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Lions Roar : May 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2010 75 When I consider my grandparents’ evangelism in light of this statement, I realize that it doesn’t really matter that they believe they’re among a select group of people destined to go to heaven. If I can accept my grandparents’ religion as invaluable to them, I can stop feeling op- pressed by their implicit judgment of my way of life. They feed me delicious meals cooked with homegrown fruits and veg- etables, hug me and tell me they love me, and generally add much richness and de- light to my life. Even more important, my grandparents take seriously Jesus’ com- mandments to help the needy (they have volunteered at a local nursing home for years), to be stewards of the Earth (their lifestyles are more environmentally sound than those of many supporters of “green” policies), and to practice gratitude and humility in their daily lives. In this way, Christianity brings my grandparents the inner peace and inner value that the Da- lai Lama says every religion is capable of manifesting. aziz’s method of worship similarly entails simple kindness to others. he fre- quently tells my mother and her law part- ner—who is Jewish, as are many of the guantánamo lawyers—that he is keeping them and their families in his prayers, and I often end my meditation and yoga prac- tice with the wish that “any merit gained from this practice be dedicated to abdul aziz Naji.” Though different in form, these practices have the same underlying intention of expressing goodwill toward a stranger, an act that opens the heart and helps one escape the prison of self- involved thinking. and aziz’s frequent in- vocation of the term inshallah (god will- ing) is nearly identical in psychological effect to an awareness of impermanence; both practices ward off the suffering that results from desperate attempts to control the uncontrollable. There’s no doubt that I would take issue with many of aziz’s religious beliefs sur- rounding, for instance, the treatment of women (my mother and Ellen never visit him without donning modest clothes and head coverings), just as I take issue with my grandparents’ belief that premarital sex is a sin. But I need not vainly wrestle with these beliefs in order to appreciate the individuals who espouse them, and even to value the positive role religion has played in their lives. This is not to say that there’s no danger in ideology. But the dangers of religious ideology have been documented so well in recent years that I fear many of us have forgotten that reli- gion is not the enemy. stalin, after all, was an atheist. as I Was WRITINg ThIs, I learned that aziz had gone on a hunger strike. al- though he has been “cleared for release” for many years, he remains stuck in limbo between a windowless, solitary cell and a return to algeria, where the fate of former guantánamo prisoners is uncertain at best. Because of his association with ter- rorism, however groundless, aziz would run the risk of imprisonment and tor- ture in algeria; he also could be forcibly recruited by extremists. “all the golden ideas I had in mind are no longer here,” he told my mother. “I just want a simple life. I have had my dreams destroyed.” as my mother’s attempts to get another country to grant aziz asylum prove more and more hopeless, aziz has resorted to the only means of protest available to him: refus- ing food. Like other guantánamo prisoners on hunger strikes, he is force-fed through a tube in his nose twice a day. already a thin man, he has lost thirty pounds. aziz loves chocolate, which my moth- er and Ellen usually bring him on their visits, sometimes along with homemade meals. on their most recent trip, they tentatively laid out a few snacks on the table in front of aziz, unsure if he would break his fast. he smiled broadly when he saw the chocolate, and then ravenously ate two bars with evident delight. after thanking my mother and Ellen for the food, he began to imagine the traditional algerian meal he would share with them if he were at home. “Inshallah,” he said, “someday we will eat together someplace other than here.” ♦ guantánamo continued from page 36 CHARAKU The Pleasure of Fine Japanese Te a The timeless spirit of the Koan Way Enlightenment as a conspiracy of friends with Joan Sutherland, Roshi Bodhisattva Way Meditation Retreat June 21-26 Ocate, New Mexico Inside Out Artists’ Retreat September 10-12 Santa Fe, NM All Hallows Koan Retreat October 29-31 Santa Fe, NM 505.989.4505 www.awakenedlife.org