The first week of February is World Interfaith Harmony Week. I attended this local celebration as a member of the Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-Ji. The celebration was held in the Bethany Baptist Church and included songs, poems, stories, prayers and dance from a number of traditions. We all danced to a Hopi dance and chant that honored Mother Earth sponsored by the Dances of Universal Peace at the Society of Friends, heard the call to prayer and a story about the Prophet Mohammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and a song about the Five Pillars from the Islamic Society, a folksie song from the Christ Scientists, poems from the Jewish tradition, saw Bhutanese dancers and listened to songs in Pali that included names of Gods that I recognized, Shiva, Krishna, and some om shanti om shanti….. heard a wonderful poem from the Pagan Community that had me wondering if I could find writings by Starhawk for my NOOK, heard a prayer of the Eucharist from the Catholic tradition which were at once familiar and limiting in my heart, songs from the Episcopals, a story from the Sikhs and Chanting from the Zen Center. The program ended with prayers and song from a group of children from the Baha’i Faith. They were sitting behind us and when the lovely toddler sat down she asked did I do it good? I turned and told the girls they did a lovely job. Their faces were beaming. What sweet and pleasant children!
As I sat there I thought about my own faith and how it has grown. Although a Buddhist in practice I believe strongly in an all unifying power in the universe, some may call it God, I don’t know what to call it. I was thinking earlier today about this Unitarian idea that our view of “God” is limited, we all think what we are seeing is the only view. I thought even then we are looking through a shattered window and we have to squint our eye one eye and move just right to get a view and even then the view is distorted. But all around us is this living energy and as humans we cannot really comprehend what it all is. Sitting there I felt as though all those faiths together in one room made it possible to assemble the pieces and I felt like it made it all seem so much more clear. I felt the presence of divinity. I also saw my own path the Presbyterian Sunday school, the Lutheran Sunday school and services, the Catholic confirmation, the obsession with all things Native American until I read that they resented white people trying to ascribe to their religion, the reading and passing interest in Wicca, the Baha’i friend who I met as I was playing with the Unitarian Universalist idea we talked about the similarities of the two traditions, the OM tattooed on my back and my yoga practice, the chants I listen to before I go to bed while I light a stick of incense and sit in quiet contemplation and my Zen practice. All of this together and even though I do not even know what my questions are, I think that somewhere in all this religious questing there may be some answer, or at least some vision of the universe that is closer to the truth than I was at birth, or perhaps even farther.
Karen said at the beginning some comment about there not being an answer. Sam joked and said 42, which made me laugh. Then I said maybe there isn’t even a question. Karen told me of her revelation of realizing this one thing. And I nodded. I think of this book Gateless Gate which I am struggling through, struggling to understand, it all seems so esoteric, but at this moment the idea of the Gateless Gate comes to me and I realize it is the same thing, there is no answer because there is no question. Ask what is the answer and then ask what is the question. The answer today is this church, this fellowship of people from all over the world and their relationships with the universe, call it what they will. I realize that it is an accident me being here, but is it really? I had contemplated Sesshin but decided that my aversion to cold and fear of driving in terrible weather and the horrendous hours I am working this school year would make it too much to bear. Karen made a plea for people to chant with her in an email and I thought despite my continuing laryngitis that I should be there since so many of my Sangha are in Sesshin and I am after all a member and duty is part of the practice. This morning as I was snowhoeing in the deep snow of Oswego’s Rice Creek, I regretted my decision, but obligation to my word won out the day. And sitting there I realize that this was a blessing, this fellowship. I feel a closeness and affinity to all of these present and to all those in similar meetings around the world today. As war and revolt and protest clamors across the deserts, the oceans, the forests, the cities, the mountains, the sky and bounces through the atmosphere of our fine mother planet, I feel hope, I feel the light inside of me, shining and as the children said in their prayer we are all pearls in the shell of God. The Sikh speaker removed his shoes in honor of these traditions and spoke of the hope that everyone in that room has of finding Peace. I put my hands together, and I bow my head, then I lift my voice in song, and I am filled with joy. The next time I remove my shoes to enter the Zendo, I will remember this day, and I will remove my shoes in honor of Peace and Harmony in the traditions of the world.
We all have our arms upraised, we all sit in prayer and meditaion, we all sing with joy and write poems and tell stories and put it all together all the traditions since the beginning of time, and still we have not gotten to the final moment when the answer is revealed to a question that cannot be asked.