Tuesday, November 6, 2007

To Be in the Image of God – Part Two

As I walk the narrow path between fear and love, I remember a Buddhist teaching. All things may be equally true, says the teaching, but not all things are equally helpful. This was probably one of the reasons why Buddha declined to teach about God. Buddha only taught what he knew. What he knew was the nature of mind and what it meant to be a sentient creature. Buddha knew from his experiences of life and enlightenment that wisdom without compassion was like trying to be a bird with a broken wing, and so he would teach nothing that might divide people against one another. As we know from the debates that are fracturing the Anglican Communion, as we know from religious fundamentalism, trying to ascertain the nature and the will of deity can result in a great deal of unkindness.

Jesus, like the Buddha, came to teach us about being human. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted....Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” That which divides us is not helpful. Jesus, who lived in a monotheistic culture, taught that God is Love, that the wisdom of God’s Law, which was his dharma, could only be understood through the lens of Love. Love is not so much an entity, as it is a quality of relationship, and this is where Jesus’ teaching comes very close to the Buddha’s. Both stress that love is prime. Jesus lived in a God created world. Buddha did not, but the dependent co-arising of the Buddhist universe is very like the teaching of co-creation that Jesus learned from Torah. Spiritual truth can only be discerned as a relationship.

And here the paths seemingly diverge. We have many esoteric teachings attributed to the Buddha. We have very few from the Christ. Although scripture plainly tells us that Jesus taught his apostles truths beyond the parables, most of these have been lost. As Christians, we build our understanding of reality primarily from stories. We know that the Kingdom of God is among/within you.” We know that to judge another human being is to judge God. We know that to judge God is sin. Many Christians go ahead and judge anyway. They say that heads have got to roll if we are going to get it right. They invoke the Old Testament God of Law and insult us all with their divisiveness. I am being divisive even to write this. We all exist for a reason.

The divine, whether perceived as God or not-God, (and the spaces between are as true as the things in space) is indivisible. The indivisible cannot by its nature be divided into Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Native American, Buddhist an-atman, or any of the other sets of metaphors that our human limitations compel us to use. Either the spiritual world is true, or Richard Dawkins is correct and we suffer from a collective delusion and are really just machines driven by aggressive genes. That is the choice before us.

Which brings me to my final musing. If I choose not to believe Richard Dawkins and instead assert that the Universe is truly governed by Wisdom and by Love, how can terrible things happen to innocent people? How can we continue to praise the Divine and remain sane in a world that has given us the Holocaust, Hurricane Mitch, the Tsunami, and such massive daily injustice that 1.5 billion people live in poverty so abject that it sits at the edge of the grave?

It is easy to blame, or worse yet, to cower before God over this. But pause for a moment and consider. As I consider my disordered and distracted mind, I cannot help but wonder. If I am in fact a co-creator with God, if I am in fact part of a great co-arising, if I am a creature who weaves cause and effect from my acts of kindness and my acts of vengeance, then perhaps I am not wise to blame God, even for the natural disasters I call “Acts of God.” I know that the natural tragedies of hurricanes and tsunamis are exacerbated by the fact that dense populations are now piled up in unstable locations, that Western market culture has resulted in a misguided view of life. These same Western countries do not suffer so much when a natural disaster sweeps through.

Western industrial nations are not the only survivors, however. The indigenous manage to survive as well. The indigenous have not lost the art of conversing with nature. They can read the signs and seek refuge. The know how to listen to the world rather than always seeking to control it. All this suggests that I have paid a high price for my technological footprint; that machines have drowned out the still small voice. What is prayer, or if you prefer, meditation, but the art of listening?

This is the place to which I always return. It is not so much about what happens out there – one need only consider the workings of a star to realize that fire and explosion are woven into the way of truth – but what happens in here. If I can listen to the voice of truth, I will know what to do. I will even be able to embrace the day of my death in safety.

Violence and fear are what the evil one uses to trap me. I am often afraid because I am human and easily trapped. But I have found over the years of life, that love is stronger than fear and that nothing is ever wasted in this beautiful creation.

God appeared to Moses as fire and to Job in a whirlwind. God called Abram to leave the land of his ancestors and walk into the unknown. No one ever said it would be easy. They only said that wisdom and compassion and trust would finally give us wings.

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