Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Golden Rule

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn"
Rabbi Hillal the Elder, 110BCE-10CE

"To be really sorry for one's errors is like opening the door of heaven."
Hazrat Inayat Khan

I just watched a video of Karen Armstrong, one of my favorite authors, on If you are not familiar with I urge you to go to it right now and watch and listen to something. It is a truly remarkable web site with all sorts of fascinating and informative lectures by brilliant people. What Ms. Armstrong was saying in essence was that whereas religions should be leading the way in creating an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, what they really seem to be doing is getting in the way. They seem to be more concerned with being “right” then with implementing the basic compassion which is at the root of all religious expression. So, what she proposed was that we just do it. Without waiting for someone to say it is okay; that we institute the Golden Rule ourselves.

There is a practice within Sufism called Muhasaba. What it means is examination of conscience and what it asks is that we constantly check out how we are thinking and what we are doing. Much of what we do is based on habit -- habit of thought, habit of behavior, habit of attitude and so on. Along with these habits comes what we in the hypnosis business call the Rational Mind. It is a part of waking consciousness and has only one job really. It gives us reasons for our behavior and for our habits. They don't have to be good reasons or even based on any kind of reality. As long as we believe them then they work for us.

A classic example of a bad reason for behavior is 'white people are superior.' A whole culture believed this and caused untold harm as a result. I am not sure that it was avoidable at the time but it certainly is avoidable now, yet there are those who continue to believe it.

Muhasaba asks that we observe our own behavior, not someone else's, with total detachment, without judgment. But, as you do the practice, just watching, you will find yourself dismayed at some of the things you say and do, apparently with no thought at all. They are just your habit. What the practice does, however, is teach you the truth of the Golden Rule. There is nothing magical about it, implementation is difficult and requires constant attention. What does happen is that you will begin to notice when you say and do things to others that you would hate having done to you. Viola!

I thought to give an example from my own extensive list of bad behaviors but there is no need. Any honest person can easily see their own without my examples. And, I guess I have given enough examples in other places. I think the important thing to pay attention to is the idea of being right. As long as you are convinced of your rightness in any issue, moral or otherwise, you have a problem. Being right is really good for assembling things, engines and bicycles and things like that. For all other issues being right just gets in the way of being truly human.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


molly said...

I think that if we are categorizing behavior as good or bad when we are looking at it, it's not from a detached and nonjudgemental standpoint. I have noticed how stubtly my personality will validify continuing habits that don't necessarily serve expansion and growth. Breaking those habits, whether actions or thoughts, seems to depend awareness more than anything.

Anonymous said...

"Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny." M. Gandhi (even though I have seen this quote being attributed to others as well)
That's what this blog reminds me of. And then of this one too, by Rumi : "Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other' doesn't make any sense."
And since I seem to be all quotes today, it finally makes me think of what this young girl said to me while I was working on a project for the rights of children in a detention home for teenagers : "The important thing is Love. As long as you look at everything with Love, you'll know that you'll respect everybody's rights." Lisa
For me that sums it all up ... something I'd call, for lack of a better word, an attitude of loving awareness, towards oneself and towards others.

Much of that ... ;-)