Who is the other one?
There is a religious tradition in the West that proclaims, “You will love your neighbor as much as you will love yourself.” The saying embodies its expression of spirituality. (There are Hindu and Buddhist texts that expressed it hundreds of years in advance). We find this synthesis in the parabola of the Good Samaritan as an answer to the Pharisee who pretended to break free from all responsibility with those who were not “his people”, his relatives, or those with whom he had a relationship.
Both in the Jewish and in the Calvinist tradition, which would give way to a dehumanized capitalism, the concepts of community, of family and of relationships have elements of contractual and mutual benefit: “I give you this so that you give me that,” or “I don’t do this to you so that you don’t do it to me.” That is the origin of the most ferocious individualism that would be confused later on with the modernity that emerged from Illustration, which dares to separate religion from culture, reducing religiosity to an ideology. The two can be differentiated but not split because religion is one of Man’s dimensions that has expressed itself in the different institutionalized religions along the centuries. It would be impossible to do so in India because religion is a way of life that impregnates people’s existence with meaning. Religion gives culture its deepest sense while culture gives religion its language so that it can express itself in a cultural context. Every language is culturally determined and every culture is informed in every sense by a deeper vision of reality. Therefore, no religion can hold the monopoly of the religious phenomena, of the trascendent dimension of human beings and of its expression through rites, cult or celebrations to approximate the human elements to their plainest dimension. That is why it’s ignorant and stubborn to affirm that only one true religion can exist, while considering false all the other ones with which there hasn’t been an “inter-religious” (which flourishes cultures) dialogue that goes further than the one that tries to put itself in the place of the neighbor to consider reality from its categories and cultural circumstances. Wisdom demands acceptance and respect to the different religious traditions as phenomena that express different forms of religiosity. That is the authentic sense of the different “dwellings” to which Jesus makes reference. And the deep meaning of silence as an ambience of wisdom: “The host, the guest and the chrysanthemum did not say a word,” says an old haiku.
It is not valid to admit pretensions made by some followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity or Islam that their religion is the climax of the rest. All religions emerge from a primordial religious and human feeling. However, each religious tradition has determined borders with its geographic and historic limits. Pretensions of universality and the concept of mission have led to the most inhumane and unjust uprooting and exploitation. Just like the powerful communities have aimed at “civilizing” (because they lived in a city, civitas) people whom they considered to be “savages” because they lived in the jungles. Missionaries of these arrogant traditions entered hard into other cultures treating humans with different beliefs as pagans and as supersticious beings, even as atheists and as people with idolatries: missionaries destroyed their symbols, labelling them as idols, and they forced them to kneel down in front of two crossed sticks, or before a metallic box that contained a piece of bread, or before a plastered image. They ravaged against their cults that used fire and aromatic waxes, while they used incense, candles and water. Locals were forced to cut their own foreskin or to prostrate in the direction of the Mecca. What was colonialism if not a mono-culture imposition whose essence is to believe that the totality of human experience can be covered by one single culture?
Real cult is practiced “in truth and in spirit.” In spirit, it doesn’t matter where nor under which form because every place is sacred. In truth or rather in authenticity because all truth suscribes itself in an inter-personal relationship. Truth is always concrete. Everything is related to the rest, so our responsibility is universal. Without any syncretism or relativism.
“Loving your neighbor as much as yourself” does not exhaust the relationship of alternation, of beneficence or of generosity, but it rather entrails a relationship of reciprocity. “The other one” can never be the object of our love because it will always be a subject that interpellates. The object is the means or an instrument to an end and the other one, no matter who and no matter in which circumstances, is always an ends to himself.
The human being is a person (network of relationships, an enconter knot) and not merely an individual (an independent entity). The individual does not disappear in the nothingness, but the person transforms itself in the plenitude of recognizing himself in the other one, the one and everything else.
The magic dimension of the “I was hungry and you fed me” stands in front of the egoism that implies the “quest” for virtues, or the bribery of investing on a hypothetical Heaven.
Instead of worrying about doing good, we should do it. If we look for merit on our actions, these become prostituted. That is why the just person does not worry about doing good things: good are the things that the just person does. “Just” is the Biblical term for sádhaka, the one who has started his way and discovered that path, truth and life are the same thing.
How would number one know he’s number one if number two did not exist? How would I know who I am if it wasn’t for you? Then, to the question raised by the Pharisees, the evidence that wise people, children and those with a clean heart discover that the other one, the neighbor, is me.
We must light a fire for whoever and wherever possible without expecting anything back, just for the pleasure of sharing. Because there is only hope for the invisible and not for the future. And in that donation, the plenitude of the gift as present is discovered. If there is more pleasure in giving than in receiving, this is a pending task: when one learns how to receive one makes the donor rich in experience. The donor is then overwhelmed, he spills and the conversation (cum versare, to pour ourselves together) takes place along with the convertion or metanoia that has nothing to do with the idea of penitence imposed by a certain Christianity somehow far away from the message and the conduct of the young carpenter of Nazareth.
Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez