*Brian Wilcox. 'A Tree on Washington St'. Flickr
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When I am clear, all is clear.
*Lama Surya Das
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A continuance of dialogues with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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One day, the sage, seeking to demonstrate in a mundane way unity-and-diversity, one-and-many, placed before the group two empty cups. He asked, "Is the spaciousness inside the cups different from cup to cup?" ... "Is the spaciousness outside the cups the same as inside the cups?" ... "Is the spaciousness inside or outside, or both?" ... "Did the cups precede the spaciousness, or vice versa?" ... "Would you reply any differently, if we had even a million cups sitting before you?" "Consider this," said the sage, "and let your heart speak the truth; the truth is all around us, see and you will know."
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You've made reference to your being born into and being an educator and clergy member in evangelical Christianity. I assume you believed that Jesus was the only way to the Divine? If so, can you recall any event that led you to the inclusiveness you now speak of?
First, let me say, I came to see that Jesus is the only way in the sense of being one with, embodying, the one Way; this even as you are and do, for there is only one Way, and it includes each one of us ~ yes, you, everyone, everything. Jesus, like other beings, is a mirror of the Mirrorless, some see, some do not, the mirrors arise and dissolve nevertheless. The Way includes all ways. Rather than ask about that, let us proceed, and I will answer how this came to me as truth.
Yes, I recall vividly and thankfully an experience that was instrumental, like the turning of the door into a confirmation of inclusiveness. This did not mean becoming anti-Christian, anti-church, anti-religion. Grace simply showed something I already knew in the heart, but had resisted fully accepting. See, the heart always goes before the mind, preparing for a full recognition. And what I felt was love, so Love opens such a door, Love shows the truth, and so I cannot now embrace a posture of being against the faith tradition of my earlier years. Rather, I am for it, with it, as I am for and with other wisdom paths. I simply am not officially any tradition now, even as Love is not, but I do not say this non-belonging is wise or helpful for others. It took me decades to be able to be at-peace with not-belonging to a particular way, and in those years I searched for a home in a tradition, not finding any, not being found by any.
Would you share with us this turning point, from exclusion to inclusion?
After years of struggling with my religious upbringing and its teachings, including that only Christians were going to some heaven, everyone else to some hell, and only men could be clergypersons, and in most churches of white folk, no persons of color were welcome, and the Christian Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, the opening occurred, much like the opening I have already spoken of happening at age nine.
I was invited to attend a celebration of Native Americans. I recall precisely where I was, when the recognition occurred. I was standing beside the sacred circle, while within it Native Americans were dancing sacred dance. I felt the purity, the holiness of the ritual, of these dancing. As said before, I felt love. Suddenly, for the first time, I could fully affirm that what I had been taught about Christianity, the church, and Jesus being the only way was simply wrong, was indeed not the way of love. This was more a heart-recognition than a mind-recognition. From that point on, and though it brought much suffering into my life, while I tried to serve within the Christian faith, I never could deny that heart-recognition. I learned that many, it seems to me, within the Christian faith know this, but the conservative faith of my upbringing and within which I served did not recognize this, so I faced much resistance, even meanness. Now I know, this arose only from fear, from ignorance, not that persons were personally opposed to me.
You keep referring to heart-recognition, what do you mean?
This "heart" is not the physical organ. It is maybe better translated "core." Below the surface of appearance, self being an appearance, is the non-appearing essence, the Self, the Spirit, what Hindus call Atman, what Buddhists mean saying we each are already the Buddha. Yet, trying to name this creates easily a dichotomy, with two objects, a false self and a True Self. Then, the heart easily becomes another object, one we might locate deep within us, as many think a soul resides inside the body, when the heart is objectless, pure subjectivity, neither inside nor outside; look wherever you will, and you can see the heart. We live inside the heart, as truly as the heart lives inside us. We are one, we and you and I and That. Inseparable. If I think of the heart as "within" the self, I speak only of the particularization of the universal heart as being experienced with the particularization of the body and mind we refer to as ourselves.
So, from this fathomless Beingness, the universal heart, arises wisdom. The heart, then, already knows the truth, never coming to know the truth. So, the word "recognition" is from the Latin "to re-cognize." The re-cognizing happens in the mind and body. You come to know what you already knew.
Hence, as often with us, the struggle I had toward the "Yes" to inclusion was set by fear, fear I was socialized into by my culture, yet, also, out of respect for truth. One may resist truth out of respect for truth; if one remains open, receptive, at some point the flowering occurs. The will, seen in the search, relaxes into silent recognition. One feels this bodily as a sense of resolution, of release, of relief. Here, the mind has become fully convicted, totally convinced, of what the heart already was saying. Indeed, any true conviction about Truth, one of sincerity, always arises from the heart. You never find the truth, truth simply shows itself. This is why so much that persons say they believe is delusional thinking. Truth is never inherited, it arises in spontaneous recognition; always fresh, truth revealing itself as truth.
Have you ever been tempted to deny this inclusion?
Once the mind is convinced of what the heart knows, one cannot return before the recognition, one cannot un-recognize, cannot un-see. I cannot recall ever desiring to deny this seeing. This would be a betrayal, a denial of love, of everyone. Love is boundless, once you know this, once the walls have fallen, you cannot set a bound to love, it is futile. How could you want to? This openness led to my losing my professorship and, many years later, my role as a clergy in the church, eventually losing my participation in my native faith altogether. I do not regret that. I am thankful, and I feel truly blessed to live now in such a large world that includes all, truly feel blessed. Such a relief! Yet, I remain thankful for all those who nurtured me in that faith in my earlier years, including my beloved family. Without that community of faith, how would I have seen? They did not come to this recognition, but they did not necessarily choose not to. I was able to move away and study and contemplate matters they never were introduced to. They gave me the only world they knew, and it was a community in which I was loved, and their loving helped me along the way, very much, very much. I honor them. I love them. I cherish the memory of these departed saints. If we do not honor the past, we cannot move on as we need into the now.
Did you have a struggle about this, I mean integrating it into your life?
Yes, for many years trying to fit this inclusion into a Christian framework. But no more. It does fit. When you see from the inclusion, the universality of Love, you see it was already in what you were taught ~ at least, that is my experience. Having a contemplative and intellectual bent, I needed to sort this truth out. But, now, I find the struggle is over, though I am thankful for those years of exploring, sorting, analyzing this one truth I saw beside that circle of dancing that day. Once Love takes the mind into itself, the mind rests in its natural abode, its natural knowing. Yet, for most of us, the mind has to work with truth, after seeing it. We naturally seek to make some sense, bring some order, to the truth seen. That is neither good nor bad, in itself. And, being a guide for others, I had to do this, for my dharma, divine calling, is to share truth in word and writing. So, I had to enter a struggle to explore that profound truth of inclusion. Yet, at some point, the relaxation occurs on its on, the integration may go on, it will, but it is happening as a natural arising within the ordinary, sublime path you walk daily, moment-by-moment. The heart sorts things out from that point on, and you learn to trust that unseen work. You still use the mind, but you admit its limits, and you are okay with that.
Does this mean you never feel prejudice toward anyone?
A sense of prejudice arises. This is past conditioning. It arises in the oneness, and dissolves back into the oneness. As the Buddhists teach how the mental poisons arise and are transmuted into pure wisdom, so this. More advanced Buddhist teaching even says the mental poisons arise as the pure wisdoms, for essentially both are expressions of Life, of pure presence. We can be welcoming to mental poisons, like prejudice, but we do not own them. At some point, we can no longer say "I am being prejudicial," we simply see it arise and dissolve. This is just past conditioning. We can say "Do not lust," but who has not lusted? We see prejudice, like lust and other thoughts and feelings, for what it is, we see through it. No guilt. No should not feel this way. No trying to get rid of it. No ideas of being punished by God or procuring bad karma. Just is! arises and dissolves. There is no ownership, so nothing to do with it, so it dissolves back into pure presence, its home. This is a path of natural healing. Then, yes, through the knowledge of others, we can learn practically how to make changes, so to embody this inclusion more, such as in how to speak of other races, religions, nationalities, or sexual orientations, so we can project more truly the inclusion we have come to cherish. So, recognizing inclusion is another beginning, there is work to be done. You act to honor the truth. You have to live into the truth you have been shown, and that will likely take a lifetime or more. So, honor the jewel of insight, cherish it, celebrate it, give thanks for it.
What about tolerance? I often hear that word.
Tolerance is not inclusion. Tolerance is a step from intolerance, in opposition to intolerance. Inclusion is free of any opposition whatsoever. Tolerance is simply "I tolerate you as different from me," while inclusion is "I love you as you are." A big difference! After tolerance, you step out of intolerance-or-tolerance, which is really the same world of divisiveness as intolerance, you step into a whole new world. Here, there is only spontaneous loving in appreciation for the differences that you see as a reflection of the One, you see as having a particularized beauty, making our world, our life together, more lovely for us all. Creation is an amazing diversity, certainly an inspiration for awe and celebration!
*Brian Wilcox. 'a gathering of immaculate presences'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
*The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.
*The quote from Lama Surya Das, I have found both in his "Foreword" to Enza Vita. Instant Presence, and his audio presentation Dzögchen Meditation Training.