Spiritual conflict resolution-Yogi Bhajan’s Student

November 5, 2009

Spiritual Conflict Resolution

Yogi Bhajan’s Student: November 2, 2009


Over the weekend I heard part of a Fresh Air interview by Terry Gross of David Rohde (broadcast, transcript) on NPR  that was rebroadcast from last Tuesday. David Rohde is a NYT reporter that was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for 7 months before he escaped (blogs about: Politics, Religion, and Family, Suz says: Read This, Therearenosunglasses, Open Doors, Loosen Chains, Stranger’s Words, What Motivates the Taliban, Sylvia’s Journal, David Rohde’s series on being held by the Taliban, Held by the Taliban). Things I found remarkable about his story were how well he was treated by his captors, and the discussions that he had with them.

At the end of the Fresh Air interview Terry Gross asked Rohde about how to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan:

‘GROSS: My impression is that you don’t like to give opinions about policy. You want to report of not being an opinion person. But I am wondering how this experience changed your sense of what’s going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan and what the U.S. might do – I mean, and what the U.S. can do and what maybe it can’t do.

Mr. ROHDE: I think the vital thing remains to empower moderate Afghans and Pakistanis to confront this threat.

I mean, Americans can’t solve these problems. We also can’t just sort of walk away from the region. One of the main things that shouldn’t happen, I think – I mean, is to -you know, the United States and moderate Muslims cannot sort of cede Islam to the Taliban. I mean, the Islam they practiced that I saw, you know, is a just completely distorted version of the religion. And they shouldn’t be allowed to sort of portray themselves as the true defenders of that faith.

I mean, constant statements and reactions I had from Afghan and Pakistani friends was we’re so sorry you were kidnapped. You know, kidnapping civilians, you know, and sending suicide bombers into mosques, you know, that is not jihad. That is not Islam. And so it’s vital to sort of, you know, for the United States to remain committed in the region, but to let, you know, Afghans and Pakistanis to take the lead in confronting this problem politically and militarily and in other ways. And another big take away was the sense that corruption is just a cancer on particularly the Afghan government, but also the Pakistani government.

The Taliban sort of promise rule of law and a lack of corruption among local police and officials, and that’s, in a sense, why they’re popular in some areas. I think average Afghans just want for stability and an effective government, and whoever produces that, in the sense, will win their loyalties. And again, I – there is a base. A vast majority of Afghans and Pakistanis are moderates.

It’s not too late to stabilize both countries, but it is going to take time. And I – you know, I think a tremendous amount of training and support to the Afghans, who – and Pakistanis who so desperately oppose the Taliban, as well.’

This is a very valid and important concept that demonstrates the spiritual approach to conflict resolution.

I was once conducting interviews and collecting footage for a documentary (that I never finished) to compare religious and spiritual concepts and perceptions.

Actually that is not really honest. What I was really trying to do with the documentary was to expose how beliefs are too rigid and inflexible to be wide enough and open enough to include the spirituality of the interconnected Universe. At this time I attended a press conference that the Dalai Lama gave. (blogs about the Dalai Lama: Nonduality blog, Burma Review, Culture Broker’s Musings, A critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Mr S N Goenka, Violence and Fearlessness, Losing my religion, China censors beyond its borders) Rather than speaking about any political agenda that he might have, the Dalai Lama took it as an opportunity to speak to the press about the way that news is presented and broadcast in our time. He tried to teach the assembled press how to cover the news more spiritually. He said it was understandable that when some shocking event takes place that the press needs to report it but they also need to report the motivation for the shocking behavior so that there can be understanding. He said that it was this understanding is what is needed to develop the correct response to the shocking behavior.

Since it is the motivation that causes the shocking behavior, that behavior cannot be controlled until what motivated it has been addressed. He pointed out that there is a lack of media coverage of the motivation behind shocking behavior, and this deprived the general public from developing needed understanding. He also made it quite clear that profit driven news cycles that only go from one shocking event to the next without ever reporting on motivation created a public appetite for this kind of stimulation that actually prevents the understanding necessary to actually resolve conflict from ever developing. The Dalai Lama gave that press conference in the early 90’s, before suicide bombers and 9/11.

When what motivates a conflict is not understood the conflict cannot be resolved. Conflicts that are not resolved worsen until the issues behind the conflict are dealt with.

When the motivations of the support of the Taliban that David Rohde articulates are examined, it is clear that some of these motivations are based on misconceptions and a lack of understanding. The obvious question is how can the misunderstanding be addressed. Mr. Rohde gives at least part of that answer in his response to Terri Gross. He points out that much of the misunderstanding that exists within the forces that support the Taliban is based on religious misinterpretations of the spiritual teaching of Islam.

Although he does not make the point in this interview Mr. Rohde alludes to the fact that because folks that hold extreme religious points of view interpret everything in terms of their own religious framework it is not possible for those outside those religious beliefs to address them. A religious extremist that is Christian interprets information in the context of their Christian beliefs. A Muslim religious extremist does the same thing. When we interpret information only in our religious terms it becomes easier to marginalize those that do not share our religious views.

This is the reason that religious extremists do not listen to those who are outside their religions. Religious extremism puts everything into religious context and anyone that does not understand that context and is unable to speak in that understanding is marginalized as not important enough for their opinion to matter. A Christian that believes that abortion is murder and therefore condones the murder of doctors that perform abortions has a religious framework of thought that is used to justify the murder of these doctors. In order to alter this justification it is necessary to communicate in the terms of the framework of the Christian belief. Only people that practice the same religion can speak to spiritual misinterpretations within a religion. Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu can speak to a lack of Christian spirituality in Christian religious extremism and have a validity that those who are not Christian or religious cannot.

(blogs about Jimmy Carter: Hey The South, Come Join The Rest Of Us In 2009, Voting and Christian Citizenship, Listen to your Elders, O Solo Mama, Patrick Buchanan is an Idiot-Part 2, )

(recent blogs about Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Either/Or, Freemuse, All Saints, MCC Church, Aung San Suu Kyi, What is wrong with the church?, The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Program)

In dealing with religious extremism and violence the value of validating what more spiritually oriented members of religions have to say has been overlooked. David Rohde says there is a need for these religious moderates to take the lead in confronting religious extremism in their own religions. I point out that among those that are called moderates are people that have a more developed spiritual concept of religion. I feel it is a spiritual duty to confront the spiritual corruption of the religions that we participate in for if those who have spiritual insight do not confront religious extremism in our own religions, no one else can and continued escalation of violence is inevitable.

Just as  vocal Americans are demonstrating that the views of extremists like Rush Limbaugh (Sarah Palin says, “Twick or Tweat”, The Problem, As I See It, Limbaugh Plays Politics With War Dead) and Dick Cheney (Telling Dick Cheney to Shut the Hell Up, Cheney Displays All the Integrity of a Gutter Rat, Build your bunker) are not the true voice of America. It is possible to combat the violence that is justified within religious extremism by increasing the scope of those who speak from those religions with a deeper spiritual understanding.

The interconnectedness of all things is real. Conflict resolution begins from within. It cannot be forced from an exterior source because there is no outside force that is greater than that which connects us. To deny this connection with each other is therefore a self-destructive act because when we deny our connection with each other we are ultimately denying a part of ourselves. Expanding the awareness of our interconnectedness is the key to dealing with our self-destructive tendencies. Using more moderate spiritual voices to address those of  religious extremism within the same religion is an example of how to promote change from within.


It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

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