Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Gusto for Gassho


"The handshake is thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon."

Wikipedia entry on "Handshake"

DEADLY HANDS

With a fast growing global economy, and with it the threat of world-wide pandemics exponentially growing, I think it's time we start re-thinking some of the old-fashioned, generally accepted western traditions regarding modes of greeting. For example, what used to be considered a "gesture of peace," - the hearty handshake, now has the potential of being a "weapon of mass destruction," in the hands of an infected person!!!

Having studied and practiced Japanese Buddhism - I became very aware of the deeply-rooted cultural greeting practiced in Japan and other parts of the eastern world. Instead of the handshake, their custom is to press the hands together and bow toward the other person. I think it's time that this practice, called Gassho, started gaining ground in the west - not just among the hippies and new agers - but as a standard greeting for all social events.

I'm sure at first that the practice would be viewed as quirky or strange amongst our family, friends, and peers - but once we get over this initial social discomfort at the adoption of a "foreign" practice, I'm sure it would become generally accepted, and possibly the best form of greeting.

I think that most people would also be happy to drop the handshake habit when they realize it's strange, barbaric origin. I have to admit that after I discovered the supposed origin of the handshake as a gesture of peace because it revealed to the other person that you had no weapons, I felt embarrassed to shake anyone's hand - what a strange, warped perspective on the meaning of peace!!

"Everyone has Buddha nature, the potential to become a Buddha. Because of this we treat all with highest respect and greet them with gassho, a bow. It think this is a wonderful teaching - to respect others."

Gyomay M. Kubose, The Center Within, p. 4- 5

Beside the benefit of potentially reducing the spread of disease, there are of course many other reasons to perform gassho.
  • It is a sign of humility, by giving honor and respect to others
  • It encourages a sense of openness and friendship (as opposed to the attitude of someone checking for "hidden weapons!!")
  • It prevents the occasional, painful crushing of innocent fingers by the gregarious relative. (in loving memory of my Uncle Ernie - a gentle dock worker with incredibly strong hands - who brought me, as a young boy, to tears many times, with his "hearty" handshake.)
  • It helps avoid a lot of social awkwardness between men and women.
  • Children love to do it - and it makes more sense to them than shaking hands. 
However, gassho is not just a matter of "how you use your hands," it also has tremendous potential in subtle ways that we, at first, may not be aware of: 


WORLD PEACE BEGINS WITH GASSHO

"....Gassho is not necessarily shown only by its form-the putting together of the hands and bowing. Without the form there is still gassho. Gassho begins in each individual's mind-the mind where we are able to respect others. When a husband respects his wife and vice versa and when parents respect children and vice versa, there is the foundation for peace. Virtue is not our own; virtue always has neighbors. This is how the attitude of gassho can start to vibrate in our environment. It is through gassho that we can fulfill the Buddha nature within us."
Gyomay M. Kubose, The Center Within, p. 4- 5

illustration: "Gassho" by Laurie Ledingham (www.laurieledingham.co.uk)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Unconditional Faith and Love


"I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, `Here am I, here am I.’”
- Isaiah 65:1

When I am mysteriously drawn to meditate on passages like these I realize very deeply in my whole being that Christianity is so much in need of restoration in the eyes of the world. 

The Bible, and the beauty of its poetry and symbolism revealing the mysteries of life, has been hi-jacked by those who would seek to hold tightly and exclusively the gifts that are freely given from the very heart of the source of divine love.

I wrestle daily with my spiritual life. I find myself crying out to God with the same intensity with which I used to deny God’s very existence.

Of course, it is most likely that God as a separate entity does not exist in human terms - but that rather God IS existence itself.

How does one recognize something that one has never seen before? It can only be in reference to what is already known. To seek God is pointless - for God cannot be found anywhere but here, now and forever. To seek God is to be defeated by the illusion that life is lived separate from the universe. In fact, life is entirely interdependent with all of reality.

God is not where I am not. Likewise I am not where God cannot reach me - ever…..

God reveals God wherever life is lived in interdependent relationship with all things.

Logic and reason often strip me of my faith - as if they are enemies. But in reality, logic and reason can only come from a strong faith in potentiality. To reason that there is no God is to deny that anything beyond my understanding could exist. Like a person blind from birth can have no experiential concept of the subtlety of colors, so can we as limited beings have no direct experiential concept of God.

Enlightenment or awakening cannot be new experiences - but rather the immediate understanding of that which is always here - that which we seek has never been lost.

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
- Isaiah 65:24

Christianity is not human beings calling out to God for salvation - but rather the realization that salvation was never lost. We are never lost in the care of the Divine Shepherd - the Divine Shepherd knows all of the sheep by name. The Divine Shepherd goes after the sheep - but doesn’t follow them - because the sheep are never out of sight.

Christianity is not creeds or dogmas bleated out by sheep - but rather the complete surrender to the fulness of life that is always, already the case. There is no need to ask for forgiveness - there is only the acceptance and sharing of its depth with all of life.

Truth does not need to be understood to be real. The reality of new life in Christ is a simple acceptance or surrender, and not a gain in intellectual power. It is not to know something new - but rather to be aware of the timelessness of God’s incarnation.

Jesus was born into humanity at a point in time - but his entrance opened the portal of timelessness. This is part of the mystery of the Eucharist or Communion. When we participate in this sacramental practice we are entering the very life of the Divine as it is happening eternally without end.

When we use the word “worship” we often think of it as singing or chanting in praise of God. But worship is not just those things - they are part of the expression of worship, but worship is the re-presenting of the mystery of God’s incarnation on earth. The blending of time and timelessness. When we gather as like minds in worship we are participating in the eternal worship of God that is the work of Angels and Saints. We are transformed by the very presence of Christ in our midst.

Being a follower of Christ is to be committed to practicing the awareness of the eternal presence of God in the timeless reality that underlies all of life. To be near to God is to be far from all that is contrary to life.  What a privilege to be a citizen of eternity. 

Could it be argued that God’s presence can be experienced outside the Christian Faith? Of course, God’s grace is showered on all beings. But, there is more opportunity to experience and participate in the grace and blessings inside the membership of the earthly Church because it has been a primary vehicle of God’s grace for over 2,000 years. I’m home when I go there and fed when I partake of the Eucharist.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Welcome Home


“Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” - St. Luke 15:31

___________________________________________________



“Christianity as Jesus taught it was not a creed, 

nor a system of ceremonies, 

nor a special gift from a ritualistic Jehovah; 

but it was the demonstration of divine Love 

casting out error and healing the sick, 

not merely in the 

name of Christ, or Truth, 

but in demonstration of Truth.”

- Mary Baker Eddy

"Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p.135


My absolute favorite chapter in the Bible is St. Luke 15 - where Jesus describes, to an eager audience, through vivid and compelling parables, the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven.


The central parable is that of the so-called, “Lost Son.” Jesus tells the parable as a way of “casting out error,” or dispelling misbeliefs about the reality of God’s unconditional love.


As an Evangelical, and even as an Orthodox Christian I had been taught that this parable revealed the need for repentance, as the son returns to the loving father to be forgiven and restored to his rightful heritage in the household of the Father (which I’d understood to be the representation of heaven under God’s dominion. )


But, as a result of taking the advice of Alan Watts, and putting the Bible aside for awhile, and more importantly, casting aside the layers upon layers of “commentary" that had served to restrict my perspective and limit my understanding. I read the parable again, as if for the first time, in a fresh, unencumbered light, I can see that the traditional interpretation is not only very limited - but presents a very different picture of reality than that which is obvious from its straightforward read and interpretation.


Here is the entire parable for the sake of context:


St. Luke, Chapter 15, verses 11-32


11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 

12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 

13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 

14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 

15And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 

16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 

17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 

18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 

19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 

20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 

21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 

22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 

23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 

24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 

25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 

26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 

27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 

28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 

29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 

30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 

31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 

32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. 



THE DEMONSTRATION OF TRUTH

Here’s what I saw, and continually remind myself to see - as, I believe it reveals a totally different “image” of God than that which has been passed down by the traditional church for over 1800 years!!!

I’ll repeat the parable - but with my comments underlined:


11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 

12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

The parable does not share the background motive for the younger son’s demands – could it be the drive for fulfillment, or happiness – that he thought was elsewhere?


13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 

His seeking of fulfillment elsewhere turned into the experience of greater lack – he did not find what he was looking for – only more dissatisfaction.

17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 

“when he came to himself” – in other words, he became aware of reality and accepted that happiness was not elsewhere – the fulfillment that he sought was where he had started. What he sought was what he already had, in the presence of the Father.

20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Religion focuses on the journey of repentance – the path of earning back, or restoring the Father’s approval. However, consider the significance of the well-chosen words of this passage:

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. (vs. 20)

In other words, the father had no expectations of behavior on the part of the prodigal son, … his return home was enough.

21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Once again, the son tries to repent of his behavior – and again the Father’s UNCONDITIONAL love is revealed: 

"... But the father said….(vs.22)

The Father does not respond to his son - he does not admonish him or even express forgiveness - he open-heartedly accepts and restores him without conditions!

25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. 

These last few verses speak the most to me and are perhaps the most revealing and meaningful of the entire parable – we are never separated from love, the source of our lives – all the love and acceptance that we could ever hope for is already here. The fulfillment that we seek in life is in the realization that what we seek is already the case. It is the very act of seeking for it that causes the dissatisfaction! The younger son was lost only in his own delusion – the end of his seeking outside of himself was his finding. 

I see myself in the older son, my first reaction is anger and frustration at life, because it seems so unfair that my diligent seeking was a distraction from the reality of an ever-present abiding love - but my discovery should be a reason for celebration, there is no reason to seek elsewhere for peace and fulfillment - I am already home.


THE END OF RELIGION

In this parable of the “Lost Son” I see that Jesus Christ, the One historically identified as the founder of the religion of Christianity, in fact, did not see "getting to God, or Truth" as a matter for religion, but more a matter of accepting that which was already the case, the complete divine reality, already present within and around us. He taught and demonstrated this in real, visible ways through His life, death and resurrection.


"He (Jesus Christ) has inaugurated a new life, not a new religion.” 

“..in Him (Jesus Christ) was the end of “religion” because He himself 
was the Answer to all religion, to all human hunger for God, 
because in Him the life that was lost by man - and which could only be 
symbolized, signified, asked for in religion - was restored to man.”

- Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “For The Life of The World” p.20



“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."
- Lao Tzu

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Blessing for All

Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand
As we gather together we are grateful:

For family and loved ones, some here with us now, and some distant, or who have passed on.

We are grateful for new members of the family, and for new families.

We are grateful for food.

We are grateful for support and sustenance.

We are grateful for shelter.

We are grateful for our health and for healing that has made us appreciate health more.

We are grateful for life.

We are grateful for love and happiness, and,

We are grateful for what we eventually learn from our periods of pain and sadness.

Some of us are grateful to God – and some are grateful to life itself – which is really the same thing.

….We pause and think about those who do not share our good fortune and send out wishes of good intentions as seeds planted in our hearts that will help us to respond to opportunities to help others and to act compassionately when we can.

May we always look for ways to spread happiness and may everyone that shares space in our lives be well, happy and preserved from suffering and pain.

May we be participants and witnesses of their happiness and close companions in their sufferings.

This is all for love and for that we are grateful.

Amen

Sunday, November 22, 2015



I am told this is a true story - Compassion in Action

"A man and his young teenage son checked in to a hotel and were shown to their room. The two receptionists noted the quiet manner of the guests, and the pale appearance of the boy. Later the man and boy ate dinner in the hotel restaurant. The staff again noticed that the two guests were very quiet, and that the boy seemed disinterested in his food. After eating, the boy went to his room and the man went to reception and asked to see the manager. The receptionist initially asked if there was a problem with the service or the room, and offered to fix things, but the man said that there was no problem of that sort, and repeated his request. The manager was called and duly appeared.

The man explained that he was spending the night in the hotel with his fourteen-year-old son, who was seriously ill. The boy was very soon to undergo chemotherapy, which would cause him to lose his hair. They had come to the hotel to have a break together, and also because the boy planned to shave his head, that night, rather than feel that the illness was beating him. The father said that he would be shaving his own head too, in support of his son. He asked that staff be respectful when the two of them came to breakfast with their shaved heads. The manager assured the father that he would inform all staff and that they would behave appropriately.

The following morning the father and son entered the restaurant for breakfast. There they saw the four male restaurant staff attending to their duties, perfectly normally, all with shaved heads."

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Non-Denominational Creed

A CREED FOR A NON-DENOMINATIONAL HUMAN




May we not cling to the name of any religion 
while we practice hypocrisy. 

May we be protected from ignorance, prejudice and hate, 
our own as well as that of others. 

May we strive to replace intellectual beliefs 
with physically visible virtues. 

May we be willing to sacrifice our doctrines 
for the sake of compassionate action. 

May we not judge others before we have clear evidence 
that we are not guilty.  

May we be willing to sacrifice our self interests 
for the protection of the innocent. 

May we be willing to risk our security 
for the sake of preserving our common humanity. 

May we have the courage to abandon divisive religious 
and political ideals for the sake of the unity of humanity.
- Altar Ego, 2015