Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Way of the Seeker - Part Three

By My Life the light of good character surpasses the light of the sun and its effulgence.
- Baha’u’llah



These passages from “The Tablet to the True Seeker” offer practical guidelines for true character transformation.

"That seeker should, also, regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. 

Disrespecting people behind their back has become a global pandemic. Social media and 24 hour news networks make huge profits from the exposure of the weaknesses and mistakes of others. It is so common to “backbite” these days that it seems to be becoming the acceptable way to "break the ice" at a social gathering or event. It takes a determined act of will to avoid this way of thinking and acting.


_____________


"He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire.” 

Contentment is a virtue that is out of fashion. Being happy with what you have rather than constantly looking for something better, bigger and more expensive. 


__________


"He should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit.

Walking lightly upon this earth - harming no one and with a spirit of compassion and contentment.


__________


"At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, and, with all his soul, persevere in the quest of his Beloved.

Drawing close to the source of life every morning reminds you of your place in the Universe - and helps you start the day with a fresh outlook.

This is one of my favorite morning prayers:

"O God! 
 Refresh and gladden my spirit. 
 Purify my heart. 
 Illumine my powers. 
 I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. 
 Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. 
 I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; 
I will be a happy and joyful being. 

O God! 
 I will no longer be full of anxiety, 
nor will I let trouble harass me. 
 I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.

O God! 

 Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. 
 I dedicate myself to Thee, 
O Lord."

-----‘Abdu’l-Bahá
__________

"He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention, and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him.

Replace negative thinking with positive thought - replace every hateful thought with one of compassion.


__________


"He should succor the dispossessed, and never withhold his favor from the destitute.

Develop a heart for the homeless and down-trodden - every little bit helps.


__________

"He should show kindness to animals, how much more unto his fellowman,"

How a person treats a helpless animal says a lot about their character.


__________

"to him who is endowed with the power of utterance. He should not hesitate to offer up his life for his Beloved, nor allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth.

Apply your skills and gifts toward benefitting others - a compassionate life.


__________

"He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfill. "

Going beyond the golden rule - not just treating others as you’d like to be treated - but wishing for others what you’d wish for yourself. Even your intentions matter. Keep your promises and vows - be reliable - impeccable character.


__________

"With all his heart he should avoid fellowship with evildoers, and pray for the remission of their sins.

Avoiding people that are a bad influence but praying for them when encountered. No condemnation.


___________

"He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be. How often hath a sinner attained, at the hour of death, to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the Concourse on high! And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul’s ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire!

Live life gratefully - aware that you could be in the same circumstances were it not for mercy - forgiveness and mercy without self-righteous comparison.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Way of the Seeker - Part Two

"That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above anyone, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century.

In this passage from the "Tablet of the True Seeker”  Baha’u’llah gives us some entries for the to-do list of a seeker.
  • Put trust in God - at ALL times
  • Renounce the peoples of the earth
  • Become detached from the imperishable
  • Cleave to God
  • Live and walk in humility
  • Eliminate pride and vanity
  • Embrace patience and resignation
  • Observe appropriate silence and refrain from idle chatter
To put trust in God, in this context, is not just to make a one time confession of faith - but a way of life that puts reliance upon the grace and loving kindness of God at ALL times - despite the outward circumstances of life. This is a hard practice. It is our natural tendency to want things our way, to desire constant gratification - but this is not reality. God can be trusted beyond the good times and troubles of daily life.

Renouncing the peoples of the earth is not a call to monastic seclusion or to live the life of a hermit, separated from others and disengaged from society. Rather it is a call to break away from mindlessly accepting the beliefs and opinions of others. In “The Hidden Words,” it is expressed this way:


"The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; 
turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, 
and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. 
By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes 
and not through the eyes of others, 
and shalt know of thine own knowledge 
and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor.”

- Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, No. 2

Becoming detached from the imperishable is to focus your attention and values on long-lasting realities, rather than on temporary changes and chances. 
  • Place value on relationships, and friendships, over finance and self-gratification from material wealth. 
  • Place value on character transformation over wealth accumulation.
Cleaving to God is to hold faith and trust God above other perceived means of security.

To live humbly is to embody the spirit of a Bodhisattva - to live in a spirit of universal compassion. Desiring the achievement of happiness for others as a means of attaining personal fulfillment or enlightenment. A humble person is free from pride and vanity.

To be patient is to live from a different frame of reference than the immediate. It is see beyond the current state into the meaning that extends into the timeless. It is to see benevolent purpose behind and beyond everything. 

Resignation is not blind acceptance or weakened assent, but rather an ability to see a greater meaning behind circumstances or situations. It is to perceive the will of God even in events that do not go according to our understanding or desires.

Last but not least - to be appropriately silent and to avoid idle chatter is to be mindful of expressing painful or regretful words. This is SO HARD. To hold the tongue from saying something hurtful or biting when speaking up seems to RIGHT, or frankly, DELICIOUS!!!

Mindless speech, according to Baha’u’llah, is a deadly poison that has long lasting effects. It is more dangerous than fire, because although fire causes physical damage, a deadly poison slowly eats away at life and causes permanent or eternal spiritual damage or death to all it encounters.

A true seeker is someone who sees, hears, feels and lives a life of mindful compassion.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Way of the Seeker - Part One

The writings of Baha’u’llah have always been inspirational and insightful to me. One of my favorite writings has come to be known as “The Tablet of the True Seeker.” 

For the next few blogposts I’d like to try and share the wisdom that I find in this wonderful work.

"O MY brother! When a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading unto the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge, and the allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy. 

As one who likes lists; To-Do Lists, Shopping Lists, Step by Step Instructions etc., Baha’u’llah’s emphasis on “before all else,” speaks loudly to me. As one who has much travelled the path, he speaks with authority. He says that once you’ve considered setting your mind in the direction of finding out the truth about reality, the very first step is to “cleanse the heart” of all the superstitions, pre-conceived ideas, and limiting beliefs that are held without the benefit of personal experience. He refers to these things as the “obscuring dust” of acquired knowledge. 

This first step of clearing out old beliefs and superstitions is quite a challenge because we live in a world that thrives on information gathering. There are very few experts, but everyone seems to have an opinion that they can hold out as a fact, and they often cling to their beliefs and superstitions; perhaps for no other reason than to avoid having to be responsible for not knowing what they should be!

In the Baha’i Writings - there is an emphasis on personal, independent investigation and experiential validation of truth. In the original spirit in which Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha expressed this teaching - I saw it as wise counsel that helped eliminate the forming of harsh and restrictive dogmas. In spirit, it encourages a way of thinking that accepts that people can have different frames of reference with regard to reality, and enables open dialogue between opposing views. It also discourages the temptation to make the acceptance of particular beliefs compulsory. Coming from a historical framework of holy wars, religious persecution and violence against those who “did not believe.” This view is so important. Personally I’ve experienced a little of this dogmatic insistence on conformity creeping into the Baha’i Faith; especially as the Faith is embraced by former Evangelical Christians of the west. In my experience the emphasis of much of the Baha’i teaching that is being proposed these days appears to be the “replacement” of all religions, rather than the “unifying” of them, which,  in many of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s writings and talks, is clearly his intended message.

"He must purge his breast, which is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved, of every defilement, and sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments. He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth. Even as thou dost witness in this Day how most of the people, because of such love and hate, are bereft of the immortal Face, have strayed far from the Embodiments of the Divine mysteries, and, shepherdless, are roaming through the wilderness of oblivion and error.”

In the second passage of this work, Baha’u’llah restates this theme of “clearing out” old ideas and beliefs; using terms like “purge,” and “sanctify,” to emphasize the principal of becoming an open vessel for experiencing truth as it is, and not through the lens of superstition and habit. Most challenging is the admonition to ignore or abandon the influence of emotion. To most of us, emotions are often a primary factor in determining the truth about something. We are so easily tempted to believe that “if it feels right” then it must be true!!! Again, this principle is revolutionary in the sphere of spirituality. When it comes to spiritual matters - most of us naturally tend to take emotional response as a more reliable guide than rational thinking!

Baha’u’llah explains that the religious confusion and prejudice that exists in society is due to the highly emotional, and, therefore potentially irrational thinking that has caused most religious or spiritual people to abandon religion and wander “shepherdless” through what has become a confusing and empty world. 

To be a Baha’i is not to arrive at a pre-packaged view of reality - but rather to be an open vessel to potential expressions of the divine in all areas of reality. Baha’u’llah teaches that God is "the inmost reality of all things,” and therefore to not experience the fullness of that in all its diverse manifestations is to live beneath our nature.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 - The Year of the True Seeker

"The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved.” 
- Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys
As a kind of year-end mini pilgrimage I went to the Baha’i House of Worship on December 30th. Although I was quite surprised by how crowded it was on such a cold day I was still able to experience the solitude and quietness that I sought to be able to commune with God and myself.

I don’t consider myself an Orthodox Baha’i by any means. In fact, I often flat out disagree with a lot of the declarations that have been made in the name of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha by the administrative leaders. The Baha’i Faith as an institution has tried to establish itself as a replacement to all other religions and philosophies, rather than as the means of unity and reconciliation that I see beautifully described in the writings and utterances of its primary teacher; ‘Abdu’l-Baha. But, I do find great wisdom in the Baha’i Writings - so I choose to be inside on the outside of the Baha’i Faith.

So, as “Barely Baha’i” I decided to try and adopt the attitude and spirit of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, who has always been a kind of lighthouse; my mentor, through all the stops and changes in my long spiritual search.

As I sat in the sanctuary of the BHOW - I read one of my all time favorite passages from the writings of Baha’u’llah. It’s actually a portion of the Kitab-I-Iqan (Book of Certitude), but has become knows as “The Tablet of the True Seeker,” in the west. As I sat in receptive silence at the Baha’i House of Worship this passage spoke “into” me in a profound way. 

I’ll post it in its entirety here - and then I will take a few posts to comment on each passage that inspired me to call this year 2015, "The Year of the True Seeker."

The Tablet of the True Seeker

– CXXV –

"O MY brother! When a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading unto the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge, and the allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy. He must purge his breast, which is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved, of every defilement, and sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments. He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth. Even as thou dost witness in this Day how most of the people, because of such love and hate, are bereft of the immortal Face, have strayed far from the Embodiments of the Divine mysteries, and, shepherdless, are roaming through the wilderness of oblivion and error.

That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above anyone, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century.

That seeker should, also, regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. He should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit. At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, and, with all his soul, persevere in the quest of his Beloved. He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention, and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him. He should succor the dispossessed, and never withhold his favor from the destitute. He should show kindness to animals, how much more unto his fellowman, to him who is endowed with the power of utterance. He should not hesitate to offer up his life for his Beloved, nor allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth. He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfill. With all his heart he should avoid fellowship with evildoers, and pray for the remission of their sins. He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be. How often hath a sinner attained, at the hour of death, to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the Concourse on high! And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul’s ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire!

Our purpose in revealing these convincing and weighty utterances is to impress upon the seeker that he should regard all else beside God as transient, and count all things save Him, Who is the Object of all adoration, as utter nothingness.

These are among the attributes of the exalted, and constitute the hallmark of the spiritually minded. They have already been mentioned in connection with the requirements of the wayfarers that tread the path of Positive Knowledge. When the detached wayfarer and sincere seeker hath fulfilled these essential conditions, then and only then can he be called a true seeker. Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse: “Whoso maketh efforts for Us,” he shall enjoy the blessings conferred by the words: “In Our Ways shall We assuredly guide him.”

Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker’s heart, and the breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being. At that hour will the Mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit, shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and the spirit from the slumber of heedlessness. Then will the manifold favors and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden mysteries of the soul. Gazing with the eye of God, he will perceive within every atom a door that leadeth him to the stations of absolute certitude. He will discover in all things the mysteries of Divine Revelation, and the evidences of an everlasting Manifestation.

I swear by God! Were he that treadeth the path of guidance and seeketh to scale the heights of righteousness to attain unto this glorious and exalted station, he would inhale, at a distance of a thousand leagues, the fragrance of God, and would perceive the resplendent morn of a Divine guidance rising above the Dayspring of all things. Each and every thing, however small, would be to him a revelation, leading him to his Beloved, the Object of his quest. So great shall be the discernment of this seeker that he will discriminate between truth and falsehood, even as he doth distinguish the sun from shadow. If in the uttermost corners of the East the sweet savors of God be wafted, he will assuredly recognize and inhale their fragrance, even though he be dwelling in the uttermost ends of the West. He will, likewise, clearly distinguish all the signs of God—His wondrous utterances, His great works, and mighty deeds—from the doings, the words and ways of men, even as the jeweler who knoweth the gem from the stone, or the man who distinguisheth the spring from autumn, and heat from cold. When the channel of the human soul is cleansed of all worldly and impeding attachments, it will unfailingly perceive the breath of the Beloved across immeasurable distances, and will, led by its perfume, attain and enter the City of Certitude.

Therein he will discern the wonders of His ancient Wisdom, and will perceive all the hidden teachings from the rustling leaves of the Tree that flourisheth in that City. With both his inner and outer ear, he will hear from its dust the hymns of glory and praise ascending unto the Lord of Lords, and with his inner eye will he discover the mysteries of “return” and “revival.”

How unspeakably glorious are the signs, the tokens, the revelations, and splendors which He, Who is the King of Names and Attributes, hath destined for that City! The attainment unto this City quencheth thirst without water, and kindleth the love of God without fire. Within every blade of grass are enshrined the mysteries of an inscrutable Wisdom, and upon every rosebush a myriad nightingales pour out, in blissful rapture, their melody. Its wondrous tulips unfold the mystery of the undying Fire in the Burning Bush, and its sweet savors of holiness breathe the perfume of the Messianic Spirit. It bestoweth wealth without gold, and conferreth immortality without death. In each one of its leaves ineffable delights are treasured, and within every chamber unnumbered mysteries lie hidden.

They that valiantly labor in quest of God, will, when once they have renounced all else but Him, be so attached and wedded unto that City, that a moment’s separation from it would to them be unthinkable. They will hearken unto infallible proofs from the Hyacinth of that assembly, and will receive the surest testimonies from the beauty of its Rose, and the melody of its Nightingale. Once in about a thousand years shall this City be renewed and readorned.…

That City is none other than the Word of God revealed in every age and dispensation. In the days of Moses it was the Pentateuch; in the days of Jesus, the Gospel; in the days of Muḥammad, the Messenger of God, the Qur’án; in this day, the Bayán; and in the Dispensation of Him Whom God will make manifest, His own Book—the Book unto which all the Books of former Dispensations must needs be referred, the Book that standeth amongst them all transcendent and supreme."
__________

Monday, December 29, 2014

Talks with the Master

`Abdu'l-Bahá - The Master
For many years off and on I have had many experiences of what I consider “conscious” communication with the “Master" - `Abdu'l-Bahá,  the exemplar and interpreter of the Baha’i Faith.

Although I’ve been a Baha’i in the past - I don’t consider myself an “enrolled” member these days. I find the organization, called by many the “Haifa Baha’i” administration, to be merely a self-defeating organization that stresses indoctrination (that they refer to as “teaching.”) above any other activity. Their primary goal appears to be growth in membership with fund-raising as the primary outcome.

But, the words and teachings of`Abdu'l-Bahá have always had a sense of balanced wisdom that exemplifies what drew me to the Baha’i Faith in the very beginning.

Some time ago I kept a record of these “conversations” and they were quite illuminating to me - as they did not come from my own thought - but rather had the tone and content that showed them to be from the mind of`Abdu'l-Bahá.

I’ve tried over the years to establish the same kind of communication with other great teachers - but, despite my openness, there was only silence and no sense of presence.

With`Abdu'l-Bahá the experience was totally different - I felt his “presence” and “heard” clearly from his consciousness.

These “conversations” were very personal and as such were not appropriate for posting or sharing with others. However, the impact of this experience, lives on and remains a vivid reminder of the reality and mystery of his character. However, here’s a sample of what I’ve “heard” from the Master.

The way that the “process” worked is that I would silently ask a question - then wait - after a while a clear “answer” would manifest in my mind - I would then record that answer:

Question: "Why do I feel drawn to religion, and why do I never seem to find what I’m looking for?

Answer: "Religion is more than just a system of belief - it is the means of expressing your deepest reality from within the heart of God. You are not a religious person because you believe certain things - you are a spiritual person that is trying to put your personal spiritual experience into a pre-existing category so that you can manage or try to control it.

God is the Creator and Controller - but not in the sense of forced manipulation. God sets boundaries on reality. These boundaries extend far beyond our capabilities of perception. As deeply spiritual beings in our true selves we often try to categorize or limit these boundaries to our own interpretation. If you will go back and read what you wrote in your question - you cannot help but notice how many times you use the word “I.” Everything in reality from your perspective revolves around you. Now this is not a criticism - for we can have no other perception but our own, but you should try to see outside your limited perceptions and beyond your interpretations. The laws of God that administrative bodies focus on - perhaps too much - are not meant to limit - but are to impress upon us, as limited physical beings on the earthly plane, the eternal spiritual significance of our personal and community actions. Unless and until the heart is tuned to the will of God - spiritual laws will be necessary.

Religion should never divide humanity - you speak well when you say that the purpose of the Baha’i Faith is to draw all religions to unity; Oneness. However, it is the “natural” tendency of humanity to want to try and bring about the eternal will of God more quickly and according to their plans. This is an expression of the limited understanding that humanity has of eternal reality. Religious leaders and authorities become committed to their interpretations of the Words of God and with good intention try to organize their understanding into an institutional model. Thus, in the Baha’i Cause, it is in it’s infancy in terms of its unfolding destiny. Thus, it is going through the very same growing pains of all previous revelations. You must be patient and have grace for those in authority - remembering that in the Baha’i Faith no single authority is “in charge” and the institution is not divine - and it is your spiritual duty to challenge it if you feel it is being abused. The Baha’i administration exists to help believers negotiate their personal understanding of Baha’u’llah’s teachings, not to define new interpretations or add new teachings.

Be patient with yourself - you have been a seeker for 40 years - and you will always be a seeker. The beauty of the Baha’i teachings is that they emphasise the individual interpretation of truth - and in the spirit of that - truth is not locked down to the letter, but exists in the spirit of the original intention of the teachings. You will see in the writings of Baha’u’llah, the repetition and re-statement of many key principles in almost every context. The purpose of this was to try and ensure that no statement could be isolated out of context and used to oppose the true spirit of the original writings. Baha’u’llah is the first Manifestation to write down or dictate the very revelation of God outside of a verbal tradition - thus, this revelation is the most well preserved.

Guard your mind and heart with prayer and meditation on the words of God and only concern yourself with love for God and mankind - God will guide you. I promise."


In my research I’ve been able to discover many questionable aspects of the lives of other so-called “masters” after their deaths - but`Abdu'l-Bahá appears to have no such “dark” side. He lived an exemplary life - and all who came in contact with him were changed and came away with a different outlook on life. 

When I consider his words - merely in their own context, and not from within a particular religion or dogma - I also find them transforming.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Humbugs

My mystical encounter with Jesus - if that’s what, or who it was - appears to have faded. I’m once again in the land of doubt and fury.

The imaginary beings that people have worshiped and in whose name(s) many have committed atrocities and acts of shame and dishonor - appear to have vanished into the dream state in which they first appeared.

As Christmas draws near I enjoy the break from the routine of life that would be the alternative, were it not for this “special” time.

I sometimes admire people who seem to have a strong Christian faith. They seem to have everything “settled.” No doubts, no fears about tomorrow - it’s all resolved in simple faith. I don’t seem to be able to hold onto any kind of faith as mine.

When I surround myself with "people of faith,” I inevitably run into those whose faith empowers them to speak out to be the judges of the world and the spokespeople for what is politically correct.

To me religion is a destroyer of hope - not the preserver of it.

I find it fascinating that the Apostle Paul described God as one who “does not live in temples built by human hands” - (Acts 17:24) yet, supposedly, he became one of the founders of what is known as the Orthodox Church throughout the world. I find it hard to believe that the Church of which St. Paul spoke is anything like the institution that bears its name today.

I believe that Paul would have gone on to say that not only does God NOT dwell in temples built by human hands - but God does not dwell in religions built by human minds either.

The religion of Jesus is not the religion about Jesus that exists today as the Church.

I wish people Merry Christmas - and sometimes I wish them Happy Holidays - it’s all the same to me. Christmas is a pagan celebration -  the holiday that celebrates the winter solstice.

I’m kind of sorry that I don’t believe - it would be simpler to just pretend I suppose. But, that’s not honest - and reality doesn’t change because I believe something about it.

For those who believe - Merry Christmas.

For those who don’t - Happy Holidays.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Out of Nowhere

Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." - John 9:39 (NIV)

Last Sunday I went to Urban Village Church. I was feeling a little isolated and alone - disturbed by the recent events related to the unjustified police brutality and violence against several black men that resulted in their deaths, while the police officers involved were not indicted.  I needed some inspiration to lift my spirits. And Buddhist philosophy or teachings would not have offered much more than a few references to Karma and the need to develop Bodhichitta - which would have just been perceived by me as a slap in the face of reality.

So I went to Urban Village because it is a very diverse congregation that is very involved in social change and has often provided sensible wisdom and counsel in the past on the appropriate responses to these heavily charged situations.

The message or sermon was not particularly inspiring, and the worship was personally irritating to me; as it is mostly contemporary "christian" music full of platitudes about how "awesome" God is - and how God is "amazing" and  "provides" for "his people." When I considered myself an Evangelical Christian I liked this kind of empty sentimentalism - but I've "grown up" in my opinion, and don't see how the idea of God "providing" for "his" people at the expense of those who are not "his people" to be a very flattering concept of God - who, according to the way Jesus embodies him, would "love his enemies" equal to his "friends."

But - as I sat there, scrolling through the digital Bible on my iPhone, a highlighted verse (John 9:35)"jumped" out at me..... I had annotated it....

"When Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, He found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?"

In the notes I had written: "Jesus came LOOKING for him - very important."

Out of nowhere, as I was reading this, I became aware of a sense of peace - not as a sharply felt emotional comfort but as a kind of deep reassuring  conviction that I was not alone in my being. It's hard to explain - but there was a strong awareness that it was not just me in my skin - that I had become more than I understand about myself. If I am pushed I might say that I EXPERIENCED what the Apostle Paul wrote about in Galatians 2:20:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Was this a "born again" experience that I've heard so many talk about but have ridiculed and trivialized in the past? 

I truly don't know. All I know is that in that moment I owned the sensation of having Jesus alive in me!!!

In the context of the passage in John 9:35, Jesus came looking for the man who was rejected by the very institution where he thought God would be proclaimed and where he thought he would find others of a like mind who had also encountered God....but, they rejected his testimony and threw him out of the temple.

Jesus came looking for him....
Jesus came looking for me...

and found me.

I have sought for spiritual truth for most of my life now - believing many, many times that I had found it. The problem was that as long as I assumed that I was responsible for the finding - what I would find was merely what I thought I was looking for, which I was never truly qualified with adequate discernment to judge.

For the first time in my life - I gave up the responsibility for looking and Who I was looking for came looking for me. It's so simple - it's what happens when you stop looking, when you stop clinging to prejudiced ideas about what the truth should be - when you stop chasing your own shadow and seeking out your own preconceived solutions.

What do I do now? Where do I go with this experience? 

I am grateful for not having to seek anymore.

It is quite a shock to your "spiritual" ego when you think you can see everything so clearly and then realize that you were completely blind all the time. 

It also seems very ironic to me that I had not gone to a church with the goal of seeking to find God - but God found me while I happened to be in a church.

Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."