind, had a hidden agenda. But with that sub-process stopped, there was no source of words and the conversation stopped in mid-sentence. From there I went out of normal experience and began to lose the concept of subject and object, of the normal flow of time, and there was a silence in my mind that was, for the first time, deafening. The hundreds of tiny thoughts were gone. Everything that IS, was not IS anymore. I had a sense that I needed to pull out further. Now I would define it as if I were still in a defiled state and had to unattach further. With that came a sense of longing for the sensual, defiled, unhappy world. The world made no sense, people made no sense, but that was where I wanted to be, and I wanted to experience that world with the tiny sufferings of each moment. The experience faded.
Those moments were to occur and still do occur, but each time that hold I have on pulling myself back gets weaker. The desire to return to "this" is less.
With not one soul around me to speak of these things, I began to look to mentors or guides within religion. I found no answer. Those held in regard within the church that I was brought to by my parents seemed as lost as I was. The worst thought was that I felt that they didn't sense this other shore and had no desire to get there. They seemed attached to their words in the way that I was, in establishing myself within someone else, and dispensing my own agenda.


Asian Philosophy and Asian viewpoints had always made more sense. There was not the same sense of "foreign" in their worldview/experience as there was where I lived. Yet even this worldview failed to address many experiences that I felt ran contrary to the way it was stated that "things were."
In college I began to be fascinated by Buddhism. It was interesting that in all my childhood reading of Asian culture, philosophy, and art that I had never had the thought to read a book specifically on an Asian religion. Much of it had to do with a belief planted in my mind that other religions were impure and that it was a sin to embrace them. Though I doubted that this was correct, it somehow diverted my attention.
After reading the words of the Buddha and learning of Buddhist philosophy, I begin to finally feel that I had mentors in this world. Here is someone who had been through similar experiences and doubted the validity of the current worldview of reality. I had the same experience with Daoism and later Hinduism. After some time I began to read Buddhist works more and more. I did not define myself as Buddhist, but said that "we appear to be walking the same path."
Much of this, I think, was driven by ego. The revelations that Buddha made to many people, that shocked people, and woke them from their waking dream, was nothing new to me. The satisfaction I had was in the way the Buddha and others could express this experience, far beyond any way that I had attempted. One thing had to be clear to myself and to others: I had discovered these things for myself.


It is hard to predict where a path will lead. This ignorance and holding to ego held me into Buddhism long enough to learn deeper aspects of this reality and to further my experience. Instead of feeling like the sun within this galaxy, large and grand, I began to feel like one grain of sand on the River Ganges. I was humbled by thoughts and experience far beyond anything I had ever experienced and realized that "I am nothing special."
Since that time, many beliefs have had an effect on me and brought about change, but Buddhism has been the deepest river for me. I stopped trying to prove myself and prove to people that I wasn't some "Westerner turned yogi." I just wanted to learn and progress. It was no longer an insult to ego to call myself a Buddhist.


Lately, I haven't been so attached to these names and labels. Enlightened experience is individual. Since childhood I have felt that people should take individual responsibility for their education, both spiritual and material. Those that have come before and have awakened did so in a state outside of the convenient sections of the bookstore or with any silly names. Each individual constructed their worldview through individual experience and therefore the means to transcend ignorance will be individual and unique. The one true source for one might not be so for another. Others may need no religion at all. (a topic in the works for a future posting)
My bookshelf holds more books on Buddhism, mainly Tibetan and Chan, but it also holds works of many faiths and religions. That is the easiest way to describe my path, my jñana-marga.
I once finished yoga and began to meditate. A thought entered my mind, "Am I practicing Hindu meditation or Buddhist meditation. The ignorance of this concept, of the name defining the method, opened me up even further to this idea of individual experience. As the Buddha said, "Be lamps unto yourself."


Ground Rules

Here is the basic layout of this blog:

Interfaith discussions of issues of:
- Compassion
- Ethical Responsibility
- Mental Tranquility
- Generosity
- Discernment

This blog is not about:
- Atman vs Anatman
- Science vs Religion
- Attempting to rate or place a religion on some scale

When referring to spiritual leaders, enlightened gurus, god-sent beings, and awakened humans, the most common mass reference will be used... ex. Buddha Shakyamuni, Lord Krishna, H.H. The Dalai Lama....

No particular figurehead will be refered with a title such as, "The One True God" or "One True Teacher." This sort of title does not foster open discussion among religions. The historical Jesus will be refered to as Jesus Christ, providing both name and bestowed title, but no other titles will be used. Other titles contradict other faiths and are better suited for groups of only that belief.

This is a blog about awareness and intellect, not tradition and rhetoric. Theories or ideas should be backed by example or qoute, and not by some traditional belief backed by little more than cycles of sun and earth.

Comments should be written with thoughfulness of all parties involved. Discussion and debate is hoped for, arguement based in anger and spiteful comments or accusations of eternal damnation are not.

Just as the petals of the flower turn to the sun and open to receive the light, may we all gain from this Interfaith dialog.



To begin this Interfaith blog I thought I would keep things simple. While I finish up on the first post I thought I would write here the dying words of two of the worlds great spiritual leaders. Both Buddha and Christ died from the actions of another man and both forgave.


Be ye lamps unto yourselves.
All compounds are transitory.
Work out your own salvation
with diligence.


Ye are the light of the world.
Ye are not of this world even as I am not.
Work out your own salvation with fear and

1. Willis, Jim The Religion Book Canton: Visible Ink Press, 2004



One man's hero is another man's terrorist. One man's saint is another man's Satan. Often the metaphor of the coin is used, saying that the coin has 2 sides, but remains the same coin. How can one be fooled into thinking that a coin has 2 sides. Pick up a coin right now and look at it's face or at it's tail. On which side are your fingers placed? Neither the front nor the back. Either the fingers hold the coin by some unknown force or there is a third side. How can so many people speak of the 2 sides of a coin and miss the third? If it is so easy to miss what is right in front of us, how likely is it that we have missed the more difficult challenges of spiritual awareness?
As Ghandi said, "Knowledge without devotion is a misfire."1 Devotion is not kneeling in front of statues or idols, reciting prayers or mantras, or wearing robes and bracelets. Devotion is hammering the metal of a religion, beating hard on each teaching to find it's true meaning and significance. Most religious traditions have cooled over the years, as the new world teaches us not to question what has become tradition. To question is a sacred gift and it is the only gift that has the full power to unite us with the universal awareness, no matter what name you call it, and shed off our tainted thoughts and actions. We must never fear to question. We must also realize that religious pursuit is not a weekend race but a daily event that occurs over a lifetime. There are no breaks or pit stops. Every action we make, and every thought we generate sends forth a seed. That seed will bear fruit. The beautiful land of the future is built with golden seeds of the present. It is up to us to make this world come true. Don't doubt the heaven after death or the coming nirvana, but seek to make a pure land on earth, and leave those ideas to the moment of our passing. Welcome to my journey of discovery and question.

1. Ghandi, M.K. The Bhagavad Gita according to Gandhi Albany: Berkeley Hills Books, 2000