Miracles of the Light
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
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Don't all men and women experience the urge to be alone with God, to create space for the encounter with Love in their deepest center, and to see more clearly and hear more deeply the truth about life and love? Mostly these desires and aspirations remain hidden or are quickly washed away by the waves of our engagements and involvements, but they never seem to vanish completely.
*Henri J. M. Nouwen. Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation.
Beginning of the Rule of St. Benedict (ca. 530) -
Listen ... incline the ear of your heart ...
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A new follower asked, "What would you say I most need to do to benefit from your teachings?" "Be quiet. And listen," replied the Sage. "May I ask questions?" "Yes, but don't ask from curiosity or to satisfy a wish for an answer," said the Sage, "but only when the question arises out of the silence of total receptivity. Otherwise, remain quiet. Sometimes, we're not ready for the answer. Sometimes, we think we need an answer, when we don't."
*Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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The Teacher Bankei (Rinzai Zen, Japan, b. 1622) made an image of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, for one of his teaching centers. During a talk, a monk from another community, leaning against a pillar, asked whether the image was an old or new buddha. The Teacher replied, "How does it look to you?" The monk said it looked to him like a new buddha.
Bankei said, "If it looks to you like a new buddha, then it's a new buddha, and that's that; so what's the problem? Because you haven't understood that what's unborn is the Buddha Mind, you come and ask this sort of useless thing, thinking that's Zen. Rather than ask this kind of worthless stuff and disturb everyone, just keep quiet, take a seat, and listen carefully to what I'm saying."
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We can distract ourselves from the Truth through speculations and questions. One reason to practice silence is to learn to listen. Not with the ears. With the heart. Few listen with the heart. Most of us have been socialized to listen with the brain. We move about too fast, from one thing to the next - we need space to recognize Wisdom's gentle whispers, to descend into the heart.
When we listen, what we hear will likely be something felt, or non-emotionally sensed. We will not be able to put it into words. If we can talk it, it is not it.
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Truth communicates itself. Yet, we will likely only hear by shutting our mouths and moving awareness from thinking to an inner posture of receptivity. Sacred insight is like a wet fish - it slips away when trying to grab hold of it.
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The pride in what we know can limit knowing. Intellectual pride blocks listening. In intellectual arrogance - even spiritualized - we challenge those who try to lead us to sacred wisdom. We resort to readings and teachers who support our egoic wishes. The ego can enjoy the spiritual marketplace and gorge itself on new and exotic teachings.
Sacred insight will always be marked with humility. By receiving spiritual wisdom, we are humbled. We realize we did not get it. It came to us as a grace, a gift. This gift demotes self-importance. We shift from arrogance to adoration, grumbling to gratitude, and isolation to intimacy.
Can you recall a time you received insight but was not trying to? That you could not put into words? How might you be receptive daily to such insight?
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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2023.
*Use of photography is allowed accompanied by credit given to Brian K. Wilcox and title and place of photograph.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse.
*Story of Bankei from Peter Haskel. Bankei Zen: Translations from The Record of Bankei. Ed. Yoshito Hakeda.