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Pardon me while I go help the poor

It's not surprising that some religious leaders specialize in intolerance. They actively discriminate against women, gays, and other marginalized peoples within their tradition, preserving and protecting a strong exclusionary power base .

Just as patriotism can be the refuge of a scoundrel, these leaders have a positive facade to hide behind. It's called helping the poor. Helping the poor is a key principle of any great religion worth its salt. But it also makes a convenient smokescreen for bigoted leaders to hide behind.

When a new religious leader proclaims, "I am here to help the poor!" we all cheer and are less likely to pay attention to the backward-looking bigotry that will characterize his reign.

What we need are religious leaders who will aver energetic commitment to all people: the poor, women, the LGBT community, to the environment which sustains us, and to the living creatures with whom we share this planet. We do not need leaders who hide behind the poor so they can continue to discriminate against the majority of humankind.

When religious leaders start talking about the poor, be sure to check the backstory: they are usually talking less about the poor than they are about the agendas they wish to pursue without public notice.

Posted on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 08:07AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Compassion vs. Love

Eastern and Western religious traditions use different words for a similar concept.  Eastern traditions such as Buddhism admonish followers to develop “compassion” for all beings. Western traditions, such as Christianity, emphasize the need for “love.”

Love is a warmer word, rich with feeling. Compassion is more cerebral, less focused on emotion.

In fact, it’s more complex than that: Christianity, for example, recognizes four types of love. They are:

  • ·         love between family members (storge),
  • ·         erotic or romantic love (eros),
  • ·         affection without erotic overtones (philos), and
  • ·         ideal love (agape).

Because love in most of its forms is tangled up with human emotions, it is not always a reliable foundation for reasonable behavior. On the other hand, Eastern compassion can strike some people as cold or detached. To put it another way, love by itself can be too personal, while compassion may be too abstract.

Recently, I’ve noticed that the Dalai Lama (the leader of Tibetan Buddhism) has been using a different term that seems to supplement love and compassion. That term is “warm-heartedness.”  This term adds a personal warmth to compassion, and a calm, softening quality to love. When used together, the three terms create a trinity of heart-felt caring, compassion, and deep feeling.

What could be better than to live and act with love, compassion, and warm-heartedness? Surely this is a recipe for peace and harmony among all people of good will.

Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 03:11PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | Comments2 Comments | References44 References

Open the Door

Many wisdom and religious traditions tell of a door that needs to be opened. Behind this door, they say, is the pathway to enlightenment, or perhaps Enlightenment itself.

But seekers do not need to fly to the Himalayas or the Ganges river bank to find this important door. There is a reason why so many traditions point to the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows, when speaking of this door. For the door to Enlightenment is our own understanding, centered deep within our own minds. When the cobwebs of delusion and misinformation are swept away, we have the power to open this door and enter into our own understanding. That is the inevitability and ease of Enlightenment.

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 04:05PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

What is proper?

The sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita deals with balance. Dr. Vijayendra Pratap, founder of the Yoga Research Society based in Philadelphia, Pa., tells us that the Sanskrit word, "yukta," used in this chapter means "proper." In all things, we need to ask ourselves, what is proper in this context, in my life? As verse 16 states, Yoga is not for one who eats too much or too little--nor...for one who sleeps too much or too little (Swami Swarupananda, ed.). As Dr. Pratap states, what is a proper diet for an ant is not proper for an elephant. Some people need eight or nine hours of sleep to be healthy and productive, others may need four or five. Clearly, one size does not fit all.

"To (the person) who is temperate in effort...sleep and wakefulness, Yoga becomes the destroyer of misery," the Gita observes in 6:17.  We should be sensitive, observant, and still our busy minds so we can truly understand our own needs and the needs of others. In this context of silent alertness, we come to know what is proper.


Posted on Monday, April 22, 2013 at 09:03AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

We are All Mozart (a poem)

We are All Mozart

Reflections on going through stacks of old artwork in the pantry

Simone turned from him gently, and sat beside the open window. It was dusk, and she looked out over the rooftops toward the setting sun.

“Don’t we always identify with Mozart? I am the messy one who can’t find her sketches. They are smashed between sandwich bags and sacks of barley on the kitchen shelf. They’ve been there 35 years!  Where are my songs? My stories? Why can’t I be organized and neat, with clean sheets of paper with unfolded corners stacked like Pringle’s chips in a cardboard box?

“That is not my mind. All I can do is laugh. And cry. My wig keeps slipping off, even when my back is turned. I found my best portrait: the paper split an inch from the middle, and all the edges brown. What am I always thinking of, or did for all those years? Everything once fine smells like old newspapers forgotten in the cellar, a bit dusty, a bit damp. That is the stale smell of my soul.

“So, did you know I can write backwards and sometimes draw what’s over my shoulder while looking in the mirror? That once I wrote all night and drew all day, magic flying out of me like a sparkler’s fire? Find me someone, quick, before the sun is gone, someone with the Dewey decimal system etched into his heart, a fierce art-saving Kali: a feather-duster in one hand, a Vupoint scanning wand in the other. Have him save these fragments of my soul before they wither into scraps of random words and lines, a corner of a dancing image, a leaf, the last iambic memory of a lost quatrain.

“We are all Mozart, leaving life with nothing to our name but that trail of vague flickering fairy lights—a poem, a song, a star. Save them, they are all I am. If one of them must, then let it be me, who turns to dust."

Posted on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 06:00PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment