September 2014

"Opening the Door of Your Heart" (excerpt from) WHO ORDERED THE TRUCKLOAD OF DUNG? by Ajahn Brahm

Sevcen Monks0041
---“Monks on Morning Round” by Min Wae Aung

Opening the Door of Your Heart" (excerpt from) WHO ORDERED THE TRUCKLOAD OF DUNG?
by Ajahn Brahm

SEVERAL CENTURIES AGO, seven monks were in a cave in a jungle somewhere in Asia, meditating on the type of unconditional love I described in the previous story. There was the head monk, his brother, and his best friend. The fourth was the head monk’s enemy: they just could not get along. The fifth monk in the group was a very old monk, so advanced in years that he was expected to die at any time. The sixth monk was sick—so ill in fact that he too could die at any time. And the last monk, the seventh, was the useless monk. He always snored when he was supposed to be meditating; he couldn’t remember his chanting, and if he did he would chant off-key He couldn’t even keep his robes on properly. But the others tolerated him and thanked him for teaching them patience.

One day a gang of bandits discovered the cave. It was so remote, so well hidden, that they wanted to take it over as their own base, so they decided to kill all the monks. The head monk, fortunately, was a very persuasive speaker. He managed—don’t ask me how— to persuade the gang of bandits to let all the monks go, except one, who would be killed as a warning to the other monks not to let anyone know the location of the cave. That was the best deal the head monk could wrangle from the bandits.

The head monk was left alone for a few minutes to make the awful decision of who should be sacrificed so that the others could go free.

When I tell this story in public, I pause here to ask my audience, ‘‘Well, who do you think the head monk chose?” Such questions stop some of my audience from going to sleep during my talk, and it wakes up the others who are already asleep. I remind them that there was the head monk, the brother, the best friend, the enemy, the old monk and the sick monk (both close to death), and the useless monk. Who do you think he chose?

Some then suggest the enemy. “No,” I say.
“His brother?”
The useless monk always gets a mention—how uncharitable we are! Once I have had my bit of fun, I reveal the answer: the head monk was unable to choose.

His love for his brother was exactly the same, no more and no less, than his love for his best friend—which was exactly the same as his love for his enemy, for the old monk, the sick monk, and even for the dear old useless monk. He had perfected the meaning of unconditional love. He too was expressing to his fellow monks “The door of my heart will always be open to you, whatever you do, whoever you are.”

The door of the head monk’s heart was wide open to all, with unconditional, non-discriminating, free-flowing love. And most poignantly, his love for others was equal to his love for himself. The door of his heart was open to himself as well. That’s why he couldn’t choose between himself and others.

I remind the Judeo-Christians in my audience that their books say to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Not more than yourself and not less than yourself, but equal to yourself. It means to regard others as one would regard oneself, and oneself as one regards others.

Why is it that most in my audience thought that the head monk would choose himself to die? Why is it, in our culture, that we are always sacrificing ourselves for others and this is held to be good? Why is it that we are more demanding, more critical, and more punishing of ourselves than of anyone else? It is for one and the same reason: we have not yet learned how to love ourselves.

If you find it difficult to say to another, “The door of my heart is open to you, whatever you do,” then that difficulty is trifling compared with the difficulty you will face in saying to yourself, “Me, the one I’ve been so close to for as long as I can remember, myself—the door of my heart is open to me as well, to all of me no matter what I have done. Come in.”

That’s what I mean by loving ourselves: it’s called forgiveness. It is stepping free from the prison of guilt; it is being at peace with oneself. And if you do find the courage to say those words to yourself, honesty, in the privacy of your inner world, then you will rise up to meet sublime love. One day, we all have to say to ourselves those words, or ones similar, with honesty, without playing games. When we do, it is as if a part of ourselves that had been rejected, living outside in the cold for so long, has now come home. We feel unified, whole, and free to be happy. Only when we love ourselves in such a way can we know what it means to really love another, no more and no less.

And please remember you do not have to be perfect, without fault, to give yourself such love. If you wait for perfection, it never arrives. We must open the door of our heart to ourselves,
whatever we have done. Once inside, then we are perfect.

People often ask me what happened to those seven monks when the head monk told the bandits that he was unable to choose.

The story, as I heard it many years ago, didn’t say: it stopped where I have finished. But I know what happened next; I figured out what must have ensued. When the head monk explained to the bandits why he couldn’t choose between himself and another, and described the meaning of love and forgiveness as I have just done for you, then all the bandits were so impressed and inspired that not only did they let the monks live, but they became monks themselves!

Opening the Door of Your Heart" (excerpt from) WHO ORDERED THE TRUCKLOAD OF DUNG?
by Ajahn Brahm

"The Question of Being" by Adyashanti

Peace Buddha
---“Lord Buddha” by Prince Chaand

Above the entrance to the Oracle at Delphi were written the words, “Know Thyself.” Jesus came along and added a sense of urgency and consequence to the ancient idea when he said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

What Jesus is saying is that spirituality is serious business, with serious consequences. Your life hangs precariously in the balance, teetering between a state of unconscious sleepwalking and eyes-wide-open spiritual enlightenment. The fact that most people do not see life this way testifies to how deeply asleep and in denial they truly are.

Within each of our forms lies the existential mystery of being. Apart from one’s physical appearance, personality, gender, history, occupation, hopes and dreams, comings and goings, there lies an eerie silence, an abyss of stillness charged with an etheric presence. For all of our anxious business and obsession with triviality, we cannot completely deny this phantasmal essence at our core. And yet we do everything we can to avoid its stillness, its silence, its utter emptiness and intimate embrace.

To remain unconscious of being is to be trapped within an ego-driven wasteland of conflict, strife, and fear that only seems customary because we have been brainwashed into a state of suspended disbelief where a shocking amount of hate, dishonesty, ignorance, and greed are viewed as normal and sane. But it is not sane, not even close to being sane. Nor is it based in reality. In fact, nothing could be less real than what we human beings call reality.

By clinging to the mind in the form of memory and thought, we are held captive by the movement of our conditioned thinking and imagination, all the while believing that we are perfectly rational and sane. We therefore continue to justify the reality of what causes us, as well as others, immeasurable amounts of pain and suffering.

Deep down we all suspect that something is very wrong with the way we perceive life but we try very, very hard not to notice it. And the way we remain blind to our frightful condition is through an obsessive and pathological denial of being -- as if some dreadful fate would overcome us if we were to face the pure light of truth and lay bare our fearful clinging to illusion.

The question of being is everything. Nothing could be more important or consequential -- nothing where the stakes run so high. To remain unconscious of being is to remain asleep to our own reality and therefore asleep to reality at large. The choice is simple: awaken to being or sleep an endless sleep.

© Adyashanti 2012 

The Question of Being
Adyashanti’s Website

Wouldn’t It Be Nice if Christians Became Taoists?
"Hope for the Emerging Christian Church" By Bruce Epperly and Jay McDaniel

Christ and Buddha II
The emerging church in the West – the church of spiritual seekers who seek to share in the journey of Jesus but not impose it on others -- is already Taoist in tone.  What remains is for participants in this new and emerging church to turn eastward, learning from Asian Christians and the cultural traditions they bring with them, and thus learning to gentle their enthusiasm with the humility of stardust.  What remains is for them to realize that one of the best ways to “proclaim the gospel” is not to proclaim at all, but rather to travel a path of gentleness, which is its own proclamation, its own good news. 

This good news need not be named.  Like the lilies of the field it
becomes and shows itself in humble actions, like faith itself.  The Taoist-inclined Christian is one who trusts (1) that Christianity is a way of living not a set of answers; (2) that the winds of the spirit blow in many directions, and that humans can be refreshed by these winds even if they are not Christian; (3) that we live and move and have our being within the larger context of the Ten Thousand Things, each of which deserves respect, (4) that the good life lies in living simply and honestly, without pretense and needing to be noticed;  (5) that spontaneous actions, which are natural and devoid of self-consciousness, can be a form of spirituality in their own right; (6) that one key to understanding life is to imitate water, with its freedom to adapt to new circumstances in fresh ways, (7) that blind ambition is a dead end and gentleness of spirit a high ideal, (8) that the people who are closest to truth are those who don’t speak about it at all, because they know the wisdom of silence.

These Christians have a process metaphysics, too.  They find themselves a little troubled by the wordiness of Christianity and find themselves rephrasing the Gospel of John to read: “In the Beginning was the Tao and the Tao was with God and the Tao was God?”  Along with Taoists they find themselves thinking of all things – even God – not simply as nouns or even as verbs that we behold in our mind’s eye, but also as adverbs: that is, as entities whose being is partly formed by
how they become.  Here they resemble Whitehead, who writes: “How an actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is.” (Process and Reality, 23)  

Wouldn’t it be nice if all Christians became ever more sensitive to
howness and not so preoccupied with whatness, especially with what people believe?  Wouldn’t it be nice if they, like Jesus, learned from the lilies of the field and became more flexible and spontaneous, without regard for tomorrow?  (Matthew 6:28)  Wouldn’t it be nice if, in learning from Taoism, Christians became more….Christian?  We can hope.

We find grounds for this hope in the small but growing group of Christians in the West called the
emerging church.  We stress in the West because we realize that Christianity is now a post-Western religion, with more Christians living in Asia, Africa, The phrase “emerging church” is now used by a variety of well-known thinkers: Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Doug Pagitt, and Rob Bell, many of whom begin in evangelical or conservative Christianity, but discovered that being a Christian required a more flexible understanding of faith.  This church is not denominational; its participants come from many traditions: Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Non-Denominational, and Post-Denominational. Admittedly only a few of these Christians draw upon East Asian traditions in an explicit way, yet their spirit is East Asian -- and perhaps even Taoist -- in certain ways.  They see themselves as transforming Christianity from the inside in dialogue with postmodernism, social networking, and the arts.   Here is a description:

New Religious Worlds

“All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born.  All around us life is dying and life is being born….Look well to the growing edge!” These words from African American Christian Howard Thurman capture the spirit of the emerging church.  It is different from the old Christian world in many ways. 

The old Christian world sometimes saw faith and spirituality in terms of clearly articulated doctrines, purely rational understandings of scripture and theology, a focus on one path to salvation, and a clear distinction between orthodox and unorthodox and saved and unsaved.  The answers were clear, and applied to everyone, regardless of culture and ethnicity.  Authorities knew what was best; ordained by God, they spoke God’s unchanging world, meting out God’s rewards and punishments like little gods themselves.

The old Christian world provided a tradition, a boundary, an identity, and a universal narrative that shaped Christians for centuries, and there is much good to the wisdom of the past.  But, many people today are discovering that they must go beyond the old worlds – old worlds whose claims of authority, universality, and absoluteness are dying.  New worlds are emerging, claiming the creative spirit that animated institutions of the past, often energizing them in spite of their traditionalism.  Even dry bones can rise again, clothed in new colors and shapes.

A new Christian world is being born, emerging from the experiences of seekers, mystics, synthesizers, and globally sensitive Christians.  Even the old ways are being claimed with a new spirit.  The experiences that gave birth to traditions are being birthed in ways appropriate for our time.  As Howard Thurman emphasizes: “Look well to the growing edge!”

The growing edge, emerging and emergent and bearing fruit, calls those of us who are Christian to “make it up as we’re going along,” like the warm and windy faith of the first followers of Jesus, described in Acts of the Apostles.  The growing edge, always in process and always building on the past, like the Tao flowing through old structures in new ways.  The growing emerging faith recognizes the promises of post-modernism and goes beyond them in a faith that can be experienced and shared without fear of punishment or exclusion. 

Emergent faith takes seriously the post-modern critique of absolutes and universality and discovers an affirmative faith within what first appears as destructive of the foundations of faith itself.  Postmodern critics challenge universal stories; emerging faith discovers the power of personal and community stories.  Postmodern critics revel in relativism; emerging faith rejoices in relativity that allows a thousand flowers to bloom.  Postmodern critics deconstruct old ways; emerging faith creatively transforms old ways in light of God’s dynamic new creation. Postmodern critics challenge abstract rationalism; emerging faith seeks holism in which knowledge embraces mind, body, spirit, and relationships and affirms that to know is to love and heal.  “Location, location, location” -- cry out postmodern critics; emerging faith rejoices in the holy here and holy now, the intimacy of seeing each place as a revelation of the divine.  Location is everything, but each location emerges from the universe that gives it birth.  We are not alone isolated in the universe; we are children of stardust and divinity.  Look well to the growing edge! 

Emergent faith embraces the senses: mind is embodied, and bodies are inspired.  Worship involves color and taste, word and silence, touch and smell.  Preaching invites dialogue and inspires the community to taste, see, and practice what is preached.  Christ-centered faith – finding Jesus on the thoroughfares of life – centers everything and enlivens the wisdom of koans, yoga postures, and Tai Chi.  Jesus is here, traveling the path of Christianity but also companioning Buddha and Lao Tzu, Mohammed and the Earth Mothers.  Ruling by humility, Jesus lets go of power to uplift all creation, and all creation discovers its glory.

Emergent faith joins mysticism with mission. Experiencing God in the quiet hour, we discover burning bushes everywhere and see God in the least as well as the greatest.  God speaks to us in the cries of creation, grieving parents in the wake of earthquakes and aftershocks. God feels the frustration of the marginalized, inspiring our own prophetic restlessness.  God speaks in our hungers and we discover our meager provisions – perhaps just a few loaves and fish – can feed a multitude.  Emerging faith is healing faith – healing hearts and minds, sharing in God’s dream of healing the earth and all its creatures.  This is the growing edge incarnate!  But maybe it’s not really an edge.  Maybe it’s more like a river that flows, or a lily that bends with the wind.  Maybe it is soft rather than hard.  Maybe its name is love.  We can hope.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice if Christians Became Taoists? Hope for the Emerging Christian Church By Bruce Epperly and Jay McDaniel