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Sept. 11 a day for interfaith, intercultural dialogue.

Byline: FROM HEART TO HEART By Arun Toke For The Register-Guard

In 1984, during an international peace walk in Central America for two months, I walked from one community to the next, talking and listening to the people of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

In 1986, 350 delegates from 30 countries dialogued on war and peace issues: nonviolent communication, war resistance, peace education, ecological awareness and international understanding at a weeklong peace conference at a Gandhian community in India. It was here that we visualized "Skipping Stones," a multicultural and ecological forum for global youths.

On my way back to the United States, I bicycled 2,000 miles on a solo trek in Northern Europe, meeting many people. Then in 1987, I spent six weeks at an international Quaker camp, working with rural families in the Sierra Madres of Northern Mexico.

These experiences developed my intercultural understanding. They offered opportunities for sharing realities and listening to others' dreams and visions. They made me feel at home in the whole world!

In the past decade, my life journey has taken a spiritual turn. Without this "spiritual" outlook, it would be impossible to keep sanity, especially since the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

As I analyze that day and its aftermath, I see plenty of room for compassion and understanding in our national response. In our zeal to show military might, we have ignored human conditioning and lessons from history. Hate and violence can only breed hate and violence; they cannot bring lasting peace. I don't suggest that we ignore or reward terrorists; however, when we react violently, we create new enemies.

In the Hindu tradition, we are taught that anger, desires and attachments, ego and pride, jealousy and hate are our "real" enemies!

If we overcome these, we have nothing to be afraid of. Then, I believe, terrorists cannot harm us.

My intercultural and international experiences are not contradictory to the spiritual principles that I am learning to follow in my daily life.

Amma, my spiritual teacher, shows me through her own example how to let go of attachments and ego. She helps me develop unconditional love, compassion and selfless service, and work for world peace. I learn to work on inner peace, as without it, outer peace remains evasive.

When I listen compassionately, react nonviolently and treat others with unconditional love, I contribute to world peace.

These spiritual methods that Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi or Dr. King employed are still the appropriate spiritual tools in these times.

Observing Sept. 11 as a Day of Interfaith, Intercultural and International Dialogue is a step in the right direction. A dialogue helps us understand each other's goals and viewpoints. We see that there are many paths to reach the same point, and choosing a different path doesn't make someone an enemy. We realize that even when 100 terrorists belong to one particular country, culture or religion, it doesn't make that whole country, religion or culture (with millions of human beings) our enemy.

When we allow the spirit to shine and guide our actions, we help bring peace and reduce suffering in the world.

Arun Narayan Toke, a student of Amma, edits Skipping Stones Multicultural Magazine. This column is coordinated by the Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a network of more than 35 religious and spiritual traditions in the Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, call 344-5693.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 4, 2004
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