Toward a Civilization with Heart
How we can leave terrorism behind
Toward a Civilization with Heart
by Rev. Pam Carpenter
While at the Parliament of World Religions, I attended a presentation entitled “Towards a Civilization with a Heart.” It was a seminar around The Universal Declaration on Non-Violence co-authored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue in 1990. The opening paragraph of this declaration states, “This document is an attempt to set forth a vision of nonviolence within the context of an emerging global civilization in which all forms of violence, especially war, are totally unacceptable as means to settle disputes between and among nations, groups and persons. This new vision of civilization is global in scope, universal in culture and based on love and compassion, the highest moral and spiritual principles of the various historical religions. Its universal nature acknowledges the essential fact of modern life: the interdependence of nations, economies, cultures and religious traditions.”
I read the title over and over, the words resounding within me. “A civilization with a heart.”
In our present civilization, acts of terrorism, oppression and hatred comprise much of what is covered by the news media while acts of compassion and heroism go virtually unnoticed.
To live in “a civilization with a heart.”
The movie of the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi flashed in my mind as Gandhi bowed to his assailant, saluting the divinity within him. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
In a civilization with a heart how will we resolve our differences, our conflicts? How will we discipline those untrained in their thoughts and actions? How can we teach people about trust and respect when all they have known is fear and hatred? How will these cycles be transformed?
I was filled with expectation while walking down the hall toward the session. Upon approaching the room, I was met by a mass of people filling the hallway. I discovered the number going had already outgrown the room assigned to it. We all crowded together in a nearby lounge area making room for each other in the small space. There were members of the press standing against the wall and a cameraman, his camera perched on a table. People sat everywhere, on the couches, the coffee tables and the floor and more people stood along the wall into the hallway.
For many, it was a strain to hear and see. People craned their necks or stared into space listening to the speakers without attempting to see them. The third speaker had begun when she was interrupted by a booming voice from the hallway. “You must leave!” the voice bellowed. “This area is a lounge area. You’re blocking the hallway for people to get through and it’s also a fire hazard. You must leave. What session is this?”
“This is a session on non-violence,” was the answer. A titter of laughter filtered across the audience as the irony of the situation was noticed. The presenter at that time was a boisterous, colorful American woman, affectionately called “Ma”. She had flowing black hair and wore a black sari. To counteract the shouts from the hallway she raised her voice louder, her sharp Brooklyn accent overriding the commands from the outside. Another leader, a Catholic nun, made her way through the crowd and approached the security guards preparing herself for diplomatic negotiating. Meanwhile Ma exclaimed, “We’ll go to the ballroom.” In the hotel, four floors of meeting rooms and ballrooms had been reserved for the Parliament activities. Sessions met in these rooms throughout six days of the Parliament. Upon Ma’s commands we rose en masse and filed down several flights of stairs like thirsty sheep being led to water. When we alighted on the floor of the ballroom, Ma opened the door and saw another session there. “I know!” she exclaimed. “We’ll go to my art exhibit.”
Another presenter was one of the Dalai Lama’s assistants. He was an unassuming man. I stayed near him as he walked quietly amidst the confusion. He emanated a peace and innocence, a purity and strength. His composure seemed unscathed in the excitement, perfectly willing to be led. He was quite a contrast beside our boisterous leader. But when we flooded into the exhibit hall he became the leader immediately sitting down on the floor while assistants brought chairs. Soon everyone was comfortably seated on the floor alongside him, the chairs left empty. The presentation continued.
After a few minutes security guards again appeared at the edge of the group. This time the presenters stopped to give the guards their attention. The security guards announced they weren’t sure this group had the authority to be using the exhibit hall for the purpose of a presentation. Ma exclaimed, “This is my exhibit. I am the artist of these paintings,” motioning to the paintings on the wall, “and I give them permission to be here.” The security guards told Ma they needed to consult with their supervisors and left.
It seemed ironic that in this presentation on non-violence we, as a group, were presented with this scenario of events. They depicted minutely yet dramatically how oppression and ultimately violence occurs. The core of violence is to violate, to take something away. It is being told in some way or another you can’t do what you’re doing, you can’t think what you’re thinking or you can’t be who you are. We were given this kind of command in being told we couldn’t meet in the lounge area.
I must say initially when we moved our meeting place from the original room to the lounge, there had been no communication to the proper people to let them know what our needs were or what we were doing. With this absence of communication and taking liberties without trying to cooperate with the existing structure we, in fact, had violated the peaceful structure of the order established by the hotel and Parliament authorities. By our actions we were telling the security guards and the Parliament authorities they couldn’t perform their job of keeping the hotel area safe and Parliament activities running smoothly.
The security guards, in telling us we had to move, had the best interest of the hotel guests and Parliament participants in mind. We had our own best interest in mind. Yet our reaction to being told to move was that we were the ones being oppressed. The lines of oppressor and oppressee had become confused. By looking honestly at the facts we had to admit we were the perpetrators of our own oppression and violence, as it were. Had we exhibited “a civilization with a heart” or had we acted like anyone who is unaware?
“A civilization with a heart” begins within the heart of each individual. It means first checking your own heart for prejudice, intolerance and selfishness and purging the self of limitation, attachment and greed. Anytime we tell ourselves “you can’t”, “you shouldn’t”, we oppress ourselves. We impose oppression by our own limited thinking especially when we don’t give ourselves any alternative to do, think or be something better than we are. What people experience in a physical way: oppression, starvation, violence is an outward manifestation of what’s going on inside. As long as there is war going on in our own hearts we will have wars in the world to remind us of our internal conflict.
The physical world is such a beautiful reflection of thought and such a beautiful place to understand and change our identity from victims to free men — free because we are free in our thinking. Our physical experiences offer learning about health, security, success, value, courage, patience and so on. Oppression, disease and violence exist in our world because we as souls still need to understand what it means to be civilized with a heart. Once we understand then there won’t be the need for war as we know it.
It’s like homeopathy. Homeopathy is a preventative medicine. You administer a small dose of the disease to build up an immunity to it. That same thing is true spiritually. The immunity is the understanding. You are faced with a dose of intolerance to face your own intolerance and build respect and compassion. The only way to know your courage is to give yourself an opportunity to exercise it. To fully understand non-violence we need to be prepared to face some kind of violence in our lives. In the case of this presentation, it was a small taste of violence and it gave us all a chance to honestly evaluate our level of understanding.
Mankind’s present evolutionary step is reasoning. We’ve practiced reasoning. We’ve learned how to manipulate physical matter by using our mental capacities to build ideas upon ideas with our memory, attention and imagination. We’ve learned how to create in a physical way. Most of our learning and the subsequent understandings built have been the result of living in this physical plane and identifying as a physical, thinking being. We have also learned not only to live up to our ideals but also to defend them. The noble quality of war has been in giving up one’s physical life for ideals. Being willing to die to defend ideals has been filled with integrity and that of the highest. It has not been violent. It has added to the soul a quality of supreme unselfishness and a complete giving to something much greater than any one individual. In dying for ideals there is a willingness to sacrifice the physical body to something higher. This has been a valuable lesson for the soul.
At this time there are those who are outgrowing this way of thinking because they are expanding their own awareness of who they are. They’re expanding the consciousness of their identity from a physical being to a mental being. In moving to the next step of our evolution it won’t be necessary to kill or be killed for our ideals. It won’t be necessary to sacrifice our physical body for our ideals, but it will be important to sacrifice our egos for our ideals. This next step toward Intuitive Man is what the Universal Declaration For Non-violence reflects. In sacrificing our egos we can understand non-violence means adding to ourselves and giving to the existing structure and those around us so all benefit. In order to accomplish this we must transform the importance of our own egos by initially diminishing our self-importance. Diminishing our ego means taking “the plank out of our own eye” in order to see clearly, honestly and with compassion. It means expanding our consciousness beyond our own tiny sphere of existence which only contains ourselves to include others, all of humanity and ultimately all of existence. It means transforming our arena of responsibility from “I own the world, so I can take whatever I want from it for my own personal benefit” to “I own the world. How can I care for it to make it a better place? How can I affect others so all benefit?”
Sacrificing our ideals and violence are not the same. Sacrificing is giving up part of yourself for something higher. It means giving our time, energy and creativity to an ideal. Violence is taking away. It is taking away another individual’s life, home, freedom or dignity because it does not match the way we believe. As we move toward our next step of evolution, that of Spiritual Man, we will recognize the productive use of violence by taking away any thought that does not match Truth.
Another speaker at this presentation noted that not all violence is bad. He practices daily violently diminishing his ego before God. Oppress your own negative thoughts. Oust them from the land of your own being like the invaders they are and kill them. Starve your doubts. Then call back the dispossessed ideas of hope and value cast out by doubt and imprisoned by limitation. Call them back to their homeland to live in prosperity and freedom. Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Offer this to yourself and your fellow man so we may all live in a civilization with a heart, within and without.•
Rev. Pam Carpenter directed the International Church of Metaphysics’ Cantata presentation of “The Power of Prayer throughout the World” during the Parliament of the World’s Religions. As a minister, teacher, and counselor her activities reach worldwide through her varied activities at SOM National Headquarters in Windyville, Missouri where she is currently based.
copyright 2002 School of Metaphysics