Love Thy Neighbor
By Nhilde Davidson
E = mc2 is a deceptively simple equation stating that energy
and mass are interchangeable. However, when applied to the
phenomenal world, its implications are vast. In like manner
sages and wisemen throughout the ages have had a simple,
unanimous admonition to those wishing to find true happiness:
"love thy neighbor as thyself."
Putting E = mc2 to practical use takes time, dedicated scientific
study, and discipline. Loving thy neighbor is equally difficult
to practice in the hurly-burly of our daily lives. In both
cases apprehension and a full appreciation of the profound
nature of these seemingly simple statements takes deep reflection.
Further, the actual application of each is a task not easily
A scribe asked Jesus:
is the first commandment of all?
Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments
is, . . . thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and
with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
the second is like, namely this, Thou
shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other
commandment greater than these. -- Mark 12:28-31
These two instructions resonate throughout all sacred texts.
Divinity has been given many names by different peoples
and cultures; yet all speak of the same underlying universal
principle that permeates everything. Call it what you may
-- God, Parabrahma, THAT, Spirit, Krishna, Vishnu, Atma
-- the names are many but all include the idea that beyond
the material world is something immortal and durable that
infills all -- a transcendent radiance that is
the common root within and without the entire manifested
universe. This shared lineage makes everything
part of the same universal family, intimately related because
of the common divine parentage, size and evolutionary position
In the light of this common ancestry, the first commandment
as underpinning for all else becomes clear. If we fill our
minds and hearts with what is dear to our parent, the divine
center within us, we will begin to change our behavior.
The first step in any project is to understand the purpose
of the task. In the next step, having gotten an overview
of the general scheme, we ideate a solution. In life, divine
love is the talisman. By loving and trying to understand
the nature of our divine parent we can realign our actions
more closely to the divine scheme. Just as we tried as children
to do what pleased our mother and father, so in life our
actions should be pleasing to our divine parent by our always
trying to do what is compatible with our spiritual essence.
Jesus says that the second commandment is like the first
and the reason is obvious: if we are part of the same divine
family with divinity at our core, "loving thy neighbor"
and "loving God" are one and the same thing. It
is impossible to love something and reject and abuse it
at the same time. In recognizing that our own inner center
is reflected in the world around us, it becomes easier "to
do unto others as we would have them do unto us" --
for we are in reality affecting a part of ourselves. The
Vishnu Purana suggests that everyone should envision
Vishnu in whatever they look at. The reason for this exercise
is that in standing before god [Vishnu] we are not going
to be disrespectful or hurtful.
In an evolving universe perfection, in the sense of completion
and finality, is not possible. All entities are spurred
into manifestation by a thirst to unfold ever more of their
innate divine potential. In dealing with people in the course
of our daily duties, limited understanding inevitably causes
tension and conflict of interest, so that clashes occur.
What about "loving thy neighbor" at these times?
Is it possible during the heat of the moment, or when injury
and hurt leaves us stricken, to step back and love our tormentor?
The sages assure us this is possible. The key is hidden
in the first commandment. Just as a parent still loves the
naughty child, similarly by keeping in mind what is dear
to our spirit, we too can continue to love the "real"
person while disagreeing with an individual act or set of
actions. Differentiating between the act and the actor helps
cool the passions of the personality, thereby allowing
us to begin to examine and extract from any situation the
essence or motive behind the actions. Trying to understand
why any of us acts in a certain way awakens empathy,
the projection of oneself through imagination into the heart
of another -- literally trying to walk a mile in the other
person's shoes -- out of which practice sympathy, and finally
altruism, is born.
Sunrise magazine, April/May 1999. Copyright © 1999
by Theosophical University Press.