There's a lot of craziness running around these days, a lot of division, a lot of difficult talk. We seem to be in a state of permanent warfare, both with the world and one another. Political fear and anger arise in an atmosphere of dualism: self against other, my good side and my bad side, my tribe against yours, or as the Buddhists put it, between attachment and aversion.
At such times, it's good to recall these lines from John's Gospel, "I came not to judge the world, I came to save the world." Jesus lived in a world where violence was the norm: where Romans and Jews slaughtered one another in their righteous quests. There can be no end to violence, Jesus taught, unless there is love. Jesus offered us a peace with passes all understanding.
The operative phrase is "passes all understanding."
There are two Sanskrit words which describe this. The first "prakriti" is everything contained within the world of our senses: body, mind, ordinary spirit. The second "purusha" describes a spiritual world beyond all sense, a consciousness so subtle it seems not conscious at all. "The union of these two eternal, fundamental forces sets in motion the creation of the world as we know it. Their union also shapes and defines all ordinary human experience."*
The comforters arrive to say, Life is hard. Be kind to yourself. Isn't the God of Love a God of Forgiveness? Don't wallow in guilt, be grateful.
This is all true, but until I've dealt with my guilt, what do I do with it? Unresolved guilt typically emerges as blame. Dualism leads inevitably to conflict. The secret lies in accepting not just the self I want to be, but the one I am right now, a person composed of strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad, the adult child of difficult parents who rebelled as a teenager, who paints to work off steam, enjoys one drink or toke too many and sometimes is sick to death with my spouse, partner or children, but also plants flowers in the sick lady's garden and leaves a pot of soup at the homeless shelter.
A human being is a network of relationships: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Just as flowers and vegetables blossom on manure heaps, so does our unique best arise from the ashes of our failings, for compassion is not a gift from on high, but a gift of presence.
*Easwaran Ed., Eknath. The Bhagavad Gita (Easwaran's Classics of Indian Spirituality) (p. 138).
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“We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God.” - Desmond Tutu.
Below are the recordings of my Temptations of Christ series.