On Being is a public radio program and podcast hosted by Krista Tippett, and dedicated to conversations about religion, meaning, and ethics. Tippett often finds commonality and conjunctions among a variety of religions and philosophies, and recently she outdid herself with a conversation among:
- · the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people
- · Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University,
- · Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the British Commonwealth, and Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
During a wide ranging conversation about happiness, the Dalai Lama observed, “One of my Muslim friends explained to me one interpretation of Jihad, not only sort of attack on other, but real meaning is combative attack your own wrongdoing or negativities.”
“The greater Jihad*, the bigger Jihad, is to combat your own negative forces within you. Yes, yes,” Dr. Nasr agreed enthusiastically.
The Dalai Lama made the connection: “So in that sense, the whole Buddhist practice is practice of Jihad.”
“Exactly, absolutely,” concluded Dr Nasr.
In the same way one could say our struggle to be ethical is the practice of jihad—an inner struggle to be the virtuous person that we know how to be, but sometimes fall short of. It’s easier to know the principles and theories of ethics than it is to practice them. The gap between knowing and doing is the area of struggle…or jihad.
* Jihad has other meanings, as well. While many think jihad means some kind of holy war, that is no more a tenet of main-line Islam than stoning non-virgin brides and killing homosexuals is a tenet of main-line Judaism. A good brief discussion of all the senses of jihad is at http://bit.ly/fdKPH9