*Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass.
He asks me if I am a Christian. I hesitate, when years before I would have quickly, proudly replied affirmatively. After hesitation, quietly receptive to what to say, I reply, "I care about all people." We have a brief conversation. He says he is a Muslim, says he prays at the set times of prayer for Muslims. I, later, tell him I could be called an interfaith Christian and that I seek to see God in all faiths. I encourage him to keep praying. Before leaving, I say, "God bless you." He replies the same. I leave his cell, here in this jail. We have shared a beautiful human connection, one transcending our different faith histories and traditions.
* * *
Later, I read words from the diary of Swami Abhishiktananda, that wisely crazy Christian monk who went to live in India and, to his surprise, seek the mystery of Advaita. In a temple called the Temple of Silence, where he stayed secluded for over a month, he writes:
As I hasten towards You, I leave behind all my skins, all my shells, everything I had, everything I thought I was, everything I identified with ~ all this falls away, for the hole I must pass through gets narrower and narrower. And as I run in pursuit of You who are slipping away, I slip away myself.
* * *
So much of me has slipped away, since the days as a fundamentalist Christian preacher, back when I was only age fifteen. My identity with my faith tradition, Christianity, has been slipping away for many years, dissolving slowly. Sometimes, I wonder if any connection remains… possibly, possibly not. And, the sharing with the Muslim and words of Abhishiktananda remind me this slipping away is the fulfillment of that faith given me by my family, and the Love that adolescent preached of decades ago. He was talking about a greater Love than he could fathom, then and now. He, with the congregation, sang “Amazing Grace,” and he had no idea that Grace, being so amazing, would not let him rest content in the boundaries of the very faith that introduced him to such lovely Grace. Yes…
Grace! the more
I see of You,
the more I know
I do not see ~
Blessed not knowing
* * *
I have come to see, in Grace, in Love, one can be stripped of all sense of need to belong to anyone or anything, and in this graced nakedness, one wishes only to connect with everyone as one, in One.
* * *
Almost ten years later, now, after sitting with the Muslim in that jail cell, he inmate, I Chaplain, I sit quietly in this Tibetan Buddhist sangha. I realize, on this Sunday morning, a weekday for many years I would be standing to lead worship in a Christian church, I am as at-home here as anywhere I have worshiped before. What arises is a strong connection to this place, this wisdom path, and a sense of peace among those gathered here. This connection is with Something transcending all paths, I do not sit as a Christian or a Buddhist, religious or spiritual. I sense openness to this Mystery. Yet, this does not contradict the essence of the faith I once taught. I find here what I came to know in the Christian path ~ not the form of Christianity, rather the essence Christ. Who would have dreamed possible, that teenage Baptist preacher boy would so slip away, by Grace, to be at home sitting here, not belonging, not needing to belong, glad to be one with others in this Buddhist sangha? Yes, to become more spaciousness, so that one in not belonging, can sense kinship with all. That is the gift of slipping away. Does this slipping away ever end? Possibly. Possibly not. Just keep saying "Yes" to the slipping away, to all sense of particular belonging, to, ironically, belong everywhere and with everyone.
Grace and Peace to All
Lotus of the Heart is an interspiritual offering of Brian Kenneth Wilcox, who lives in Florida USA. Feel free to submit a query to Lotus of the Heart...
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