Bhagavad Gita 5.18
The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater (outcaste).
My uncle has been with another man for as long as I can remember. As a child, I never knew this to be different, weird or wrong. It was completely normal to me and I thought that it must be the same for everyone. During my elementary years, a discussion about marriage came up. Someone had defined marriage as a partnership between a man and a women, and I proudly piped up that I had two uncles that were married. They actually were not married back then, although they are now, because it wasn’t legal at the time. The surprise and opposing viewpoints I got as a response was my first introduction to what is often seen as a contentious issue.
I also grew up with my grandparents having an African American house cleaner that I played with as a child. She was such a fixture in my life that I actually thought she was family, and I would often tell other adults that I had a black person in my family….to their surprise. I didn’t understand back then that people of different skin colors were seen differently or that this didn’t really make sense. Luckily, nobody told me back then and let me continue to love her equally and consider her family.
All of this to say, an innocent child will see everyone with sama darshinah, or equal vision, until they are taught otherwise.
I may have been blind to the societal separations based race and sexuality, but that does not mean that I escaped the hierarchical thinking promoted by society. Almost all of us are taught that rich people are superior to poor, humans are superior to animals, dogs and cats are more important than pigs and cows and an endless list of hierarchies that we rarely question.
While it is true that on the surface, our bodies and ways of communicating and living are different, underneath all of that we are all made of the same stuff. In yoga, this is often referred to as the oneness of being, and one who sees all beings as equal and as one is considered enlightened.
But even if we are not enlightened and do still see separation, knowing that underneath everything, we are all the equal and the same is still powerful.
We can use this knowledge for the betterment of society. We can stop participating in unfair treatment to other groups of beings. We can petition for laws that protect discriminated groups. We can begin to dissolve our illusion that societal norms and beliefs reflect truth.
However, we cannot allow our commitment to any cause to let us feel superior to others who believe the opposite. As this slokah, or verse states, the sage sees both the dog and the dog eater equally. Therefore, we must extend our compassion even to those with who follow and believe in unfair societal norms. They too are ultimately equal and the same as us.