Can we see all equally?

When I was a child I went to live with a family who believed that if everyone in the world learnt the Esperanto language there would be no inequality.

The father of the family also had a theory about how, we, the peoples of the world had originally lived. He had created a relief map of all the countries of the world and was piecing them together, like a jigsaw, to show that once we all existed on one large place called earth and we all spoke the same language and co-existed peacefully.

For those of you who may never have heard of Esperanto, here is a short synopsis from Wikipedia of the person who created it.

Esperanto was created in the late 1870s and early 1880s by Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, an ophthalmologist from Białystok, then part of the Russian Empire. According to Zamenhof, he created the language to foster harmony between people from different countries. His feelings and the situation in Białystok may be gleaned from an extract from his letter to Nikolai Borovko:

“The place where I was born and spent my childhood gave direction to all my future struggles. In Białystok the inhabitants were divided into four distinct elements: Russians, Poles, Germans and Jews; each of these spoke their own language and looked on all the others as enemies. In such a town a sensitive nature feels more acutely than elsewhere the misery caused by language division and sees at every step that the diversity of languages is the first, or at least the most influential, basis for the separation of the human family into groups of enemies. I was brought up as an idealist; I was taught that all people were brothers, while outside in the street at every step I felt that there were no people, only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews and so on. This was always a great torment to my infant mind, although many people may smile at such an ‘anguish for the world’ in a child. Since at that time I thought that ‘grown-ups’ were omnipotent, so I often said to myself that when I grew up I would certainly destroy this evil.”

—L. L. Zamenhof, in a letter to Nikolai Borovko, ca. 1895’

To my young mind, I was 10 at the time I came across these ideas, I did not really give much thought to the greater picture that I was being exposed to. The idea of Gondwanaland which is what the joining of the landmasses of the world is called was of some interest to me but not in a way that I wanted to go and figure it all out rather than go swimming or whatever it was that us kids were going to be doing through the holidays.

It is of some interest that some of the major religions have introduced Esperanto into their teachings as a way of unifying their congregations.

Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called on Muslims to learn Esperanto and praised its use as a medium for better understanding among peoples of different religious backgrounds. After he suggested that Esperanto replace English as an international lingua franca, it began to be used in the seminaries of Qom.

Two Roman Catholic popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have regularly used Esperanto in their multilingual urbi et orbi blessings at Easter and Christmas each year since Easter 1994.

There are also two existing organisations that support the learning and use of Esperanto, ‘The International Union of Catholic Esperantists and ‘The International Christian Esperantists League.’ There is also a translation of the Bible in Esperanto.

The Gondwanaland conundrum has had religious and scientific scholars trying to find solutions since the idea was first noted by Francis Bacon in 1620 as maps of Africa and the New World first became available.

This drive to find solutions to the way we treat each other according to culture, race, skin colouring, social status, educational attainment and all the myriad reasons we turn our back on our neighbour, can be found  among people  from all walks of life and positions.

Everyone, generally speaking, wishes to live peacefully with their family, friends, neighbours, shopkeepers and even the strangers walking the dog every night down the street.  Most people don’t get up in the morning and decide that part of their day’s mission is to start a fight or have an argument or worse yet get into a physical situation that can and sometimes does result in a death.

If we look at history, there are so many wars that have culminated from the perception that this lot of people are somehow so different and unacceptable as my lot of people that I will be part of the movement to go to war against them, to torture, pillage and do the most atrocious things that are inherently against our higher natures. Take the situation in Rwanda where the Tutsi and the Hutu had been living for the most part in peaceful co-existence for centuries. Along came the colonialists who through their own racist perceptions started to treat the Tutsi differently from the Hutu, giving them a higher station in life by letting them into administrative positions and in general considering them to be not only superior in intelligence but somewhat lighter skinned than the Hutu. After several decades of this type of divisional governance the final breakdown between the two nationalities led to one of the most devastating wars where over a million people were slaughtered.

This is one horrific, historical incident but if we look back over the last 100 years, similar events have been enacted with death tolls from hundreds of thousands to the millions. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, 1.5 to 1.7 million approximately. The war Hitler inflicted on the Jews, 6 million, plus another 6 to 7 million victims such as Gypsies, Poles, Russians, Ukranians, Belarusians and also the 250 thousand handicapped people that were put to death.  Then we have the American Civil war, brother against brother, the Crusades, religion against religion. This article would stretch into too many pages if I listed all the wars just in modern times that have been fought because one side was not able to accept the others point of view.

You may consider my thoughts to be too simplistic, that I do not understand the nature of the complicated worlds of political parrying or the righteousness of one religion over another. However, I have been a searcher of solutions for many years and on learning and putting into practise the basic principle of making a differentiation between the bodily concepts that we erroneously carry around with us and the understanding that each and every living creature is a spiritual being, I believe I have something to offer.

When we make judgements based on the appearance of a person we are not seeing the actual self, the real person within. We act based on these erroneous perceptions which leads to all types of misunderstanding and worse.

There are so many instances where the difference between the physical body and the self are brought to the attention of the reader.

Socrates was being held prisoner on trumped up charges and Crito, who up until this point had been a friend of Socrates asked him, “But how shall we bury you?”  Socrates replied:  Any way you like—that is, if you can catch me and I don’t slip through your fingers….It is only my body you are burying; and you can bury it in whatever way you think is most proper. Dialogues 1942, p. 150).

It is obvious that Socrates was referring to himself, the soul, when he says that he will slip through Crito’s fingers and he won’t be able to be caught.

Plato argues in the Republic, that the soul cannot be destroyed by any inherent evil or by anything external to it. In his Phaedrus he reasons that the soul is its own “self-moving principle” and is therefore uncreated, eternal, and indestructible.

In the early Christian church both St. Gregory of Nyssa and St Augustine concurred that there was a definite distinction between the flesh and blood of the body and the actual existence of the person or soul within.

The Hebrew word ‘nephesh’, although translated as “soul” in some older English Bibles, actually has a meaning closer to “living being”

 

‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath, neshemah, of life; and man became a living  soul,

Nephesh.’  Genesis 2:7

Jesus asked his followers “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26a)
Islam teaches that the soul is immortal and eternal. We find this in the Qur’an.  And they ask you, (O Muhammad), about the soul (Rûh). Say, “The soul (Rûh) is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little.” – Qur’an 17:85

In the Vedic literature, specifically in the ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is,’ we find this quote which not only mentions the existence of the soul but gives additional information as to its nature.

“For the soul (atma) there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever – existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain”.  Bhagavad Gita

Even some modern day scientists are looking for an explanation for the difference that occurs between the conscious, living, physical being and the inert lump of matter at the time of death.

The body is the shell, the covering, the vehicle in which I move and function in my daily life as everyone does. It transports me from place to place just as my car does when I go driving. It assists me when I want to eat by having hands to hold knives and forks and a mouth in which to place the food.We are not material in essence nor are we made up of chemicals as most scientist claim.

If I was not in the body directing it to do these things it would indeed be just a lump of matter collapsed somewhere. The body cannot function without me in it. I am the motivating factor that makes the body move around and do particular actions.

The nature of me the self, is spiritual. I am ever-existing. I am the consciousness which decides what to do and how to do it. So is everyone else who is occupying a living moving form. It makes no difference if the particular body they are in is American or African, any nationality. Their body may be large or tiny; they may be tall or short, aged or young. They may be handicapped or superbly healthy. Whatever type of body they are occupying is the temporary form that we perceive. But there is a different way of perceiving and that is with the inner eye of wisdom.

For us to progress as compassionate human beings we need to see past the bodily identity and see the person. We need to look past the differences that will create divisions and see that which is similar.

Everyone is struggling in this world, we are all experiencing sorrow, trials, difficulties, every day of our lives. Everyone!

If I can develop this spiritual vision of understanding that the particular body someone has on is temporary and rather than judge them on their external self, be aware of them, the spiritual self within. Our body needs material food and we the spiritual self need spiritual food.

This is the answer Zamenhof was looking for when he created Esperanto. This information is available in all the major religions as we have seen but unfortunately it is not widely taught.  If I knew right from the start of my life that the existence of the self was a reality I would not see anyone in any other light. It would be my first point of reference and it would bring with it greater acceptance and understanding.

Having this reality as a base to work from gives a person the ability to develop tolerance for anyone we may consider to be different from myself, including those people who are from very different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It does not mean that we are not able to recognise anti-social or destructive behaviour as being non-acceptable. No, this is how we use our intelligence, to discriminate where there is activity that breaks down the guidelines our society has in place for civilised behaviour.

This knowledge, that I am spiritual, as is ever other person, creates that equality I am searching for. This person, that person, is the same as me, spiritual in essence, an eternal living being, traversing the world in a different covering to me but nevertheless the same in essence as myself. Using this reality as a guiding, living tool gives me the tolerance and acceptance that so many people strive for.