by Michael Ketterhagen
“I am a human—that is my primary identity.
How can I subordinate my human identity and the identity of others
to the secondary identities of gender,
--Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Cultivating compassion, love and non-violence depends greatly on the way we identify ourselves and others. This next contemplation can be dealt with by just looking at ourselves and our families, as well as complete strangers if we want to truly experience peace and joy in our lives.
When I think of my sister as a traditional Catholic person who is gravely concerned about my salvation because of my involvement and belief in the science and philosophy of Yoga, I get very upset with her because she doesn’t understand the beauty and wisdom of Yoga’s philosophy and spiritual practices. I don’t want to meet with her or talk with her for fear of us getting into an argument or at least not connecting with me.
But when I see my sister as my sister, who was raised in the same family and has the same ambitions and hopes for herself as for her brother. When I see her as a loving mother, who like myself as a father, longs for our children’s goodness and protection in their future lives, my heart pours forth with a warmth of love and compassion. I feel peaceful and thankful for her being part of my family as we grew up together on the farm in Burlington.
When I see her as a talented singer and counselor who serves so many people with talents and generosity, I feel proud of her and have no desires to harm her at all.
It’s the same with my brother. When I call him my brother and remember all the times we had together as young boys, working hard to carry the milk, or bring in the hay or clean the barn, I have no thoughts of strangling him because he believes in a political theory that I dislike, or when I hear him support a political leader that I think is a criminal.
Cultivating love, compassion, and non-violence towards myself and my family members demands that I always remember that we are brothers and sisters to each other, not male or female, Catholic or Protestant, Democrat or Republican, but humans who have been blessed with the opportunity of living together in this world. We are all striving to live the truth and serving our children and community in the best way we can. We are humans—and even more so—we are children of the same parents and children of the same God.
Cultivating my identity as a human and seeing everyone else as human like myself, with the same goals and aspirations as I have is absolutely necessary in this challenging time. This loving, compassionate, and non-violent attitude and vision will transform us incredibly. It just means trusting in who we and others really are—Divine, Infinite and Perfect children of The Source of Life.
I pray to the divinity in you!