*Matthew Green. 'Prayer'. Flickr
A rabbi had a dream of paradise. He entered it by being dunked into a deep well. When he came out, he saw only a few holy persons sitting at tables and studying the Torah, or Jewish Law. The rabbi asked the guiding angel, “Is this all there is to paradise?” The angel replied, “You seem to think holy ones are in paradise. You have it backwards. Paradise is in them!”
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One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs (or, by your speculations). You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you (or, within you, within your grasp).”
*Gospel of Luke 17.20-21 NLT
Above, Jesus shows that what he called the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is not tangible. This Kingdom is within, so among, and already, for this divine Influence is timeless and boundless.
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We have each tasted paradise, but quickly forgot; often we totally miss that we had the momentary taste of a much longed-for bliss. This is why we speak of awakening, for even if we visited heaven asleep, we would not recognize heaven as heaven. Yet, when awake, one sees heaven everywhere, for heaven is in the one seeing heaven. If paradise is not in the one seeing, he or she will not see paradise. If God and one is in intimate sharing within, that one will see God everywhere. Yet, finally, paradise, so God, is everywhere, and the ego finds it problematic to accept that this is so simple. Often, then, the search for the Divine delays seeing the Divine is present, here and now, always.
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The challenge of the intangibility of Grace is, as noted, one of the reasons ego resists the simplicity of Its presence and appearing. Tibetan Buddhist Anam Thubten, in his The Magic of Awareness, speaks well to this:
Perhaps our heart doesn’t want to use any words, any language, any spiritual lingo to say this is what we are witnessing. This is very fearful to the spiritual ego because the spiritual ego always needs precise vocabulary and precise measurement because its melting is very wishy-washy to the spiritual ego. The spiritual ego doesn’t like anything that is wishy-washy. It loves boundaries. It loves fences and wants to have very strong fences between the Buddhist neighborhood and the Christian neighborhood. The spiritual ego doesn’t have an open heart to language that it is not familiar with. So this melting is very wishy-washy but it is the real deal after all. This melting is enlightenment.
So the essence of spirituality is actually just to melt. We melt all of the ideas of who we are, where we are going, and what we are doing. We just melt everything. When we melt everything, what melts is not our true nature but our painful ego. And where we land is this eternal ground, the sorrowless land within, which is always there.
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Paradise is often thought of as a future place that is like a lost first place, such as the Garden of Eden. What if the longing for a first place imaged as in the future, a return to Paradise, is not a place past, present, or future, but an inward happening, an intimacy that has no locality, for it is purely spiritual and absolutely close? This is the Kingdom Jesus speaks of, this is the "sorrowless land" Anam Thubten refers to.
Since this Reality is nonlocal, paradise is not literally within us as opposed to outside us. Rather, "within" is a sign of closeness, of intimacy. So, saying it is within or among is saying the same thing, when we understand that Grace is nonlocal, while absolutely intimate.
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The Jewish tale above points out that the externals of religion or spirituality, of anything, do not make Paradise. And, so, the externals of a past or future place will not make Paradise Paradise. Paradise is not an objective reality. Paradise is a Relational Event of communion, togetherness, essentially Love. The moment you truly love someone or something, in that moment you are in Paradise.
*Dara. 'The Light Above'. Flickr
(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2019