*Brian Wilcox. 'Colorful Androscoggin'. Flickr
* * *
A continuance of encounters with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
* * *
The sage opened the sharing time with a story...
A rabbi had a dream of paradise. He entered by an angel dropping him into a deep well. When he came out, he saw only a few holy beings. They were sitting at tables, studying the Torah, or Jewish Law. The rabbi asked the 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!"
Does this mean paradise isn't outside them? If so, that sounds dualistic.
In Truth, the word "in" denotes intimacy, so not being the opposite of "out." So, paradise is neither within nor outside anyone or anything, as to a location in contrast to a location. Paradise is nonlocal. "Within" and "without" both refer to the all-embracing Life, even as we are expressions of the same Presence.
So, isn't proper to say we're living inside God, or God in us?
Both, or neither.
Then, our entering the silence is a way to habituate to this intimacy?
Entering the silence is coming from paradise to paradise, for home calls us home. This is in experience, absolutely paradise is fully present, and, so, we can neither leave it nor approach it. Paradise, or heaven, is as much presence in the felt-absence of it as the felt-presence of it. We enter silence to learn to relate to this that never can be less or more, but which we experience as less or more, even as we experience love as less or more when deeply loving someone. As Gibran wrote...
And he to whom worshiping is a window,
to open but also to shut, has not yet
visited the house of his soul whose windows
are from dawn to dawn.
How do we work with that sense of absence, as though the windows are closed at times, even though we don't want them closed?
First, we learn faith in the presence of Grace in the felt-sense of absence. On this faith we learn how to relax into the sense of absence. Over time, that absence, not becoming the previous felt-sense of presence, unveils its own expression of the fullness of Life.
Do you recall a time of learning this?
More a process over many years. Yet, one moment stands out. This occurred in public worship. For years, I had equated the divine Presence with a feeling of that being present. I, finally, realized that such a struggle was a hindrance to enjoying being in worship with others. I relaxed any expectation of having a vivid experience of Grace, I simply relaxed into being with others, totally present, fully aware. The experience softened, and the being-with others in worship became subtly enriching. There is, truly, a beauty to both the sense of presence and the sense of absence, each an equal expression of Life giving Itself.
This reminds me of a term in Dzogchen, in Tibetan Buddhism, Ihug pa, translated "hanging loose" by Tibetan scholar Keith Dowman. Here, Longchenpa (b. 1308, Tibet), the 'father' of radical Dzogchen, writes of Reality as "hanging loose" and that we are to do the same to live in accord with Reality. So, Reality is already relaxed, in the sense it is not trying to be other than it is; when you are no longer pressuring what is to become other than it is, there is relaxation. You may accomplish much, but you will move and talk and act in a hanging loose manner, not a tight, pushy, pushing manner. Reality is very good at taking care of Itself, without your needing to manage it. Paradise is a sense of being-with, in which all is taken care of, and you are part of that being-taken-care-of and taking-care-of.
To you, what's the prime trait of this paradise?
No trait can be isolated unto itself, for this is One. Yet, definitely two words stand out in response to your question, presence, peace. So, peaceful-presence. Peace pervades this something-being that you cannot pinpoint, it is elusive, yet totally intimate.
Is this paradise like the heaven so many believe in, just spiritual and here, now?
No. Both Hinduism and Buddhism speak of a heavenly realm, Buddhism, or realm of the gods, Hinduism. Whether a state present or after death, neither is recommended as what we most deeply long for. Both mythic realms indicate pleasurable states of being. Much teaching on heaven speaks of a rather personalized, egoic clinging to pleasantness, ultimate happiness. The paradise we speak of today is of a peaceful presence that embraces equally, without prejudice, both unpleasant and pleasant. Likewise, it, if theistic, would picture God as equally present in any state of mind and body, rather than equating God with only desirable sensations and feelings. Pleasure can assist us in seeking the Divine, but our attachment to it dissolves in the peace that pervades one in union in Love.
Aren't all in union?
Yes, but not consciously so. The experience of union means one is aware of the all-encompassing Presence, or, we could say, aware of and of being in Awareness as the natural, hanging loose environment in which one moves, lives, and becomes. As the Christian Scriptures say, "In Whom we live, move, and have our being." Our becoming is within That which does not become, yet contains all becoming in Itself. As Krishna speaks to Arjuna, in the Bhagavad Gita...
I permeate all the universe
in my unmanifest form.
All beings exist within me,
yet I am so inconceivably
vast, so beyond existence,
that though they are brought forth
and sustained by my limitless power,
I am not confined within them.
Just as the all-moving wind,
wherever it goes, always
remains in the vastness of space,
all beings remain within me.
There, only there, is peace. Yet, as a manifestation of that Being, we can choose to act asleep, and in that slumber, we forfeit the joy of peace. So, being consciously in Being, this is to be one with peace, so peaceful in action and peaceful within.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Swinging over the River'. 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.
*Quotes from Kahlil Gibran. The Prophet; Keith Dowman. Spaciousness; Stephen Mitchell. The Bhagavad Gita.