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

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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.

bends, turns & detours

As with any journey, the destination is not always what we imagined it should be and quickly we discover that there are bends, turns, and detours to negotiate.  Such is the quest for sanity and serenity in sobriety.  When I had accomplished what seemed impossible, one year of continuous sobriety, I thought, “Aha, this is it, I have arrived.”

Yes, in a way, I did arrive.  But, I soon realized I had just touched the surface of what sober living entailed.  Thirty-six years later, I have yet to arrive.  The drinking is no longer the problem.  It’s actually easy now.  Don’t drink and I won’t get drunk; one is too many and ten is not enough; I won’t drink even if my ass falls off.  No, it’s not the alcohol anymore, it’s me and all the baggage stowed away in my head which continues to need an inventory and cleaning.  I suppose all of us are like that and the main difference is that we recovering alcoholics are fortunate enough to have a program geared specifically for us in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Perhaps the most difficult clean-out of the brain is releasing the religious indoctrination of our early years.  Today, as an old man approaching the septuagenarian decade of life, I no longer judge harshly the experiences of a childhood overwhelmed with a theology of condemnation and hell-fire although those experiences were definite contributors to my addiction.  I don’t harbor anger and resentment over injustices done in the name of a vengeful God.

But, I also do not forget.  The quest I am on leads into new and exciting ventures in the realms of spirituality, it leads into exploration of varying faith communities, it leads into appreciation for the ancient religions established long before the advent of Christianity.  And I do this comfortably because my mainstays are  love, compassion, peace, and nonviolence.  If, in the scriptures and writings which I encounter, those four companions of universal Oneness and solidarity don’t jump off the page and fill my brain with a sense of completeness, then I must move on.  I trust that inner spirit today.  Where it leads, I will follow.

And so, I try to walk the path of Buddha, worship corporately with Lutherans, and fellowship with sober people.  It’s a fine mix of all the best things in life when I maintain priorities and always remember that my name is Larry and I am an alcoholic.

take stock & regroup

When I undertook this format for writing several years ago, it was with the intent to share my experience, strength, and hope in my personal quest for sanity and serenity as a recovering alcoholic.  I had no aspirations for a blog that would draw thousands of readers or ambitions for a post that would go viral.  And, I have not been disappointed.

The events of the past year have tilted my concerns and attentions to the political arena.  Certainly my personal opinions are valid, my voice needs to be counted, and my vote will continue to be registered, but, continual attention to a situation which is beyond my control exacts a toll on serenity and composure.

Today, I realized that common sense will ultimately prevail, that goodness and mercy will prevail, and that life will go on with or without my input.  But, I also came to understand that our culture ( Western, specifically American) is driven not by a sense of spirit, but rather by a sense of self.  We are a culture of egoism and self-absorption.  It is the only explanation for the politicians we have installed as leaders of the free world.

A wealthy friend, let’s call him Joe, is a minor millionaire who spends more money on a pair of shoes than I can spend on monthly groceries.   Joe has called our current President a pig.  He has questioned our President’s shady connections.  He is one of the voters who voted for the least worst of the worst candidates in decades.  Yet, Joe confided that the stock market is doing great, he is making money and therefore he is happy with the pig with shady connections who is currently posing as POTUS.  Another pair of designer shoes for Joe and maybe a Rolex are in his offing.

Yes, today has been a time of refection and redirect.  I know who I am in God’s world, I intend to strive on for a compassionate, caring, communing interaction with the world’s peoples, creatures, and environment.  This is the only wealth which is worth chasing, it is the eternity detailed in the chapters of the great scriptures, it is that which the greatest of God’s messengers have attested as truth; it is the way of Jesus, the path of Buddha and it is available to all who will subdue themselves to the greater power so simply presented in the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Oneness which we call God, or Allah, or Brahman will continue with or without us.  The universal, omnipotent power of the Oneness will do this…with or without us.  Our reason for being here on this earth in this life is to promote and assist the physical/spiritual welfare of our brothers and sisters, to cherish the creation and to protect the environment.  We are not here to promote our version of God, to defend our version of God, or in any way assist our version of God.  The one you name as God, the one I name as God is perfectly capable of handling those details.  Let’s appreciate the simplicity of our solidarity.

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Dhammapada 17:3

and Buddha said:

“Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good.”  Dhammapada 17:3

God’s messengers to the world, a struggling humanity ruled by ego, clearly state the essence of Spirit is love as expressed by peaceful, nonviolent existence.  When personal ego no longer rules our behavior or thinking, the Kingdom replaces the incessant “me, me, me” demands of ego.  We are then free to love humanity with unimaginable compassion because “I” am no longer the center of the universe.  Take heart knowing that few of us achieve this state of bliss; however, it is the journey, the trek with the mystics that strengthens and matures us into God’s love for his creation.  This God experience occurs through us.

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