this little spark of mine – I’m gonna let it shine

 

“We are made, the scriptures of all religions assure us, in the image of God. Nothing can change that original goodness. Whatever mistakes we have made in the past, whatever problems we may have in the present, in every one of us this beautiful-cropland-dawn-1237119‘uncreated spark in the soul’ remains untouched, ever pure, ever perfect. Even if we try with all our might to douse or hide it, it is always ready to set our personality ablaze with light.”  EKNATH EASWARAN (1910-1999) cac.org

(Eknath Easwaran was an Indian born spiritual teacher and author, as well as translator and interpreter of early Hindu texts such as the UPANISHADS and the BHAGAVAD GITA.)

Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) taught:

“Our supreme purpose in life is not to make a fortune, nor to pursue pleasure, nor to write our name in history, but to discover this spark of the divine that is in our hearts.”

The world, specifically Western Culture, might do well to listen to the words of all religious traditions whose mystics searched beyond the limits of this life experience for truer meaning and self-less examination.  Escaping the insanity of violence, war, poverty, genocide, persecution, religious intolerance and greed is critical for a path to a sustainable co-existence of the human species as well as the ecosystem of earth which inarguably is essential to our survival.

Giving up self-indulgence is not easy.  Just ask any other recovering alcoholic or addict.  A primary symptom, if not the most salient aspect, of our addictions was ego-driven selfishness.  Unfortunately, that does not miraculously disappear upon our first day of the recovery process.  For most of us, especially me, this change in focus becomes a lifetime endeavor.  Some days are better than others, but the spark is there.  An AA saying that resonates is, “A belly full of booze and a head full of AA don’t mix.”  It’s the same with recognizing the divine spark within each of us.  Once you experience it, you can no longer ignore it.  That inner essence demands change.

I continue to be amazed that for some people this change is easily accomplished.  Involving in service work, rejoining their communities, whether in civic groups or church groups, seems to be a cakewalk for them.  Not for me.  You can drag me to a town hall meeting, but I will be kicking and screaming all the way.  It is not natural for me to do something that is not all about me, me, me.

We don’t hear WWJD very often these days.  “What Would Jesus Do?”  In no way have I perfected this approach, but when I ask myself this question, I can usually depend on a positive, forward-moving answer.  It doesn’t matter whether one believes a divine Jesus, a virgin-born Jesus, a reverential Jesus or a bodily resurrected Jesus, the keys to successful, peaceful, empowered living are contained in the writings which are attributed to the words of Jesus of Nazareth.  Those nuggets of inspiration and truth culled from the Bible’s chapters detailing Judaic history, folklore, and ancient wisdom present a lifestyle and mindset that lead to the change demanded by each individual’s inner essence.

Not surprisingly, this truth can be gathered from most of the world’s great spiritual traditions if we put aside the hype and tribal prejudices of religion and instead search for the reality of inner discovery.  History’s mystics lead that search.

 

 

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

“Why ask about behavior when you are soul-essence,
and a way of seeing into presence!
…Forget the nonsense categories of there and here,
adult-adventure-backlit-915972race, nation, religion,
starting point and destination.
…No more questions now
as to what it is we’re doing here.”
(underlining is my emphasis)
RUMI, THE BOOK OF LOVE by Coleman Barks

This short passage from Rumi, a Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, Sufi mystic, emphatically tells that instead of being concerned with the ego and its demands, the journey in this life is all about the inner essence, the divine spark.  Call it Spirit, call it energy, call it God or whatever our faith traditions name this essence, this is the ultimate reality.  Rumi, in naming “there and here, race, nation, religion, starting point and destination as nonsense categories”, challenges the mind to ask, “If not that, what then is important in this world experience?”  Not names, not locations on this planet, not vocations, not family status, not physical appearance, not past successes nor personalities define who or what we are as members of this human experience.  If we believe otherwise, we are deluding ourselves.

Of course I have difficulty with this thought process.  Being reared and having lived my life in Western culture with its insatiable drive to promote the needs of self (a.k.a ego)  over all other concerns, the welfare of fellow mankind and the stewardship of our Mother Earth easily become lost in the hubbub of me, me, me.

Perhaps if reared in Eastern philosophy or having embraced the ways of mystics as a young man, viewing the inner self as reality and all else as secondary baggage would not be as daunting.  But, I am a typical Westerner and therefore, I struggle.  I try not to compare myself with others on their spiritual trek, I only compare to whom I have been and where I have walked.  My goal is progress, not perfection.

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we are One

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So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  GENESIS 1: 27

Millions of Christians are obviously dyslexic.  That verse does not say that man created God in man’s image.  OUCH!  Have I deflated any egos, yet?  If not, keep reading.

In Western culture, many of those who profess a God, especially those of Christian persuasion (and I honor 🙏 any who do not profess), conduct lives led by ego and personal advancement.  Individualism is lauded, winning at all costs is admired, the boys with the most toys win.  The comparison game runs rampant, many egos are shattered upon realizing they don’t measure up to that which is considered success and prosperity.  I know what I speak of because, yes, I have been there and done that.  I can still go there today if I am not mindful of the fact that I am created in the image of God, I also am Spirit.  Let that sink in.  You, me, all of humanity and all of Creation are made in the image of God, the permeating life energy which is our reality.

We are primarily spirit and our physical existence on this earth should not be what defines us.  This body, this life we have created embracing materialism, this set of prejudices we harbor, this ego we strive to protect is not reality.  The spiritual persona, which is exactly what God was, is, and always will be, is most often reserved for Sunday morning church and Easter time reflection, yet it should be the everyday, 24 hour a day endeavor to align with what we know to be truth – the Life proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth or the Path advised by Buddha.

In Hindu teachings it is enlightenment, Christianity calls it salvation, Buddhism names it the end of suffering (dukkha).  It is the surrender of egoic and self-serving lifestyle to a transformative and liberating awakening.  It is when Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, Nirvana, Buddhahood and God, in whose image we are made, becomes reality and this earthly life is known to be illusion.

A deflated ego is a good thing.  It removes any need to attain material wealth, to strive for social status, to always be right in religion and politics, to proclaim my God better than yours, to be judgmental, to fear and hate, to be anxious about tomorrow.  A deflated ego ushers in enlightenment, salvation and the end of suffering.  Namaste. 🙏

rainbow-solidarity

whore? who – America?

“See how the faithful city has become a harlot!  She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her – but now murderers…..Your rulers are rebels, cropped-black-and-white-black-and-white-boy-1299417-e1556554337831-2.jpgcompanions of thieves; they love bribes and chase after gifts.  They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”  ISAIAH 1:21,23

Of course Isaiah was directing his admonition to Jerusalem, the city central to Judaic life and justice in the 8th century BC.  Social justice was established within Judaism as a mandate directly from the God whom they worshipped.  To not follow the writings of scriptures regarding care for widows and orphans was anathema to Jewish ecclesiastical doctrine.

The parallel to contemporary society is uncanny.  Isaiah may as well be speaking to the institutions, religious and governmental, of our country in 2019.  Some of those who proclaim the Good News of Jesus with the right hand use the left hand to cover their deplorable justification of racism, intolerance, and persecution.  Confinement in cages at our border is acceptable.  Widows and orphans of the unimaginable violence in countries south of us are vilified and labeled by our political servants and errant religious leaders as unworthy of the  compassion demanded of us as children of a universal God.

If you have studied ancient civilizations, you will know that once-proud Israel was not only subjugated by the Roman Empire, it was destroyed from within by the arrogance and greed of Israel’s leaders who at the time were its religious elite and powerful. The final annihilation was completed by the Romans in 70 AD and Israel no longer existed as a nation.  Only in 1948 did it regain its independence.

Can’t happen here?  Why not?  Are we not complicit in child abuse, human rights violations, corruption, deceit, murders?  Has not our once great nation given up its moral compass, its beacon to the world’s huddled masses?  I think we have.  We have become the whore of whom Isaiah prophesied.

“Prophet Isaiah reflects on the condition of Jerusalem. Once the city held to justice, but the present tense reality reveals much corruption, greed and complicity. Injustice plagues the city, seen in thwarted action on behalf of orphans and widows, the city’s most vulnerable residents. Society shows wear and tear, a sign of coming destruction. The failed city is a contemporaneous image. Massive corruption, mass complicity and loud maligning of immigrants and foreigners surround us now.” RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

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NAMASTE – is it really so difficult?

“The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a richard rohrmystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk.” MATTHEW FOX  cac.org – Richard Rohr 

Do I do that – walk the talk and talk the walk?  How about you?  Those of you who have read my ramblings over the past few years probably realize I have a serious issue with religion and religionists.  Many of them talk a great spiel from the pulpit and the pews of their churches, but then don’t walk it in their lives or in their behaviors.  That is not real; it is not empowering.  If not embraced in lifestyle this pretty rhetoric becomes just more trash on the pile of religious deceit.  Preachers are guilty, parishioners are guilty, black and white are equally guilty, politicians are guilty.  Me too.  I do not always walk the talk.

But I highly esteem those mystics who have.  The four named in the introductory quote are just a few of the many men and women who discovered their inner truth and then lived lives accordingly.  Buddha was human, Jesus was human, Gandhi was human, and Martin Luther King was human, all acclaimed mystics were humans who acknowledged the Divine center of their beings as the most consequential and significant reason to talk the walk and walk the talk.

Our world is racing to the annihilation of the human species.  Accompanied by rabid politics, fear-mongering politicians, greedy capitalism and heretical religions, the voices of those who pursue social justice, peace, and inner searching seem lost in the insanity.  That which could turn the tide and redeem civilization from a sure demise is often obscured by conversations of victory at any cost rather than sensible compromise embracing the rights of all mankind and all earth’s natural resources.

We must come to realize and surrender to the premise that this planet is not a hodgepodge of several billion humans intent on survival as individuals, but rather, an ecosystem which includes all mankind, all animals, all plant life, all resources interdependent on one another and living together as one cohesive environment.

Learning to love ourselves and others begins from a place of reverence for all of life.  This reverence flows forward in the Buddhist greeting, “Namaste”, I honor the divine in you.  Not only other brothers and sisters on this earth, but every part of creation should be viewed and greeted with namaste.

“Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we share the Earth.
Four-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.” 

(Native American prayer for the earth)

 

 

Marianne Williamson – candidate

 

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(excerpts from ILLUMINATA, 1994, by Marianne Williamson)

“Hitler could never have risen to power had it not been for vast numbers of people who gave him that power.  Although they did not share his hatred, they did not have a solid, moral commitment to not hate.  Only a society in which there is a widespread commitment to not hate is safe from hatred.  A little hate is like a little cancer.  And who among us does not hate?”

Dear God Please remove from my mind the tendency to judge.
Please remove from my mind the tendency to hate.
Please remove from my mind the tendency to blame.

Please reveal to me, Lord, a way to stand in my power,
through love instead of fear,
and through peace instead of violence.

May I not hear the voice for anger, but only the voice for love.
And teach me, dear Lord, how not to hate those who hate me.
Transform all darkness into light, dear God,

And use my mind as an instrument of Your harmlessness.
I surrender to you my thoughts of violence.
Take these thoughts, Lord, and wash them clean.
Thank you very much. Amen.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON

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Mine is better than yours. Really?

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“At their most mature levels, religions have a common goal: union with all beings and with God. Unfortunately, many religions and Christian denominations have over-emphasized differences and claimed that their particular brand is superior to others. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion but to reveal God’s presence in all of us. The Christian name for the universal incarnation is Christ, but it is known by innumerable other names.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

“….it is known by innumerable other names.”

I also believe that Jesus did not appear in 1st century Nazareth  to start a religion called Christianity.  The church fathers in the 3rd and 4th centuries did that in pursuit of theological and political power.  They approved or disapproved the writings to be included in their Bible and severely persecuted those mystics and wisdom writers who disagreed.  Mysticism, however, did persist with Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, being the salient, well-known proponent.  His followers were the beginnings of today’s Franciscan brotherhood.

“A “better” world is one in which we recognize that all people possess an incomparable value that we are morally obliged to respect . . . in social, political, and economic terms. Honoring the humanity of your fellow beings means that if they are hungry, ill, or oppressed, you must exert yourself to help them. . . . But this . . . runs up against our inherited instincts of self-protection, greediness, and desire to dominate others. . . .” cac.org – Richard Rohr

Following the above suggestion is a lofty goal of enlightened spirituality – I fail miserably on many fronts.  But, as with all goals, perfection is not the destiny; progress is.  Especially, today’s political and social climate can lead me astray in a heartbeat.  I want to rant, I want to berate, I want to wander off into profanity and name-calling when I read the day’s headlines or listen to media news programs.  After all, that is just human, isn’t it?  But, then remembering what Jesus endured and suffered as a human, what authorities of religion and government inflicted on him, I am forced to accept that this life’s suffering is the price to pay for spiritual enlightenment.  None of us, not one, will reach the other side unscathed.

If we could rearrange energy from within—if we more often nurtured our companions and promoted their well-being, we would suffer much less. Rearranging energy from within is what mysticism does.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

Not an easy task, but we must start somewhere if we expect our species to survive.

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the high road

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The lying which our parents strongly admonished with a good spanking is now labeled as ‘alternative facts.’  Those of us who were urged by parents, teachers and clergy to always take the high road are miserably lost in today’s social and religious babble.  But, thankfully, there are still a few unmovable parameters with consistent guidelines that lead us through troubling times.  It doesn’t really matter if we call those parameters values, morals, standards, God, spirit, wholeness, righteousness or moral compass.  When the world is mucking along on the low road, we can always be assured of safe passage on the high road if we follow the inner voice speaking our truth.

Not always convenient and often frightening, this road leads us through the darkness of worldly concerns such as poverty, injustice, racism, hatred, corruption and untruth.  It inevitably shows us to the other side where joy, peace and contentment dwell.  It is a place where we know without doubt that all which is within us is bigger than anything the world can throw at us.  We are capable of winning those battles with the world when we simply find that quiet space within and follow the directive of ancient prophets who said, “Be still and know.”

Psalm 46, verse 10 tells us that God will be known in the stillness of our souls.  Forgo the chatter and chaos of an insane world system.  Trust an alternative world order which promotes love and peace.  That is the truth which history’s prophets and wise men/women discovered within.  Believe the ancient and contemporary mystics who knew God dwelled within them and in all of Creation.  Be still and know.

Those who claim that the only God is the one whom they profess in their particular faith are missing the universality of an energy force which permeates every cell of every body regardless of theology.  Muslim brothers and sisters know God, brown-skinned neighbors know God, neighborhood Hindu shop keepers know God, Buddhist monks living in the Himalayas know God.  They name this energy according to their traditions, but God is God.  Be still, learn, and know.

LOVE

 

are you a secret?

Am I a secret?

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another.”
13 th chapter of JOHN verse 35 

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photo courtesy of PIXABAY

Does my life leave doubt in anyone’s mind that I am a Jesus disciple?  Will people remember me as a Jesus follower?  Or, is my life a secret?  People know my story of drunken betrayal and subsequent recovery, but how many people have heard my story of resurrection?  It is the story of a redeemed alcoholic following the man whom scriptures call Jesus of Nazareth.  If there is one solitary nugget of truth in Christianity’s Bible, it is the narrative set down by writers in the 1st and 2nd centuries as a blueprint to live life in peaceful co-existence with all of God’s creation, all of humanity and nature.  It is the design by which a wretched, lost man can rediscover wholeness and learn to peacefully co-exist with himself and fellow man. It is a story of forgiveness and redemption attributed to the man called Jesus.

The nucleus of the Way, the Truth and the Life is ‘love for one another’ as written so simply yet eloquently in 13 John 34-35.

A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” NIV 

Were we, the human species, to hold that one statement on our hearts in all our affairs, the world would know peace.  There would not be deprivation, poverty or war.  There would not be murder, genocide, or racism.

I can hear many of you saying, “Larry, that’s a nice dream, but it will never be reality.”

It starts with me – it starts with you.  One by one we can find a better way to live in this world even as we are surrounded by intolerance and hatred, even as men despise and revile us because of the love we show for those of different color, those who live in distant lands, those who come to our border as refugees.

The Jesus story does not put qualifiers on the love which he taught us to practice in our lives.  It is not written to love only those of same skin color, same nationality, same religion.  No, the words say, “Love your fellow man as you love yourself.”  Perfection is impossible, but willingness is necessary.  The insanity of this world, of its politics and politicians is unimportant.  The vile names hurled at us and the injury intended for us will be forgotten in the next chapter of life.  All I want to hear when this chapter of life is closed are the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I want to be known as  a disciple.  I don’t want my discipleship to be a secret.  How about you?

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e pluribus unum

OUT OF MANY, ONE

Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired. ROBERT KENNEDY

If, during our time of national crisis, we cannot answer intolerance with understanding, if we cannot answer racism with deeper efforts to end division, if we cannot answer hatred with love, then we are probably no further enlightened than the intolerant one, the racist, the hate-monger.