Volume 12, #1 (January-February 2000)
On Faith & Fear, Religion & Spirituality:
Welcome to our first issue for the year 2000!
While visiting Germany one summer, I went to a public park in Hamburg. There I saw two robots intermingling with people -- young and old. Everyone was having a blast talking and playing with these almost human machines. Out of curiosity, I went and said "hello" to one of the robots to begin a conversation. In response it said, "Hello, are you a guru or something?" My accent and my bearded Indian face must have identified me as a guru! But really, who is a true guru?
During the month of November, I attended a spiritual gathering in California. For one week people from many walks of life came to a rural religious center in San Ramon to have her darshan and satsang, to receive her blessings. Ammachi might look like an ordinary person, but she is not. She is a guru, or spiritual teacher, to countless people, from various cultural and religious backgrounds all over the world. On page 35, Ammachi talks about true spiritual teachers.
Soon after returning from this high-energy visit to Ammachi, I had a conversation with a 'born-again' Christian on Thanksgiving morning. I told him about an interfaith community service that I had attended at a Christian church the night before. I told him how meaningful it felt to be a part of a large gathering of Christians (Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Christian Scientists, Quakers, and others) along with followers of Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Bahai' and Hindu faiths, as well as of Native American spirituality. He challenged not only my Hindu faith but also the interfaith movement! For him, Jesus was the only way to salvation.
I simply could not go along with his notion that the supreme, universal power had given a spiritual monopoly to just one prophet, one religion, one faith. In a world of thousands of languages, and hundreds of nations, universal truth would need to be revealed independently, through many messengers and prophets, saints and sages, in different languages, over the ages.
I have felt touched by divine love and compassion in many different places of worship. While it is natural for people to feel more comfortable in their own religion or faith, there is no reason why one could not experience spirituality in other traditions.
A path of compassion, patience, love, devotion, and understanding will surely bring us much closer to everlasting happiness in life. A guru, saint, pastor, rabbi, minister -- any self-realized soul whom we trust -- could help us grow spiritually. Let us find spiritual values to guide all our thoughts and actions -- personal, economic, or social.
While I don't worry about "salvation" or "liberation after death," I do worry about whether I am happy in life. I am beginning to understand that my happiness will depend on how compassionate I have been in my conduct towards others, how peaceful my thoughts have been, and how much devotion and faith I have in the universal power -- whatever we call that power. So I am concerned about doing my work well, and trying my best. But I am learning not to worry about whether I'll achieve my goals. I am learning to accept any outcomes. For I am just beginning to understand that I am just a tiny part of the world.
by Arun Toke, Editor
by Christian Espinoza Alvarez, 5th grade, Mexican-American, Centenial Elem. School, Springfield, Oregon
I have never given much thought to the color of my skin. It's just there, like a picture you see but never think about. In my school, in the city of Chicago, there are many different people from many diverse races. You see the differences, but don't really think about them, because although you may have a different skin color, you still dress alike and, for the most part, act alike. But...there are some exceptions.
Once in awhile, someone comes along with not only a different skin color, but a different personality. That was the case with Katherine Elizabeth.
Personally, I think her name was all wrong. You see, Katherine Elizabeth was black, and I have never heard of a black girl named Katherine Elizabeth. Maybe if she had shortened it to Kathy or Liz, she would have been okay, but she insisted that people call her Katherine Elizabeth.
That wasn't even the beginning of it. Katherine Elizabeth was smart -- very smart. She always made straight A's. Teachers were delighted with her. The kids weren't. In our school, it wasn't cool for a black student to be so smart. I don't know why; maybe we thought that if we were down, everybody should be down. It seems dumb now, but it was the rule everybody followed. When the teacher asked a question, I slumped down in my seat and wrote notes to my friends, while Katherine Elizabeth waved her hand in the air -- for every question. I think it was jealousy that got everyone started on Katherine Elizabeth.
We began by talking about her behind her back. Kids called her "oreo" and accused her of "acting white" -- and that was on their nicer days. Pretty soon, it was so bad that Katherine Elizabeth couldn't even go to the bathroom for fear that someone would beat her up. All because she was smart and not the "right" color.
I wish I could say that I stood up for Katherine Elizabeth and tried to befriend her, but I can't. After awhile, she left our school to go to a private school; at least, that's what I heard. But that's not the end of the story. That girl we teased and bullied grew up to be Katherine Elizabeth Dunway, the first African-American president of the United States. All because she had the strength and courage to be herself amongst the horrible stereotype that says if you're black, it's not cool to be smart. Right now, I am sitting in my room, watching her recite the Oath of Office. All I can think of right now is,
"You go, Katherine Elizabeth."
by Angela Michelle Banks, 13, African-American, Cincinnati, Ohio. Angela writes, "I was inspired to write this story when I saw how bad some people treat others who are 'different' from them. I also see that a lot of people are afraid of being themselves or reaching their full potential beacuse they don't want to be teased or made fun of. I wanted to celebrate someone who was brave enough to go against the crowd, who could stand up and be proud of herself and her culture. I hope that people will be able to have pride in their diversity and uniqueness."
Skipping Stones Magazine