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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

One Family

"The world is my family," says the Maha-Upanishad. Every religious and spiritual tradition I can think of echoes this teaching in one way or another, and human life's greatest good, according to these spiritual traditions embodies understanding, compassion, forgiveness and charity. Many teachers from the various traditions plead with their followers to realize that as we are all related in a fundamental way, we should not harm one another.

Of course, the sad truth is that there is trememdous suffering inflicted within the family: domestic violence is responsible for the majority of homicides in this country, and child abuse is all too common, and I am not just speaking here of the obvious physical and sexual abuse, but also of the near constant invalidation many children are confronted with throughout their lives.

On the other hand, most people have little problem seeing such behavior as at the least "dysfunctional." And with all the horrors humankind has found itself capable of inflicting on itself, few make people shudder and feel repulsed as matricide, patricide or the murder of one's children or siblings. There has been a lot of ink spilled on how to transform this suffering and create nurturing and truly functional families.

From Acts17:26 it is writen, "God hath made of one blood all nations of men." The Bhavishya Purana says, "All are the sons and duaghters of God, good people all, Brothers and Sisters, since created by One Father. No rooted difference is there between them." From Malachai 2:10 it is written, "Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?" Islamic Hadith says, "All creatures are the family of God; and he is the most beloved of God who does most good to HIs family." Finally, to quote from North American Sioux tradition, "God is the Father, Earth the Mother. With all things and in all things, we are relatives."

So why are the news media filled with stories of "ethnic cleansing," conflict between various tribes, ethnic groups, and races? Is it possible we simply do not believe what all the great spiritual teachers and masters have been saying for millenia? Perhaps, we think, nice stories, but not really true. And so we identify with our own small group and see all others as "less than human."

I have been brought to pondering this issue this week by an article I have recently read in the May 2003 issue of Discover magazine entitled "Where do we really come from?" by Kathleen McGowan. The ultimate point of this article seems to be that DNA genealogists are now uncovering just who are ancestors are, and those attached to strong ideologies of race or ethnic superiority are not going to like what is being discoverd. And that is, the old wisdom traditions are right!

Scientists studying DNA say for instance, that the very concept of race is biologically meaningless. "Compared with other mamals," McGowan reports, "All humans are practically cousins." Some facts: One troop of chimpanzees has more genetic diversity within itself than ALL 6 billion humans! An average Greek probably has as many genes in common with a Mongolian as he or she does with another Greek. The most recent genetic evidence suggests that all of us descend from a few thousand hunters who wandered out of sub-Saharan Africa less than 150,000 years ago.

One point that struck me was the finding by geneticist Michael Hammer who studied the Y chromosomes of Jewish men from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He found that their genes did in fact have more in common with one another that with most of their non-Jewish neighbors. BUT, they were indistinguishable from those of Palestinians and Syrians! I remember hearing a Palestinian woman on the news once saying that she couldn't understand why there should be fighting between the Palestinians and the Isreali Jews. "We are the same people, although they don't want to hear that," she said. She is right, on both counts, unfortunately.

For me, to contemplate that all beings are my family is a great blessing. It helps me break out from the cage of self, whether defined as this "skin bag" or my paritcular family or community. All of us, black, brown, yellow. red and white, are "in this together." We may be one hell of a dysfunctional family now, but perhaps much of our dysfunction is still based upon our ignoring the truth of our familial relationship. The Buddha said the main cause of our suffering is avidya, often translated as "ignorance." But in Sanskrit, the "ya" ending alerts us to the fact that this is a "willful" ignorance, an active ignoring of what is true and right there in front of our eyes if we only would choose to look and not turn away from or blind ourselves to what is. The therapy he suggested was the Noble Eightfold Path, heavy on stopping and looking (meditation). Maybe with therapy, we can come to an greater understanding of the truth and begin to act like the family we are.

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 1:01 PM

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