Recently I had a discussion with someone discussing yoga and its potential benefits for their elderly Mother. Then proceeded to tell me that he is Christian, and not fond of this new age stuff that opens your mind. I asked why he felt that way, and he explained that an open mind allows evil to get in.
I was not be judgmental when he said this, but I did feel a bit sad and compassionate toward him. But quickly I realized that I was being judgmental in a way. I had determined that he was in a bad place if he was living with a closed mind. Stories brewed quickly about how much he was missing by not having an open mind. I decided that his heart was closed also because his mind could not see the endless possibilities that are available to him.
I think there are so many people in this World with beautiful open hearts, that are so caring, compassionate and giving. And so many of them likely do not have an open mind at all. Based in any religious belief, they are functioning on a strong faith and practice to be good people. And I cannot find any fault with that at all. A good example is by looking at how many Nobel Peace prize winners have been from so many religious backgrounds, while only two were Buddhist. And there are so many other faith-based human beings throughout history who have helped so many through unconditional love and compassion, even at the risk of losing their own lives to help others. Oskar Schindler would be just one powerful example of this.
Having Buddha as our teacher does not mean forsaking all others, but quite the opposite. The teachings (dhamma) clearly demonstrate that any separation of living beings is a fundamental misunderstanding of reality. Love is love, kindness is kindness, compassion is compassion. And it is our practice to understand these things without having dogmas, attachments or aversions to others.
And anytime that we feel that twinge of aversion, resentment or opposition to anyone else’s beliefs, than we have missed the most basic tenets of the Buddhist practice. This is to accept, be mindful, and cultivate loving kindness. Understanding that regardless of any personal beliefs or religious affiliation, we are all subject to the same birth, decay and death. And we each have the right to peace and happiness in what ever way any of us so choose. And as the same person said to me as we finished our conversation, “love your neighbor as yourself“. (Matthew 22:39)