fruit of the Spirit

“Talk the talk; walk the walk.”CANDLE

How much simpler can it be?  When I open my mouth to share my incredible knowledge and wisdom, when I take it upon myself to dispense earth-shaking opinions, and when I assume that what I say is absolute truth, then I am headed down the highway of disappointment and pain.  I know today that my open mouth, more often than not, results in a foot entering therein, that opinions are akin to another body part of which everyone has one, and my truth is, at best, relative to my circumstances.

OK, so talk is cheap.  How about the walk?  The walk separates men from boys and women from girls.  An act of unselfish compassion, a cup of coffee for the homeless man, a ride given to the hitchhiker, an hour of time shared with someone who desperately needs a friend, a pocketful of change in the bell ringer’s bucket are indications that a person is walking the walk.  Buying that cold man standing on the corner a Micky D’s breakfast, sending a check to a favorite charity, helping a blind man navigate the busy street, talking for an hour with a needy AA friend, sharing an encouraging word with a caregiver, showing up for church when not feeling very worshipful, cooking supper for a spouse overwhelmed with personal issues…..these are ways to walk the walk.

Jesus, the reason for this season, walked the walk strenuously and perfectly.  Certainly, he had great opening lines on the Mount and taught a profound lesson, but, his ministry and that of his disciples was called “the Way”.  They healed the sick, ministered to the poor, and salvaged hurting souls. The Buddha called his teachings “the Path.”  Both infer the necessary action of walking to reach the desired goal of enlightenment.  The talk is the text-book that instills understanding and the walk is the lab work, a place to conduct research.  Studying the text book until the cows come home will not change me one iota until I apply the learning into my daily life’s walk.

So then, how do I know if the text-book which I follow is the real deal, the genuine Jesus of nativity fame?  Is my book like one of the many self-proclaimed Jesus experts who interpret and interpose at whim, who devise a Gospel according to their own self-serving needs, who harbor intolerance and hatred under the name of God?  What is my spiritual barometer?

“15Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them…..” Matthew 7:15-16

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

There it is.  That is my personal spiritual barometer.  How do I measure up to the words from the author of Galatians citing love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as fruits of my indwelling Spirit?  Sometimeschristmas emoji 3 favorably, other times in need of fixing, but always on the right path when I am willing to walk the walk which Jesus walks.  Wandering from that path is part of my human nature; bringing me back is part of His divine nature.  We’re a good team.

 

 

 

Jesus & Buddha

I have this recurring thought of a meeting and conversation between Jesus and Buddha, both of whom are verifiable historical figures, in which, after offering solutions to the world’s suffering, Jesus bows to Buddha and says, “The Lord be with you.”  Buddha replies, “Namaste, I bow to the divine in you.”

Wow! How different would our world be today if the major religions could take it upon themselves to honor and respect each other’s faith walk? Not only could we honor and respect, but we could also embrace each other as co-inheritors of the grace and mercy ofrainbow-solidarity our respective Lords.  All of us are children of God who have received different messengers throughout history to teach the truth of one universal entity which we, as Christians, choose to name God.

That, in essence, is the teaching of Jesus which I believe exhorts me to live life inclusively and compassionately.  Man’s created theology is secondary to this nugget of truth revealed by the author of Mark.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

A few scholars of religion have tried to connect the two, Jesus and Buddha, through historical access.  Jesus, in his lifetime, could have easily heard the teachings of Buddha from merchants and Buddhist priests who undoubtedly travelled the trade routes between Israel and the Far East.  It’s an interesting theory which would add a dimension of mystery to the story of Jesus; however, it is not a necessary component to verifying the validity of our messenger.

Marcus Borg in his book “Jesus and Buddha: the Parallel Sayings” attributes the similarity in sayings to the probability that both mystics were inspired by an indwelling Spirit of holiness which enabled them to recognize the unitive presence of a Oneness, a universal energy which transcended human understanding and religious distinctions.  Following is an excerpt from that book:

Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). The Buddha says, “Consider others as yourself” (Dhammapada 10.1).

Jesus says, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29). Buddha says, “If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or CANDLEwith a knife, you should abandon any desires [to hurt him] and utter no evil words” (Majjhima Nikaya 21.6).

Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).  Buddha says, “If you do not tend one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick” (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8.26.3).

The Jewish Kabbalah, Muslim Sufism and the teachings of Tao also reveal this Oneness, the unitive energy of God within.  Contemporary Christianity seems to have become exceedingly concerned with establishing its Jesus story as the only truth to the point that it has lost the Jesus teachings which reveal lessons of detachment, non-violence, simplicity, and anxiety. CAC.ORG

Namaste.

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that divine spark

CANDLE

I love to read about things that inspire people to become a closer image of the spiritual person which God has intended for them.  When reading or listening to others who are sharing their journey, I try to look for the nugget of truth that is intended for me, that divine spark which they harbor inside of them and that inspiring thought which is meant for me.  There are no coincidences in this experience.  You, my fellow human, always have something to teach me.

“Namaste” roughly translated means, “I bow to the divine in you.”  Shared with another in a position of bowed head and folded hands, this one word says to you that I may not agree in philosophy and “isms”, but, I know that the same divine presence which motivates and inspires me is also within you.  It’s a wonderful way to overcome the inherent prejudice and bias which we all endure.  Possibly it is the only way we can avoid species annihilation at the hand of hatred and intolerance.

Buddhism, for me, is a rich sojourn through the thoughts of the character of the Buddha.  The image given to us is that of a weighty man, sitting in the lotus position, transfixed in meditation.  According to the tradition of Buddhism, love, self-less behavior, and compassion are the essentials for a peaceful coexistence with fellow-man and with the entirety of creation.  The practitioners of this philosophy don’t necessarily see it as a religion, but rather, as a way of living.  They name it “the Path”.

Jesus, who historically came to us about 500 years after the Buddha, also referred to this devotion to selflessness as “the Way”:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

This idea of self-less, compassionate co-existence is not a Christian discovery formulated by Jesus and his followers, nor is it an invention of the Buddha.  It has existed forever in the heart of mankind since the beginning of time.  Religion and the “isms” will never capture it or copyright it.  That divine spark which dwells within, which leads me to try harder, do better, suffer with my brothers and sisters, hope for enlightenment, and realize I need a Lord and Savior in my life is inherent in all of us.

Choosing to acknowledge and follow, to recognize a higher power is a choice.  Whether I soar with eagles or mire in the muck is a decision I must make each and every day.  Come, fly with me today, the skies are spacious and refreshing.  Truth is awaiting.

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renewal

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As always, my blogger mind, upon rising this morning, said, “Hmmmm, what shall we write about today?  Politics, injustice, evil, government, religion…..blah, blah, blah?”

And as always, I first read the posts from bloggers whom I follow.  The ongoing tragedy in Puerto Rico from one, today’s challenge from another, a prayer for the world from another, and then, a post that nailed me between the eyes.

“Bingo, says I.”  Mike has bottom-lined where my life has been for several months.  The agony and frustration of living life on this earth, observing all the discord in the news and on social media, fussing with family and neighbors over things beyond my control and forgetting that the God I bow to everyday is totally and unequivocally in charge of the situation.  That higher power doesn’t need my help, doesn’t want my advice, and certainly doesn’t need me to defend its grace and authority reigning somewhere beyond my understanding and comprehension.

So, where does this leave me?  More importantly, where does this take me?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I am tired of second-guessing everything going on in this world and I am weary of chastising politicians and religious leaders who are seemingly out of step with the march which I follow.  It drains the soul, my friends.

The Buddha advises us to realize the impermanence of this life, to direct inward the actions and thoughts needed to change the world, and to be the observer and not the owner of life’s injustices and suffering.  We do that through the ‘right thinking and right behavior’ of the Buddha’s path.

According to scriptures, Jesus said he was the Way and the truth and the life.  His journey through the Gospels assures us, as the author of Philippians 4:7 says, that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds.


Going forward, all I have to take with me is that faith which demands nothing other than living a life of love and compassion with my fellow sojourners on this earth.  That’s a pretty simple directive and I know I will screw it up occasionally, but, it seems like a great way to travel the highway of life, hang out in the slow lane, and let my cup overflow.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”  Psalm 23:5

namaste rainbow

Dhammapada 1: the twin

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Even if the thoughtless can recite many of the scriptures,
if they do not act accordingly,
they are not living the holy life,
but are like a cowherd counting the cows of others.

Even if the faithful can recite
only a few of the scriptures,
if they act accordingly,
having given up passion, hate, and folly,
being possessed of true knowledge and serenity of mind,
craving nothing in this world or the next,
they are living the holy life.

Doesn’t get any simpler than that, does it?  I believe in American culture we would say, “Talk the talk and then walk the walk.”  It’s all about the journey which we walk and not the scriptures we have read.  Some of my friends are well versed in Christian scriptures and they do indeed live by the principles.  Surely they will be blessed.

But, we increasingly witness the preachers of the “talk” who haven’t a clue nor a desire to live the “path” of the Buddha nor the “way” of Jesus of Nazareth.  Their talk is big while their performance is dismal.

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.  Jeremiah 23:1

To my friends in recovery programs, this is not religious stuff; this is the essence of the program we have learned around the tables at our meetings.  Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson did not pull their life-saving principles out of thin air.  No, they took the wisdom established centuries earlier and transitioned it to fit contemporary society.

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conflicted

We know the Way of Jesus: the Truth and Life; we know the Path of the Buddha.  Reality dwells in a space within our bodily temples protected from the clamor of the world.  It does not participate in the illusions of the world.  It merely observes the noise and allows us to function quietly in fullness of spirit.   When challenged by the incessant demands of the noise, our inner self needs only withdraw to the place we know as truth, the place where we will find solace.

And what is that truth?   It is knowing that this life is impermanent; it is knowing that this life is suffering; it is knowing that our suffering is a result of the work of the ego; it is knowing that we can ascend to a place of non-suffering through dying to that ego.  When we can become self-less we can become free.  That is the journey, the Quest.

For a few, enlightenment occurs, but for me, it is a continuing trek through the disappointment, the disillusionment, the sadness, the intolerance, the hatred which defines today’s society.  I’m still a work in progress.  Thankfully, I also know that it is my choice to participate in a conflicted way within the world’s reality or to merely observe and conduct my life according to my conscience.  I will speak as a brother to all humanity, I will think as one who is merely a grain of sand in the sea of humanity, I will uphold the rights of all my brothers and sisters to a life of equality and justice.  The truth which I perceive tells me there is no separation of mankind for we are all one within the greatness, the magnificence, the brilliance of the universal One.

The state of being conflicted is counterproductive to the journey.  Or is it?  When we stand in for a victim of oppression and hatred, when we speak out for those who are being persecuted, when we uphold the laws of our country as prescribed by the Constitution by counter-demonstrating, are we not also subscribing to that which we know to be Truth?

Although I seek quiet and solitude, I cannot be voiceless and uninvolved.  Even when I cannot successfully search my memory banks for sound bytes, video clips, and quotes which support my convictions regarding today’s political turmoil, I have an intelligence and awareness which continues to discern right from wrong.  For that I am grateful else my state of confliction would be without value or purpose.

I wonder if Gandhi was conflicted, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Jesus, or the Buddha.  Maybe it’s OK.  You think?

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Namaste

“We need to be more concerned with following Jesus, which he told us to do numerous times, and less with worshipping Jesus—which he never once told us to do.”

richard rohr

Whomever we name as Lord and Savior has to be the guiding essence in our lives.  As one brought up in the Christian tradition, I of course have Jesus as my reference point.  I believe the teachings and the words attributed to this messenger of God are the entirety of what a person needs to live life successfully and compassionately.  His disciples addressed him as “Rabboni” meaning teacher or master.  He was not viewed as a preacher, a figure we are more comfortable with in Western Christianity.  He did not chastise his followers with threats and condemnation from his pulpit.  No, the Jesus we see in the Bible was always in the midst of everyday life, enjoying the company of fellow Jews, partying at weddings, consoling hurting friends, and practicing what he knew as the truth.

That is what western Christianity has lost in its zeal to convert the world.  It exhorts proselytes to bow and worship before crosses and man-created theologies rather than to get out there, rub elbows with all of God’s creation and humanity, and be a light in a darkened world by following the examples set by Rabboni.

Jesus endorses freedom of thought and justice for all humanity through actions of love, peace, compassion and inclusion.  I must believe that if Jesus and Buddha had met , they would have smiled on the world and greeted each other with Jesus saying, “God’s peace be with you.”

Buddha would have folded his hands, bowed his head, and returned with, “Namaste”, meaning I bow to the Divine in you.

What a wonderful world we could have if we all pretended to be Jesus and Buddha bowing and respecting each other’s chosen path to enlightenment.