Saturday, July 3, 2010

What elements of spiritual insight have you drawn from your practice? Here are four I am still learning

Ангел отваливает камень от гробаImage via Wikipedia

So let's open a dialogue about what spiritual insights you have either found or confirmed through the practice of your sacred tradition. This dialogue can take place here or simply be inspired here to happen at another place and time. I'll share some of mine to get things started:
  • divinity
  • grace
  • resurrection
  • incarnation

These terms can be very charged and loaded, so let me flesh them out a little.

Divinity refers here to the idea that there is a unifying pattern and rhythm to the universe which comes from a Source that both shapes and sustains existence. The unfiltered experience or awareness of this ground of Being, this transcendent and immanent Ultimate reality, comes across as boundless wisdom and compassion, what the early fathers of Christian church refered to as agape or caritas. As both source and substance of our being, this in turn suggests we are aspects of this divinity. In other language, it is the co-nature of Atman and Brahman, the realization of Buddha-nature, the manifestation of Christ-consciousness, or being made in the image of God.

Grace begins with the recognition of our limitations and potential to err, the finite aspects of our being in contrast with the infinite. In our delusion we see ourselves as autonomous and separate from whatever conception we have of the Divine, even secular visions of it. Hence we crave to fill the perceived hole in the heart of our being, and are shaped by the pain and confusion it causes. Hence the manifestation of evil, both mundane and extraordinary, through the temptation to fill these cravings with short-lived phenomena and fleeting experiences. This is the source of dukkha and of sin. Grace involves opening ourselves to the wisdom and compassion of the Divine and seeing through the illusion of our intrinsic existence, separated from the rest of the reality. Grace is that larger whole reaching out to the smaller part, calling to it, helping it to awaken to its true nature. Deep calls to deep and heart calls to heart.

Resurrection is a tough one. It is clearly related to a family of concepts and insights that include reincarnation and rebirth. Such topics can readily fill whole volumes in terms of the subtlety and nuance of their possible meanings. But at their core they all share the idea that life goes on -- that death is not the end. Some get really (and understandably) hung up on whether this death refers to our bodies, our minds, the change of each moment or the end of a larger set of experiences. That's where the debate and the many volumes of explication and exploration come in. But these insights are bigger than a single context -- they tell about the nature of existence itself. I personally resonate with the idea that nothing truly ceases but rather only manifests from our limited perspective under the proper conditions, and then is hidden from us; but even that tries to cap or limit the power of sitting with the idea that birth and death are more like book marks than book ends. If you find someone who claims to truly fully grasp such things, be wary.

Incarnation in a way summarizes and symbolizes the other three. The term is mostly associated with Christianity but it is found elsewhere. In the umbrella category termed Hinduism we find the idea of avatars, wherein the Divine takes on a particular physical form to communicate and inspire those who haven't fully realized and manifested their own connection to the Ultimate reality, to be common. In Buddhism there are various ideas which resonate with incarnation, including the different "bodies" a Buddha may take in order to propagate the Dharma. And while the most common reference to incarnation in Christianity is the person of Jesus Christ, there is also the teaching that humans in communion with God are the mouths, hands and feet of the Divine. The frequent sticking point here tends to be about ranking and uniqueness -- who is or was more fully embodying what. This framing is not always trivial. Christianity as it has developed wouldn't make sense if Jesus were just another dude, and Buddhism as we have inherited it wouldn't be coherent if the Buddha had claimed to be God. The cross-cultural constructions for such concepts would clash. Yet when each system (and others) are understood within their own frame of reference, a universal insight is unlocked: learn to find the Divine in yourself and to recognize it in others.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Everything but spam and abusive comments are welcome. Logging in isn't necessary but if you don't then please "sign" at the end of your comment. You can choose to receive email notifications of new replies to this post for your convenience, and if you find it interesting don't forget to share it. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...