A Gathering of Yellow... Northern Maine
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Once we realize that things donít have intrinsic flaws, then maybe naturally we experience some kind of religious love toward everything, or reverence. Such an experience is often described as pure vision, the sacred outlook, in Tantric Buddhism.
*Anam Thubten. The Fragrance of Emptiness.
Nan C. Merril, Quaker - paraphrase, Psalm 148
For all are called to be friends,
companions to the true Friend,
giving their lives joyfully as
co-creators and people
Praise be to the Blessed One,
the very Breath of our breath,
the very Heart of our heart!
*Psalms for Praying.
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A man asked Jesus whom God would accept or not accept. He began, "Jesus, do you believe in religious exclusivism?" Jesus asked, "What is that?" "That only one religion is the way of God." After a long silence, Jesus said, "No."
The man continued, "Then, Jesus, do you believe in religious inclusivism?" "What is that?" asked Jesus. "That means only one religion is the right way, but others are going to make it okay." Again, after a long silence, Jesus said, "No."
The man asked, "Well, you must believe in religious pluralism then, right?" "What," replied Jesus, "is that?" "That means all religions are equal?" Once more, after a long silence, Jesus said, "No."
The man, perplexed, questioned, "So, Jesus, just whom do you believe God will accept?" After another long silence, Jesus answered, "Love, for in Love, you will find the answer."
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Jesus Christ said he had never been
to a football match. So we took him to one,
my friends and I. It was a ferocious
battle between the Protestant Punchers
and the Catholic Crusaders.
The Crusaders scored first. Jesus cheered
wildly and threw his hat up in the
air. Then the Punchers scored. And Jesus
cheered wildly and threw his hat high up
in the air.
This seemed to puzzle the man behind us.
He tapped Jesus on the shoulder and
asked, "Which side are you rooting for,
my good man?"
"Me?" replied Jesus, visibly excited
by the game. "Oh, I'm not rooting
for either side. I'm just enjoying
The questioner turned to his neighbor
and sneered, "Humm, an atheist!"
*Anthony de Mello. Song of the Bird. "Jesus At The Football Match."
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From "above," one sees how humans "below" scurry about creating sides and, then, taking sides. One sees the ego grasps for some stable self-definition in this illusory game of opposition - the ultimate of this game is war. For the ego maintains itself only in disharmony with others - we are right, for they are wrong; we are insiders, they are outsiders; we are worthy, they are unworthy; we are chosen, they are unchosen.
Egos - "i-s" - collect into "we" - a collective ego - to win the game against others. If they did win, the egos would create another enemy - that is a rule for the game; otherwise, the game would cease. The essential key to the game is not about being right or wrong; it is being against. Persons get an ego high through the fight. Yet, the energy takes a toll on the self, removing one further and further from Fulness of Life.
The image of a checker match is an analogy. The egos are like the black and red checkers. The game is set up for winning or losing: win-lose... no win-win is possible. A "we" must overcome the other "we." As long as the game continues, there must be "we" against a "them." Imagine checkers beginning to wake up to the futility of this constant aggression and opposition. Imagine them seeing sanity is in one "we" without "against." Fewer and fewer checkers are willing to participate. Eventually, enough drop out to leave the game unsustainable. In this process, those clinging to the game raise a fuss and make all sorts of accusations against the drop-outs. No winner, which means no loser, is intolerable to this latter group.
Special terms are used for those who see the futility of these games. Among these terms are heretic, weird, unpatriotic, stupid, unbeliever, damned, pagan, and quitter. In my cultural upbringing, some whites would dehumanize whites who supported equal rights for blacks by labeling her or him "nigger lover." Divisive egos label others to dehumanize, discredit, and disempower those who differ with their agenda. These persons never prioritize truth, only their prejudice and ignorance of the other.
Once, a ministry student came into my office on a Monday and informed me he had attended the Saturday class on world religions. I was his professor at a conservative Baptist college. I asked him whether the teacher taught with neutrality on the beliefs of the other faiths or how they are all wrong. The student said, "How they are wrong." I said, "I thought so." See, the visiting teacher had no interest in the truth, only his group's version of the truth and discrediting all who disagreed - which meant all other religions.
* * *
I used "above" to indicate what can be called "higher consciousness." Consciousness is more embracing the "higher" - less egoic, more subtle - it gets. In Silence, we can experience this as the Witness. Consciousness begins to observe without getting involved personally. Consciousness itself is neither impersonal nor personal, for it is nondual. It does not deny the play of duality; it observes the opposites without getting involved in them. Consciousness can celebrate the dance of the energies.
As long as the self is involved personally in the disharmony of egoic existence, it remains bogged down in the world of conflict - it thrives on the fight and has a distaste for peace among. This is true even if it claims it is for equality.
* * *
Now, back to the image of the checkerboard. You can see how what I have written relates to that. The True Self observes the battle on the board - the world systems - and remains apart. Apart does not mean uncaring; it means personally uninvolved. The True Self does not need conflict, aggression, and winning or losing to sustain Itself - It is Self-sustaining. From the True Self, the body-mind may get involved, but the True Self remains detached and, so, the body-mind remains free of the conflict.
A Christian scripture provides wisdom on this process - Gospel of Matthew 26.41 has, "The spirit indeed is willing; the flesh is weak." The Gospel writer's prior advice to the reader is to remain alert (wakeful) and prayerful (consistent in prayer). So, the spirit, what I have called the True Self, can inspire compassionate action without getting trapped in the goings-on. The self, what I have called body-mind or ego, however, is weak and can get caught. Any self thinking itself strong is deluding itself. Strength to remain detached emotionally amid the widespread divisiveness arises from "above."
This Self does not need to be involved in the warring. It is Itself love, joy, and peace - all good qualities together are It. It does not need to take sides, for It is for all sides. When selves personally identify with a side against the other, the potential to help is not enhanced but compromised, for one has jumped into the self-perpetuating game. Spirit does not act to perpetuate itself or prove itself - it does not need to.
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So, a challenge of the Way is to come home to oneself and realize the problem of conflict begins at home, not out there among others. Whenever I am struggling emotionally regarding someone or a group, I have learned it is always in me, not in the other. The good news is by nurturing equanimity, one becomes part of the solution within oneself. One, then, can love without taking sides. One can be a Witness of the fighting outside without getting bogged down in it.
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Where do we ground ourselves to live in equanimity? I like how Nan C. Merrill translates the meeting point of the Spirit and spirit within: "very Breath of our breath" and "very Heart of our heart." That is where to live for peace within and to be a peacemaker in the world outside.
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"But what am I to do? I cannot sustain such equanimity." Welcome - likely no one is free from forfeiting this inner equanimity. We get attracted to taking a side and lose peace. We may feel anger arise against "them." We are caught! In time, growing in Spirit, we pick this up quickly - it registers bodily. When you lose this inner stability and calm, nonjudgmentally return to the heart. Do not make war with your feelings - that only makes for more warring. Be patient, gentle, and self-forgiving toward yourself.
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Hence, as a reminder for us. The thing we most need is not egos rushing about trying to save our world. We need persons going within to find harmony and get in touch with our natural being of equanimity and compassion. Peace - heaven on earth - arises from the Self already one with everyone and everything.
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*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. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.