Christianity

The Story Begins to Live and Breathe

Excerpt from Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti

Topiary Park, April 20, 2014Transmutation is what transfiguration and relinquishment make possible. In it, your orientation to life is entirely selfless. It's not that you want to be selfless or you're practicing being selfless: rather you're selfless in the sense of no self. 

For this transition to happen, one has to go through the death of the ego. Certain aspects of the transmutation may occur earlier in our own journey, but the crucifixion or relinquishment must be complete for it to happen in full. At that point, really, the only thing left to do is to be a selfless, benevolent presence in the world—there's really nothing else to do, nothing else that makes sense. Whatever that may look like—and it looks different for different people—that's where the whole process ends up. 

In the Jesus story, this stage is termed the resurrection. Out of death is resurrected a new life, which really means a new orientation. That movement, that long turning from self-orientation to selfless orientation now comes to fruition. This is where the journey culminates for Jesus, and this is where it ultimately culminates for anyone who's taken the journey of awakening.  

The story of Jesus mirrors back the journey of spiritual awakening for anyone who has the eyes to see it or the experience to notice it. I believe this is among the most powerful lenses through which to view the story, because from this perspective the story begins to live and breathe as a metaphor. 

Jesus doesn't live anything out in a small fashion; everything in his story is writ large. This makes it easier for us to see that he's depicting a journey of awakening. We shouldn't expect to live out our own journey in the same fashion and, fortunately, we don't have to, though our journey will certainly have its own challenges and intensity. 

The mystery of the story of Jesus is the same as the mystery of you and me and everyone: we are all God appearing as man and as woman, divine being manifesting as human being. They're actually two sides of the same coin. They're one and the same thing; it's only our minds that separate divinity and humanity. We separate them in our mind and in our experience, but the whole spiritual journey is finally to see that they aren't separate, that they never were separate...

And when you reorient your life toward this realization, then you understand: you so loved the world, you had so much compassion, you had so much love that you poured yourself forth into life, and that pouring forth was your birth. You are here to redeem whatever you encounter in this life, to wake up within everything the deep reality of its divine existence. 

The kingdom of heaven is spread upon earth and men do not see it. When you see this, you shift from being a victim of your life and assigning blame for the tragedy you encounter. The truth, I would suggest, is that you poured yourself willingly into form of infinite love in order to redeem the entirety of this life. When seen from that perspective, all of a sudden life looks different. You stop holding back from life, your inner life or the life around you, because the kingdom of heaven is within and all around you. That's the message of the Jesus story.  


See also: 

Let Us Look Carefully

Exceprts from "Teilhard de Chardin's 'Planetary Mind' and Our Spiritual Evolution," On Being, Jan. 23, 2014: 

In these confused and restless zones in which present blends with future in a world of upheaval, we stand face to face with all the grandeur, the unprecedented grandeur, of the phenomenon of man. What has made us so different from our forebears, so ambitious too, and so worried, is not merely that we have discovered and mastered other forces of nature. It is that we have become conscious of the movement which is carrying us along. Let us look carefully and try to understand. And to do so, let us probe beneath the surface and try to decipher the particular form of mind which is coming to birth in the womb of the earth today.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, from The Phenomenon of Man (1955)

Ursula King

The milieu in the French sense is the center, but we also use milieu in terms of the environment. Something comes together, like in a diamond...but then it radiates throughout the entire. God is everywhere, in a sense, hidden, not visible, but somehow reachable.

The Divine Milieu is a wonderful phrase. I think he has this dynamic awareness from his evolutionary approach. One could call his spirituality also an evolutionary spirituality, as some people do. And he feels that we are today at a very, very important threshold of immerging into a new phase of humanization, of becoming human, in a different way from the way our forebears were.

They pull from the future and towards the future. And he's less and less interested in the past and more and more interested in where are we going, what are we doing with the potential we have, with the imagination, the creativity, the consciousness, the complexification of people thinking together and acting together. What is all this aiming for?

David Sloan Wilson

Teilhard de Chardin thought of Christianity primarily as Christian love and as the leading edge of a belief system that was capable of uniting people from all walks of life based upon love. I don't think we're any more spiritually advanced today than during Teilhard's time. I think in some ways we've gone backwards. And when we think of what it means for spirituality to be the leading edge of evolution, we need to understand what spirituality means, what words such as spirit and soul actually mean and why we're impelled to use them in everyday life. And when we do that, I think we can come up with a very satisfying meaning for them, which need not require a belief in supernatural agents. 

We can speak frankly about having a soul and even our groups having a soul, our cities having a soul, and even the planet having a soul. That actually can have a straightforward meaning...

Evolution only sees action. Whatever goes on in the head is invisible to evolution unless it is manifested in terms of what people do. So if what's inside your head, if your meaning system does not cause you to act in the right way, then it is not very good as a meaning system.

We want a meaning system that causes us to be highly motivated to act and, of course, do the right thing. And in modern life, that needs to be highly respectful of the facts of the world. And then we also need to have values that we're more aware of than ever before and we must then use those values to consult those facts in order to plan our actions basically in a world that's increasingly complex and which requires management at a planetary scale.

Andrew Revkin

I share his optimism overall. I think our potential for good as a species has always dominated the potential for bad in the end and this just amplifies those same tendencies. None of the issues that we face on the internet are unique to the internet. They're all part of who we are. In a crowded room, the loudest, angriest people, whatever their ideology, tend to get the most airtime. So one thing I try to do on my blog is try to build tools to foster some input from the quieter people.

Another metaphor that comes to mind is it's as if we've been plunked at the wheel of a speeding car, but we haven't taken driver's training and there isn't even a driver's manual for the car. We're rounding a corner and the weather is foggy and we're accelerating [laugh]. So in a moment like that, you can either be hopeful or woeful, but it almost doesn't matter in the end.

You know, we're test-driving a new system here. Turbulence is normal, experiments in communication will fail as much or more than they will succeed, but I think our overall nature, to my mind — and it's an act of faith on my part as it was on his part.

Talking About The Indescribable

Reza Aslan speaking with Terry Gross about his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (July 15, 2013):

People like Meister Eckhart professed this kind of understanding of the relationship between God and humanity, the relationship between creator and created. The purpose of the mystics, whether they're Sufis or Jewish mystics or Christian mystics or what have you, the purpose is to break down the wall that separates us from God to have an intimate divine union with God. And so that's why some of this language would sound familiar to a lot of people of different faiths....

I think that if you believe that our experience of the world goes beyond just the material realm, that there is something beyond, that there is a transcendent presence that one can commune with, then it's only natural to want to reach out to this transcendent presence, to want to experience it in some way. That's what religion does.

I mean, you have to understand that religion is nothing more than just a language made up of symbols and metaphors that allow us to describe to each other and to ourselves the ineffable experience of faith. I mean, when we talk about God we're talking about something that is, by definition, indescribable, indefinable. You need a way to talk about God and so what religion does is it provides a readymade language that allows you to be understood when you're talking to your own community.


See also (from Shinzen Young): 

Invisible Clouds

Tres Esculturas Monumentales de Javier Marín en el Parque Eulogio Rosado

Easter Morning
by Jim Harrison, from Saving Daylight

On Easter morning all over America
the peasants are frying potatoes in bacon grease.

We're not supposed to have "peasants"
but there are tens of millions of them
frying potatoes on Easter morning,
cheap and delicious with catsup.

If Jesus were here this morning he might
be eating fried potatoes with my friend
who has a '51 Dodge and a '72 Pontiac.

When his kids ask why they don't have
a new car he says, "these cars were new once
and now they are experienced."

He can fix anything and when rich folks
call to get a toilet repaired he pauses
extra hours so that they can further
learn what we're made of.

I told him that in Mexico the poor say
that when there's lightning the rich
think that God is taking their picture.
He laughed.

Like peasants everywhere in the history
of the world ours can't figure out why
they're getting poorer. Their sons join
the army to get work being shot at.

Your ideals are invisible clouds
so try not to suffocate the poor,
the peasants, with your sympathies.
They know that you're staring at them.

Invited to Forget Ourselves

Topiary Park, March 2, 2013

Excerpt from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

What is serious to [humans] is often very trivial in the sight of God [aka Nature, Time, Source, Mystery of Life].  What in God might appear to us as "play" is perhaps what God takes the most seriously.  At any rate the Lord plays in the garden of creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear God's call and follow in the mysterious, cosmic dance.  We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing.  When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet Basho we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash -- at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the "newness," the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.

For the world and time are the dance of the [Source] in emptiness.  The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast.  The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity, and despair.  But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.  Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it or not.

Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.

The Oneness Behind All the Religions

"Faith precedes belief systems. That means that faith is the consent or surrender to the divine reality — or to the ultimate reality or whatever its name is in the different religions — before it's broken down into different belief systems which are bound to be influenced by the cultural conditioning  of the person or the reformers who worked on that religion. So faith, when it becomes contemplative, begins to perceive the oneness behind all the religions — before the experience of God was broken down into various belief systems. " ~ Father Thomas Keating

How are We Going to Be Able to Live Together?

Excerpts from “Restoring Political Civility,” a conversation between Krista Tippet and Richard Mouw (president of Fuller Theological Seminary and a professor of Christian Philosophy and Ethics and author or Uncommon Decency), Being, October 14, 2010:

Richard Mouw: …to be civil comes from civitas and it means learning how to live in the city. The origin with a guy like Aristotle, the ancient philosopher, who said early on, as little children, we have a natural sense of kinship. We have strong positive feelings toward those who are blood relatives, my mother, my father, sisters and brothers, cousins and the like. And then as we grow up, we have some of those same positive feelings that develop toward friends. So we go from kinship and we build on that to a broader sense of friendship where you have that same sense of bonding or something like it that isn't just based on blood relative stuff.

But he said to really grow up, to be a mature human being, is to learn in the public square to have that same sense of bonding to people from other cities, people who are very different than yourself. And that's not just toleration, but is a sense that what I owe to my mother because she brought me into this world, what I owe to my friends because of shared experiences and memories and delights, I also owe to the stranger. Why? Because they're human like me and I got to begin to think of humanness as such as a kind of bonding relationship

Krista Tippett: So here's another statement from you about just an essential Christian truth, which is, "In affirming the stranger, we are honoring the image of God."

Richard Mouw: Oh, yeah. That's right. Going back to that Aristotle idea that, you know, we all understand kinship and then we understand friendship, but then there's this person who is neither kin nor friend, but we have encountered them. And what is it that links me to them if it isn't just a lot of good feelings that I have about people like that? What the Bible teaches is that every human being is created in a divine image. And this means that every human being is — you know, this is where I've been thinking more about this lately — is a work of art.

Seeing other people is a kind of exercise in art appreciation. I find that very powerful. I come across a person who isn't just a stranger, but maybe represents a strangeness to me that initially I might feel very alienated from that person, and then to think this is a work of art by the God whom I worship, that God created that person. And it doesn't come easy. I'm kind of aesthetically deprived, so I have to work at it, but it's a very important exercise to engage in.

Krista Tippett: You have been very clear and open across the years, for example, about your theological opposition to gay marriage. I could imagine that someone who is homosexual might hear what you just said and feel that in fact that doesn't find expression when you look at them.

Richard Mouw: Well, and — and it should. I have really tried to emphasize the fact that even in expressing our disagreements — and this is a very complicated thing — but that we're dealing with people who are precious works of divine art. You know, I have argued on a number of occasions and actually gotten some very positive response from folks in the gay-lesbian community that maybe — I even wrote a Newsweek piece on this.

You know, maybe it's time to stop yelling at each other and accusing each other in public and maybe we ought to just sit down and turn the agenda into something like this where I would ask my gay and lesbian activist friends, "what is it about people like me that scare you so much? And that you in turn would listen to me when I say, what is it about what you are advocating that worries me so much about the future of our culture and the world in which my grandchildren are being raised? And that we talk about hopes and fears rather than angrily denouncing each other as homophobes or as people who are engaged in, you know, despicable behavior, but could that shape a very different kind of discussion." As we move toward — the really important question is how are we going to be able to live together in this pluralistic society with at least some better understanding of what motivates us beneath the angry denunciations and things?

To Understand the Meek

A poem and an excerpt from an essay by Mary Karr from Sinners Welcome:

Who the Meek are Not

          Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent

under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep

          in the rice paddy muck,

not the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles

          make the wheat fall in waves

they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan

          nun says we misread

the word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.

          To understand the meek

(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop

          in a meadow, who—

at his master’s voice—seizes up to a stunned

          but instant halt.

So with the strain of holding that great power

          in check, the muscles

along the arched neck eddying,

          and only the velvet ears

prick forward, awaiting the next order.


Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer 
(excerpt)

To confess my unlikely Catholicism in Poetry—the journal that first published some of the godless twentieth-century disillusionaries of J. Alfred Prufrock and his pals—feels like an act of perversion kinkier than any dildo-wielding dominatrix could manage on HBO’s Real Sex Extra. I can’t even blame it on my being a cradle Catholic, some brainwashed escapee of the pleated skirt and communion veil who—after a misspent youth and facing an Eleanor Rigby-like dotage—plodded back into the confession booth some rainy Saturday.

Not victim but volunteer, I converted in 1996 after a lifetime of undiluted agnosticism. Hearing about my baptism, a friend sent me a postcard that read, “Not you on the Pope’s team. Say it ain’t so!” Well, while probably not the late Pope’s favorite Catholic (nor he my favorite Pope), I took the blessing and ate the broken bread. And just as I continue to live in America and vote despite my revulsion for many U.S. policies, I continue to take the sacraments despite my fervent aversion to certain doctrines. Call me a cafeteria Catholic if you like, but to that I’d say, Who isn’t?

Capable of Making Distinctions

Excerpt from “The Muslims in the Middle,” editorial by William Dalrymple, New York Times, Aug. 16, 2010:

Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.

Yet many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Had the George W. Bush administration been more aware of the irreconcilable differences between the Salafist jihadists of Al Qaeda and the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States might never have blundered into a disastrous war, and instead kept its focus on rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan while the hearts and minds of the Afghans were still open to persuasion.

Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists.His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshiping apostate; they no doubt regard him as a legitimate target for assassination.

For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West.

The great Sufi saints like the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi held that all existence and all religions were one, all manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque, church, synagogue or temple, but the striving to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart: that we all can find paradise within us, if we know where to look.

Read the entire editorial…

May 20, 2010. Press Conference outside site of planned Cordoba House with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and city government officials in support of the Cordoba House.

 

Arithmetic

Rodney Smith of the Seattle Insight Meditation Society in conversation with Vince Horn of Buddhist Geeks (Episode 143: Stepping Out of Self-Deception):

Anything that we think about the world is really coming from the mind.  It is not coming from reality itself.  All of the likes and dislikes that we have of the world are really mental projections onto the world.  They are not coming from the world. And so when you begin to see that, then you begin to decipher how the mind is distorting reality on a constant momentary level...

I think the fraction line is very relevant to what we are talking about, because that fraction line is -- in a spiritual analogy -- the resistance factor.  The upper part of the fraction, or the numerator, which is all things that appear and we latch onto, hold onto, and grasp in life -- all appearances...Meanwhile, there is a common denominator to all of life that is waiting for us...that we have to cross that fraction line in order to experience and in order to embody.  Now crossing that fraction line is the entire spiritual journey.  It is the movement from the numerator toward the denominator that all spiritual paths point.

Much of Buddhism is about seeing the limited quality of anything that has an appearance, anything that has form.  In Christianity, too, Christ says, “Lay not up your treasures where rust does corrupt or thieves let in,” which means the same thing -- don’t focus and invest in the appearances of life.

And when we don’t do that, when we release the need to grasp and hold onto appearances that change, then we start crossing that fraction line and feeling -- and embodying really, because it has never left us -- the common denominator, which is that wholeness, that presence, that all encompassing awareness that is waiting for us...

And we take it as a numerator problem.  We think, “Oh, I just haven’t tried hard enough as a fraction, and that if I really tried hard has a fraction I could get to a whole number.”  And that's not the point.  The point is not to continue to assert the muscles of our numerator, because the numerator will never get us to the denominator.  It's seeing the limitations of the numerator, releasing the need to be, or abide, or grasp at the numerator that eventually evolves us into the common denominator.

Nothing Left Out

My copy of The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb just arrived!

From the introduction:

The Book of Genesis

I, R. CRUMB, THE ILLUSTRATOR OF THIS BOOK, HAVE, TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY, FAITHFULLY REPRODUCED EVERY WORD OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT, WHICH I DERIVED FROM SEVERAL SOURCES, INCLUDING THE KING JAMES VERSION, BUT MOSTLY FROM ROBERT ALTER’S RECENT TRANSLATION, THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES (2004). IN A FEW PLACES I VENTURED TO DO A LITTLE INTERPRETATION OF MY OWN, IF I THOUGHT THE WORDS COULD BE MADE CLEARER, BUT I REFRAINED FROM INDULGING TOO OFTEN IN SUCH “CREATIVITY,” AND SOMETIMES LET IT STAND IN ITS CONVOLUTED VAGUENESS RATHER THAN MONKEY AROUND WITH SUCH A VENERABLE TEXT.

EVERY OTHER COMIC BOOK VERSION OF THE BIBLE THAT I’VE SEEN CONTAINS PASSAGES OF COMPLETELY MADE-UP NARRATIVE AND DIALOGUE, IN AN ATTEMPT TO STREAMLINE AND “MODERNIZE” THE OLD SCRIPTURES, AND STILL, THESE VARIOUS COMIC BOOK BIBLES ALL CLAIM TO ADHERE TO THE BELIEF THAT THE BIBLE IS “THE WORD OF GOD,” OR INSPIRED BY “THE WORD OF GOD,” WHEREAS, I, IRONICALLY, DO NOT BELIEVE THE BIBLE IS “THE WORD OF GOD.” I BELIEVE IT IS THE WORDS OF MEN.

IT IS, NONETHELESS, A POWERFUL TEXT WITH LAYERS OF MEANING THAT REACH DEEP INTO OUR COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, OUR HISTORICAL CONSCIOUSNESS, IF YOU WILL. IT SEEMS INDEED TO BE AN INSPIRED WORK, BUT I BELIEVE THAT ITS POWER DERIVES FROM ITS HAVING BEEN A COLLECTIVE ENDEAVOR THAT EVOLVED, AND CONDENSED OVER MANY GENERATIONS BEFORE REACHING ITS FINAL, FIXED FORM AS WE KNOW IT DURING THE “BABYLONIAN EXILE,” CIRCA 600 B.C.E.

…IF MY VISUAL, LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS OFFENDS OR OUTRAGES SOME READERS, WHICH SEEMS INEVITABLE CONSIDERING THAT THE TEXT IS REVERED BY MANY PEOPLE, ALL I CAN SAY IN MY DEFENSE IS THAT I APPROACHED THIS AS A STRAIGHT ILLUSTRATION JOB, WITH NO INTENTION TO RIDICULE OR MAKE VISUAL JOKES. THAT SAID, I KNOW THAT YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY."

* * *

R. Crumb's Awesome, Affecting Take On Genesis,” by Susan Jane Gilman, NPR (October 16, 2009)

 

I Don’t Ever Want to Have to Say “I Don’t Know” Ever Again

“There's this being called the thing that made the things for which there is no known maker and that causes and directs the events we can't otherwise explain and that doesn't need to have been made and is the one thing from which to ask for things that no human can give and without whom we can't be fully happy and is unlimited by all the laws of physics and never began and will never finish and is invisible but actually everywhere at once and who is so perfect that even if he killed millions of people, including babies, he'd still would be perfect and who is so powerful and magical that he can even make a virgin pregnant if he wanted to."

NonStampCollector

 

Whenever Knowledge Becomes Rigid it Stops Living

Anslem Kiefer in conversation with Michael Auping from Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth:

Religion was a part of my childhood and my youth. It was a very important thing. The rituals and rites were important. I can still do them in Latin. Of course, I knew the Latin before I knew what it meant. But I was involved, like many young people of my generation, in learning religion at an early age.

Later, I discovered that Christian mythology was less complex and less sophisticated than Jewish mythology because the Christians limited their story to make it simple so that they could engage more people and defend their ideas. They had to fight with the Jewish traditions, with the Gnostics. It was a war of the use of knowledge.

Resurrexit, Anselm Kiefer, 1973

However, it wasn’t just a defense against outside ideas. It was aggressive. Like politics, they wanted to win. You know, the first church in Rome was not defensive and not aggressive. It was quiet. It was spiritual in the sense of seeking a true discussion about God. It was exploring a new idea about humanity. But then there was “iglesias triumphant,” the Triumph of the Church. And then the stones were stacked up and the buildings came, and the construction of the Scholastics, Augustine, and so on. They were very successful in limiting the meaning of the mythology. There were discussions about the Trinity and its meaning. Anyone who had ideas that complicated their specific picture was eliminated. This made Christianity very rigid and not very interesting. Whenever knowledge becomes rigid it stops living.

Volkszählung (Census), by Anselm Kiefer, 1991

…Since childhood, I had studied the Old Testament, and sometime as a young man I began to read of Jewish mysticism. Then in the mid-1980s, I went to Jerusalem and began to read the books of Gershon Scholem. Beside the fact that kabbalistic stories and interpretations are very interesting, I think my attraction has something to do with the way that I work.

People say that I read a lot, but in some ways I don’t. I read enough to capture images. I read until the story becomes an image. Then I stop reading. I can’t recite a passage, but I can recite it as an image. For an artist it is important to have a strong, complex subject. Kabbala means “knowledge that has been received,” a secret knowledge; but I think of it as images that have been received.

Everyone Stands Under His Own Dome of Heaven, Anslem Kiefer, 1970

As I said before, the Christian church hardened in its knowledge and its symbolism at a certain point. The kabbalistic tradition is not one but many, forming a sophisticated spiritual discipline. It is a paradox of logic and mystical belief. It’s part scholarship, part religion, part magic. For me, it is a spiritual journey anchored by images.

Mandatum Novum

Today is Maundy Thursday, the Christian holy day commemorating The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples.

The word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum. It refers to the "new mandate" given by Jesus to his apostles. The Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus illustrating the significance of this mandate by washing the feet of his disciples before sharing his last meal with them on the night before he was crucified.

Christ Washing the Feet of his Disciples, Rembrandt, c. 1655Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 13:34

Thomas Merton wrote: True emptiness is that which transcends all things and yet is imminent in all. For what seems to be emptiness in this case is pure being. But it's not this or that. Whatever you say of it, it is other than what you say. The character of emptiness, at least for a Christian contemplative, is pure love, pure freedom. Love that is free of everything, not determined by any thing or held down by any special relationship. It's love for love's sake. It's a sharing through the Holy Spirit in the infinite charity of God. And so when Jesus told his disciples to love, he told them to love as universally as the Father who sends rain alike on the just and the unjust. This purity, freedom, and indeterminateness of love is the very essence of Christianity.

 

Resurrection is the Heart of Buddhism

From Parallels Between Buddhism and Christianity, a talk given by Shinzen Young:

My teacher Sasaki Roshi used to quite regularly hold Zen retreats at a Trappist Monastery where Father Thomas Keating used to be the abbot. He would go in and put on the Trappist robes and he'd make up Christian kōans for the monks.

The first kōan he gave them was What is your experience of God when you make the sign of the cross?

He would also describe Buddhism in terms of Christianity. He would ask them questions like What was Jesus's experience of God when he was on the cross?

He would say, "Resurrection is the heart of Buddhism. Unless you understand about resurrection, you cannot understand what Buddhism is about. Dying is the easy part. The resurrection is the hard part. Any religion that doesn't teach resurrection is a false religion." He was talking about his own experience which is why he would say it with such conviction.

Do you understand what he meant when he said resurrection is the heart of Buddhism? Well, it goes back to the experience of no self and full self. Allowing the self to dissolve is half of the enlightenment experience. Allowing the self to reform without interference, that's resurrection, isn't it?

Thomas Merton wrote, "All the paradoxes about the contemplative way are reduced to this one: being without desire means being lead by a desire so great that it is incomprehensible. It's too huge to be completely felt. It's a blind desire, which seems like a desire for nothing. Only because nothing can content it. And because it is able to rest in no thing, then it rests, relatively speaking, in emptiness. But not in emptiness as such, emptiness for it's own sake, actually there's no such entity as pure emptiness. And the merely negative emptiness of the false contemplative is a thing, not a nothing."

[It's very true. In other words, the negative emptiness, empty in the sense of your bank account is empty, that's not the emptiness that the meditator is talking about. That's actually a thing.]

"True emptiness is that which transcends all things and yet is imminent in all. For what seems to be emptiness in this case is pure being. But it's not this or that. Whatever you say of it, it is other than what you say. The character of emptiness, at least for a Christian contemplative, is pure love, pure freedom. Love that is free of everything, not determined by any thing or held down by any special relationship. It's love for love's sake. It's a sharing through the Holy Spirit in the infinite charity of God. And so when Jesus told his disciples to love, he told them to love as universally as the Father who sends rain alike on the just and the unjust. This purity, freedom, and indeterminateness of love is the very essence of Christianity."