'... listen to your heart, love will take us all the way ...'
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On this first day of 2020, I offer one of my favorite stories, one from Buddhism...
A monk lived alone in the forest. A thief robbed him of almost all his goods, which were few to begin with. After the thief left, the monk looked out his window. Gazing at the moon, he said, "I only wish I could have given him this moon, too."
This story has been on my mind the last two days, and the turning into a new year seems to be one source of that remembrance. As Zen Buddhist stories generally, this can have multiple meanings; today, I will share what this story has most signified to me over the last many years, since first reading it 16 years ago.
In Buddhism the full moon can refer to the enlightened mind, or heart. This entails seeing with compassion the truth of oneness. So, the monk could mean, "I wish I could give the enlightened heart to that man." But what would be this enlightened heart?
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One facet, of potentially many, of this jewel of enlightened heart is seen in the capacity of the monk to be present fully to, so intimate with, the moon seen outside his window. He cannot have the moon, but he can be with the moon, truly intimate with it, and without a sense of needing to cling to the moon as something to possess. Indeed, the sense of possession, represented in the clinging, or greed ~ one of the Three Poisons in Buddhism ~ of the thief, undermines the joy of the intimacy of sharing and, therefore, appreciation.
I would think the country in which I live would not want its citizens to move from the sense of ownership to the fact of gift, for this would revolutionize our capitalistic mentality, which is built increasingly, it seems, on greed, manipulation, and the profit of the few from the debt of the many. In fact, the advertising industry is reliant on trained experts in constructing tantalizing and seductive images to convince the citizens to buy something, even if we do not need it. What does the need for a vehicle have to do with sex, as imaged in a seductively clad woman who is linked in a commercial with a shiny new car? Just ask the advertiser of the use of human sexuality to elicit your belief that you need that shiny car you really do not need and will incur debt by buying for several to many years. It seems, while the end is money, the means is that a car can actually be sexy~yet, this is the lie of greed, for a car soon is seen to be just a car. Simply put, we are literally sold a lie, the lie that things can give us what things cannot give us. Yet, we keep buying the lie, so deluded have we become, so estranged from Wisdom, and Life. It is as impossible to buy love, joy, peace, meaning, fulfillment... as it is to buy the moon, yet we keep trying. And as long as we buy the lie, the lie will keep being sold to us. So, is it not true, our own greed is in collusion with those who sell us the illusion that something can fulfill us, when what can fulfill us is not a something?
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In intimacy with the moon, there is joy from possession, the joy of what I often call being-with. Paradoxically, in a sense, you have the moon as yours when you admit it is not something for you to have, at all. The thief cannot have the moon, he cannot receive this gift the monk enjoys, neither can enjoy all the things he took from the monk; such is the greed or getting, when in Spirit we have a posture of receiving. What is gotten is never adequately cherished and is an object to the getter, while when we receive, which is gift given, we cherish and are able to appreciate in intimacy the gift.
I am learning this more and more in relationships, now. In simply being-with the other, not trying to make being-with into anything particular, I more cherish the time with the other, I more appreciate the other and what the other gifts me with. Also, I see and feel, know, the other as a gift given to me. Yet, not for me to have, but for me to enjoy and be thankful for, even as I, then, can be that gift for him or her. In Grace, relationships are gifts for our enjoyment. Relationships only become principally the hard work many claim they are when those involved step outside Grace, with gracefulness, and the purity of heart-with-heart sharing of self-with-self.
This pertains to my native faith, Christianity, and how in the Gospel of John the words are given, "And the Word became flesh, living (lit., tenting) among us...". So, true Christianity is about this intimacy of the Word with us, not a Christ over us. Christ represents the Love that does not seek to rule or possess, does not treat the other as an object, but is Life offering itself to be received and, in that gift, is present to receive the gift you and I are self-offering. Other faiths would use other words and ideas and images to speak of this, but the Reality is the same.
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So, in a world that teaches us ownership, the being of Light seeks not to own, but to be a means of enjoyment, which means, likewise, to receive enjoyment. This enjoyment is the bliss of communion, heart-with-heart. In this Love is manifested, Love is enhanced, and Beloved and Lover, while remaining two, become in the mutual-self-gift one subjectivity. Indeed, as the Word becomes flesh, this means I cannot be a gift to the other withholding myself, but the gift is first and foremost myself. In this dying of myself as apart from you, I find myself alive in and with you.
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In this, a third is invited and appears. This third is intimated in words that I recently wrote to a friend: "It is good to feel the Mystery moving between us...". This Mystery is the third, as though another self, or movement, is allowed to manifest and express through the mutual self-giving of selves two, or more. In this is a self-transcendence, not in the sense of negating the self, but involving the self in the self of the other and the Mystery that makes possible this enjoyment of communion heart-with-heart. This is Love loving, of which I speak at times. Yet, no words truly apply but as hints of that Otherness that arises in two or more finding themselves Home within the otherness of the other, or others. So, like the monk enjoying the moon, we can feel and know the other in a way of joy that arises when we relax our clinging and receive the gift the other offers and is.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Kennebec River~Winter Series no. 7'.