Beliefs divide, but the faith from which they spring is one and unites.
At that level of intense awareness, all is love. Seeing is love, breathing is love, being is love~love as a belonging that cannot be questioned or doubted.
*David Steindl-Rast. Deeper Than Words: Living the Apostles' Creed.
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From my upbringing in evangelical Christianity, I received in loving Jesus and affirming his love for me, for everyone, an opening to welcome the truth, the love, in all wisdom paths. This was a long journey and oft painful, at times agonizing. I often felt alone, unaccompanied, even for many years. Yet, to feel and know a Love reaching out from truth to truth, in whatever appearance, is worth whatever the pain along the way. I feel a sadness for those who use religious belief to keep away the truth others embrace, seeing, also, in keeping away the truth, we keep others away. Love, however, seeks to connect through our differences in belief. I feel a sadness, knowing there is so much to taste, so to speak, so much love to be known outside any one way, any version of truth. Yet, this is simply where most of humanity is, we are caught in our ideologies ~ cultural, religious, political, ... No need to judge. Only love. We each are on a holy journey, whether we are awake to that are not. Truth is already seeking us. Why live on a small island, when you can live everywhere in the world?
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Thomas Merton, the most highly esteemed Christian contemplative of the last century, writes of an experience in Sri Lanka. This occured on the pilgrimage in which he died six days later, after speaking at a conference on interfaith dialogue.
The path dips down to Gal Vihara: a wide, quiet, hollow, surrounded with trees. A low outcrop of rock, with a cave cut into it, and beside the cave a big seated Buddha on the left, a reclining Buddha on the right, and Ananda, I guess, standing by the head of the reclining Buddha. In the cave, another seated Buddha. The vicar general, shying away from ‘paganism,’ hangs back and sits under a tree reading the guidebook. I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand. Then the silence of the extraordinary faces. The great smiles. Huge and yet subtle. Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing ... without trying to discredit anyone or anything - without refutation - without establishing some other argument.
*Thomas Merton. The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton.
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I placed the large, hand-carved, from-Thailand Buddha in a plastic trash bag. He has traveled here-and-there with me for over over fifteen years. This Buddha has gotten me in trouble, too.
See, I was a Christian pastor, progressive in evangelical churches; I, likewise, served as a professor for a time in a conservative Christian college. And, some Christians cannot fathom how a Jesus-loving man could appreciate and reverence the Buddha, including carrying a carved Buddha image around.
Not by mistake did my Clinical Chaplain Supervisor assign my faith as Baptist Buddhist, for I was ordained Baptist, held joint-membership as Baptist and Episcopal, and adored Buddhism, studying it and engaging its practices. Yet, I have never claimed to be anything plus Buddhist, and I am okay not being identified with any faith group. If someone wanted to call me Christian, or Buddhist, or nothing, or nobody, I would be okay with that. I have been called some not-nice things, I am okay with that, also.
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I wrote, yesterday, of the congregation in Florida that split, as we say down-the-middle, one side against me and one supportive. Well, there was a dear woman in there, we will refer to her as Janice ~ Janice was a friend of Joe, whom I wrote of yesterday. Janice had been national leader of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. So, she was a good organizer and had led protest marches. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving leader became the Some Church Members Against Pastor Brian protest leader. She organized a protest march. I found it humorous, but acted respectfully about it. I did not know about it, until I walked out of the church to return home, after a Wednesday night prayer gathering at the sanctuary. The parsonage, where I lived, was behind the church on its property. On my way down the sidewalk to home, I saw these quietly walking, very serious looking faces coming on the walkway toward me. I simply walked by, not saying a word. Very interesting moment. At least, it was not in the long-past, or I might have gotten imprisoned, burned, or beheaded in the name of Christ. I simply received a painless protest march, and other painless actions I will not share here. They were painless, for I simply refused to live in them, rather live from Prayerfulness.
Margaret, a dear friend whom I referred to yesterday, she told me what really upset Janice. I had church members over for a prayer gathering in my home. I had an altar, with varied Christian symbols and a fountain. Buddha was there. I mean, an image of Buddha, the Thailand Buddha. Janice, apparently somewhat tolerate of her progressive Jesus-loving pastor, was not going to tolerate Buddha. So, the fight began, and lasted for months. I did not fight. They fought. And what a fight they put up. To avail nothing. The tirades of the 'faithful' can never vanquish love or the lovers.
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So, see, Buddha can get you in trouble, he did me. Krishna can, too. Jesus can, too. Allah can, too. In fact, anything or anyone that represents what some persons do not believe in can get you in trouble. And, then, otherwise kind and loving beings can get mean. They can get fighty, quickly. And, I love the fighty ones, as I love Janice and Joe, but prefer loving to fighting. Loving is enjoyable, even when painful.
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And, now back to the Buddha in the plastic bag transport story... - as I carried the Buddha to place him in my truck, I started laughing. I realized the Buddha really would not mind my placing him in the bag. Anyway, I covered him well, to place him in storage until I would find a place to stay in the area of my new employment. Buddha would be just fine in storage. And, when I covered him, I did so reverently, and that laughter was reverent, too.
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Ironically, loving Jesus led me to Christ, and Jesus and Christ led me to Buddha. In the process I found a lovely Truth; so, relishing Buddha is actually a maturation of my childhood belief and faith, which I gave myself to in a little Baptist church in South Georgia, USA, over forty-nine years ago. When we choose truth, which is to choose love, we never know where we are headed toward. Yet, an adventure, it is!
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If you go deeply in any spiritual Path that draws you beyond your personal or group religious or spiritual preferences and, so, prejudices, that Path will open up to universal truth. I mean truth regardless of where it comes from and where you are met by it. There is no parochial truth. So, if you close your mind and heart to the truth in other ways of being on this earth outside what you were given by others, you are closing your mind and heart to truth period. So, we decide to let go and let truth be truth, or cling to ideology, and ideology is not truth. Now, if you say "Yes" to truth, that may get you into trouble, as Buddha got me in trouble, and Jesus has gotten me in trouble, too. Still, I would rather get in trouble and enjoy life, than stay out of trouble by refusing to see the beauty of how Life shows up in so many, even sometimes apparently contradictory, ways.
The Journey of truth is not a destination, for Truth reveals Itself, moment-to-moment, in a diversity of truths. And, even one truth can unveil depths we never dreamed lived inside. In faith, we can see trust inspires our journey together in a Grace that harmonizes into a beautiful tapestry of Love.
*The vision statement for Lotus of the Heart is Living in Love beyond Beliefs.
*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.
The Sacred in Me bows
to the Sacred in You