Monthly Archives: April 2010

Not Far

From the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12:

“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’  Jesus answered, ‘The first is, Hear O Israel: the Lord  our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.’  And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength; and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.'”

This scribe is a remarkable person.  Living in a religiously rich and complex culture, he is not lost in “religiosity” but is able to “cut to the chase,” is able to see the essence of it all, the foundations, the meaning of it all, etc.  And Jesus has some good news and some bad news for him!  First of all, the good news: he is “NOT far” from the kingdom of God; the bad news, however: he is “not FAR” from the kingdom of God.  So much in a little phrase!  Let us dare to stand in the shoes of this remarkable person and see where this might take us.

First of all the good news:  all of us can be “not far” from the kingdom of God.  No matter what our situation is, it is always there right at our fingertips so to speak.  No matter if we are paralyzed and bedridden or in a wheelchair; no matter if we are sitting in a prison cell; no matter if life seems to be overwhelming us with burdens; no matter if we can’t see things clearly; the kingdom of God is always right there. The “spiritual journey” is available to all and in all circumstances because it is always right there.  How close?  Augustine tells us that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  That’s how close.

We don’t need to put ourselves into an exotic location; acquire certain credentials; “climb a mountain”; do many deeds, etc.

But like the good scribe we better not get lost in the multiple entanglements of our various religious cultures.  To see clearly the “essence” of the journey is to be already “not far” from the goal.  Our Zen Buddhist friends seem to have a better handle on this than we Christians, so let us look at this dilemma from their perspective.  Dogen, the “father” of Soto Zen, said categorically:  “Anybody who would regard Zen as a school or sect of Buddhism and calls it Zen-shu, Zen school, is a devil.”   Among other things he is warning us of focusing on a “religious complex” as if belonging to it we have “arrived.”

A monk asks Pai-chang: “Who is the Buddha?”

Pai-chang answers: “Who are you.”

A monk who was a novice came to Joshu and asked him to be instructed in Zen.  Joshu said:  “Have you not had your breakfast yet?”

Replied the monk:  “Yes, sir, I have had it already.”

Joshu:  “If so, wash your dishes.”

A monk asked a Zen master:  “It is some time since I came to you to be instructed in the holy path of the Buddha, but you have never given me even an inkling of it.  I pray you to be more sympathetic.”

Zen master:  “What do you mean, my son?  Every morning you salute me, and do I not return it?  When you bring me a cup of tea, do I not accept it and enjoy drinking it?  What more instructions do you desire from me.”

All of the above are illustrations, or better yet “suggestions,” of what that “not far” is all about.  Granted that what Zen is pointing to and what Jesus is pointing to may be different realities–not opposite, just complementary–but what is important is the “at hand” quality of what is most critical to our fulfillment as human beings.  We don’t need to travel far or have vast resources or be specially gifted to engage what is most important in our life.  In fact the only resource we need is our heart, our very life, no matter what shape it is in.  Both Jesus and Zen point to the fact that we will find this most important spiritual reality in the very stuff of our lives, in the very stuff of our everyday being.

However, now for the “bad news”–Jesus does not say to the scribe, “You have arrived.”  Rather he says, “You are not far.”  That means there still is a way to go; there still is something to do; there still is a bridge to cross over as it were.  And now this is crucial to grasp:  what that “not far” is for each person will be unique to each person–it is part and parcel of each person’s infinitely unique identity, part and parcel of that secret name they carry in their heart by which God calls them into being and by which in turn they and only they call God.  Therefore each person has a deep inarticulate grasp of that “not far” for them, but in fact they may not be able to recognize its exact nature and what it entails.  It may be manifested in a number of visible ways on the outer surfaces of life while  at the same time be totally concealed from a person’s self-reflection. It may be a particular task someone has to carry out in life; a special fidelity in the face of real suffering; a silent witness to the reality of God; a daily self-sacrifice for one’s family; a wrestling with a horrible personal problem that drowns one again and again in degradation, and so on and so on.  No matter.  The fact is that each of us is on this journey, and it is “not far.”

Now that “not far” may be as short a distance as the subatomic quark or as wide as the universe–all metaphorically speaking of course.  But it is a gap that needs stepping across.  And it might happen in one moment, or it can take a whole lifetime.  No matter.  Not far is not far.  And there is no technique, no recipe, no formula to cross that “distance.”  It is not that kind of distance or that kind of journey.  Anytime you are “in control” and “piloting” your self, well, you are doing something else, but it’s not “this.”  It may lead to feelings of peace, to a sense of religiosity, to a sense of “pleasing God,” even to a sense of “having arrived” somewhere, etc., but you have not traversed that “not far.” We are all rich in selfhood, and Jesus did say that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  But for God all things are possible.  So– abandon yourself to the will of God, to the presence of God in each and every moment, and you will discover how very not far you are from the kingdom of God.  It is as simple as that, and it is as difficult as that.


Two items from the recent news:

  1. The Obama Administration made a tentative modest proposal to set aside a large chunk of wilderness area in Utah and to designate it as “National Wilderness” or “National Monument” or some such title under some such law in order to protect this wilderness from ruin through exploitation.  It would only increase the size of the protected area that Clinton had already set aside.  You should hear the outcry.  Hordes of people and businesses and large companies cried “outrage,” “Federal Government keep out,” “local control,” “this is OUR land,” “socialism,” etc, etc.  The new designation would not have evicted anyone already living in this wilderness.  It would have restricted the use of ATVs–not eliminated them; it would have restricted the building of new structures, not totally prohibited them.  Most of all it would have prevented the creation of new roads, developments, and exploitation for natural resources like mining and generating plants.  I would have loved to ask these people exactly when did this land become “yours”?  When you stole it from the Native Americans and killed them in the process?
  1. A group of hunters in Alaska, hunting in a helicopter–probably fans of Sarah Palin, who subscribes to such practices–wiped out a pack of wolves.  What actually made this noteworthy is that these poor creatures had been tagged with radio collars.  So it was very easy to track them down–they had not a chance.

These two examples show a certain attitude and relationship to the “wild,” to the wilderness.  It can be characterized by the terms “dominance” and “exploitation.”  Though that is not all that is going on as we shall see–it is a view which is prominent in our culture.   People tend to look at the wilderness as something “to be used”–they will of course couch it in terms of benefit for humanity, etc.  Furthermore, this attitude has sometimes been seen as an evil offshoot of Western Civ and/or of Christianity.  However, the real picture is much more complex.  An alternative is sometime presented–a myth of serene Asians living in harmony with nature.  However, the reality is that the Chinese, for example, deforested their lands two thousand years ago.  Many ancient people were oblivious of the damage they were doing to their environment, except that they were less capable of damage than we are now.  Gary Snyder addresses the Asian myth:

“One finds evidence in T’ang and Sung poetry that the barren hills of central and northern China were once richly forested.  The Far Eastern love of nature has become fear of nature….  Chinese nature poets were too often retired bureaucrats living on two or three acres of trees trimmed by hired gardeners.  The professional nature-aesthetes of modern Japan, tea-teachers and flower arrangers, are amazed to hear  that only a century ago dozens of species of birds passed through Kyoto where today only  swallows  and sparrows can be seen, and the aesthetes can  scarcely distinguish those.  ‘Wild’ in the Far East means uncontrollable, objectionable, crude, sexually unrestrained, violent; actually ritually polluting.”

Again, Snyder:  “Although nature is a term that is not of itself threatening, the idea of the ‘wild’ in civilized societies–both Europe and Asian–is often associated with unruliness, disorder, and violence….  The word for ‘wild’ in Chinese, ye (Japanese ya) which basically means ‘open country,’ has a wide set of meanings:  in various combinations the term becomes illicit connection, desert country, an illegitimate child(open-country child), prostitute(open-country flower), and such….  In another context ‘open-country story’ becomes ‘fiction and fictitious romance.’  Other associations are usually with the rustic and uncouth.  In a way ye is taken to mean ‘nature at its worst.’  Although the Chinese and Japanese have long given lip service to nature, only the early Taoists might have thought that wisdom could come of wildness.”

What all this suggests is that our problematical relationship to the wilderness is an age-old problem and one that spans all cultures more or less.  It is in fact a human problem.  Let us be right up front–this is an axiom of our blog: human beings need wilderness in order to be fully human. We cannot prove this to be the case but we intuit its truth.  And a corollary that follows from it: what we do to the wilderness we do to ourselves. If this is true, then we are in deep trouble. And furthermore, if we live cut off or oblivious of real wilderness we become cut off from something deep within ourselves.  From the current issue of Adbusters:  “When we cut off arterial blood to an organ, the organ dies.  When you cut the flow of nature into people’s lives, their spirit dies.  It’s as simple as that.”

It is an undeniable fact that there is this dynamic in human beings toward civilization and culture.  We start out as hunters/gatherers/ herders, and we move toward farming, settlement and then  urbanity.  In the West, already in the Hebrew Bible,  you can see the tension between the values that lie on both sides of this divide.  In fact the city is already an ambiguous reality in the Old Testament.  It is out in the wilderness of the desert that one encounters the mystery of God in a very special way, while cities become the locus of prostitution, human sacrifices, economic injustices, war, tyrannical rulers, false religion, etc.  Today there is no such evident tension–there is for all practical purposes only the modern urban reality–everywhere.  Today most human beings in the West–and ever increasingly in Asia– live with all kinds of electronic media at their fingertips and are more likely to spend time with virtual reality than out in some wilderness.  (At this point we cannot address the separate problem of so many in the Third World who live in a situation that has been historically one of colonialism and exploitation to the point that they too are cut off from a healthy relationship with wilderness and at the same time benefitting little or not at all from modern gadgetry.)  If we are as human beings creatures who carry within ourselves a kind of balance of two sets of values–on the one hand that of civilizing the world around us, creating culture, and on the other that of cherishing and learning from the wilderness–then we can safely say that something has happened to the balance–it has tipped totally one way.  And this has been slowly going on for a long time and is coming to some kind of climax in our age.

A number of writers have addressed the problem eloquently and cogently and prophetically.  One thinks of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Edward Abbey, Joseph Wood Krutch, Barry Lopez, Bill McKibbin, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, etc.  There also have been fiction writers with a special sensitivity to the values of the wilderness–best example:  William Faulkner, maybe America’s greatest novelist.  And there have been prophetic organizations too, like Greenpeace and movements like Earth First–ambiguous at best in its willingness to condone a violent response to the exploiters and despoilers.  All these have been indeed a “voice in the wilderness”!!    And instead of blending all these voices into one blurred message, we will listen to them and comment on what they have to say in separate blog postings in the future–for they do have different things to say, differences in emphasis and approach and substance.  And the environmental movement as a whole has been a really mixed bag with really mixed results.  This too needs to be looked at

First, a few random quotes:

The Desert Fathers believed that the wilderness had been created as supremely valuable in the eyes of God precisely because it had no value to men.  The wasteland was the land that could never be wasted by men because it offered them nothing.  There was nothing to attract them.  There was nothing to exploit.

Thomas Merton

[Note: not true today–mining, power and tourist industries thrive out there]

If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.

Joseph Wood Krutch

The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.

John Muir

It has always been a part of basic human experience to live in a culture of wilderness.  There has been no wilderness without some kind of human presence for several hundred thousand years.  Nature is not a place to visit, it is home–and within that home territory there are more familiar and less familiar places.

Gary Snyder

Next, to begin with, let us get at least a bit of a handle on the “state of the problem”:  the wilderness areas of the United States have diminished to almost nothing.  What little is left is being slowly turned into “playgrounds” where people can run around in their “off-road” vehicles all over the place–the wilderness becomes a setting for our entertainment, the wilderness as theme park. Many people head out to the mountains in the winter to ski, play, socialize.  This is really not that far from the view of wilderness as a place to make money by extracting whatever you can from it.  John Muir saw the great forests of the Sierras as a cathedral in which his soul was fed with a deeper life; his immediate predecessors of the Gold Rush era saw the same forests as hiding untold wealth in gold and opportunity.  We have become a civilization that evaluates everything by its apparent “usefulness”–this is what makes something “valuable”–mostly usefulness for profit.  But as the early Taoists (as the Desert Fathers) have tried to teach us the very definition of “usefulness” is in question. Perhaps it is precisely that which appears “not useful” which may be most valuable and necessary; e.g., the empty hole in the center of a wheel, the empty space within the pot, etc.   So, the poet, the monk, the wilderness, as these “empty spaces”  are truly necessary ingredients of a truly human way of life.  Personal note:  I was once sitting in a roadside café in the Mojave Desert when a group of German tourists piled in.  They were travelling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.  One of them pulled out a map and asked me for help in finding the fastest route to Vegas.  I asked him why he wanted the fastest route. It was so beautiful out here.  He answered in his German accent:  “Because there’s nothing out here.”  It is precisely that “nothing” that we need, and we need to preserve it before it becomes “something.”

Gary Snyder:  “Thoreau says, ‘Give me a wildness no civilization can endure.’  That’s clearly not difficult to find.  It is harder to imagine a civilization that wilderness can endure, yet this is what we must try to do.  Wildness is not just the ‘preservation of the world,’ it is the world.  Civilizations east and west have long been on a collision course with wild nature, and now the developed nations in particular have the witless power to destroy not only individual creatures but whole species, whole processes, of the earth.  We need a civilization that can live fully and creatively together with wildness.”

Gary Snyder again:  “The longing for growth is not wrong.  The nub of the problem now is how to flip over, as in jujitsu, the magnificent growth energy of modern civilization into a nonacquisitive search for deeper knowledge of self and nature.  Self-nature.  Mother Nature.  If people come to realize that there are many nonmaterial , nondestructive paths of growth–of the highest and most fascinating order–it would help to dampen the common fear that a steady state economy would mean deadly stagnation.”

At this point it would be helpful to interject just a brief monastic note here.  Christian monks have a long history of making their homes “in the wilderness”.  Now it is true that the monasteries tended to become “outposts” of civilization of sorts, but in the hermit tradition there was this closer rapport with the wilderness.  The hermits often lived in caves or in small cabins in harmony with their surroundings and often, as the stories and myths unfold, making friends with the wild life around them.

On quite another note let us conclude with some words from Edward Abbey from his classic Desert Solitaire:

“Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages.  In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus.  When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.  Probably not.  In the second place most of what I write about in this book is already gone or going under fast.  This is not a travel guide but an elegy.  A memorial.  You’re holding a tombstone in your hands.  A bloody rock.  Don’t drop it on your foot–throw it at something big and glassy.  What do you have to lose?”

Not exactly monk-like, not exactly Gandhian, but you have to respect Abbey–his anger is pure, not self-centered; his passion authentic.  Like with Jesus and the money-changers in the temple!

Odds & Ends, II

D. T. Suzuki:  “The value of human life lies in the fact of suffering, for where there is no suffering, no consciousness of karmic bondage, there will be no power of attaining spiritual experience and thereby reaching the field of non-distinction.  Unless we agree to suffer we cannot be free from suffering.”

From Rumi:  ” Become silent and go by way of silence toward


And when you become nonexistent, you will be all

praise and laud.”

Something that the recent blog postings have been trying to say in a much more wordy way!

Astavakra Gita:

“The wiseman who has known the truth of the self plays the game of life and there is no similarity between his way of living and the deluded who live in the world as mere beasts of burden.”

“Where there is I, there is bondage.  Where there is no I, there is release.  Neither reject nor accept anything.”

70% of Americans are church-goers; 70% of Americans believe that torture is ok if our security is at stake.

The religious/spiritual dimensions of our economic/political situation–two examples:

  1. The top 1% of the U.S. population own 35% of the wealth of this country.  The next 19%, the managerial, professional class, own 50% of the wealth.  Add that up and you see that the top 20% of the population owns 85% of the wealth of the U.S.  That means the “bottom” 80% owns only 15% of the wealth.  This illustrates the myth of the middle class–it is being squeezed out of existence.  And both Democrats and Republicans are responsible, but of course the latter much more so.  Even Aristotle long ago pointed out that it is not a healthy society when there is a large disparity in wealth distribution.
  2. The recent tragic mine accident in West Virginia.  Such a needless loss of life.  Never mind that we should be getting out of coal to start with, but even so, this particular mine had so many violations of safety regulations that it was ridiculous that it was even allowed to operate.  Profit above all else–making money is all that matters.  And of course the only reason this mine was allowed to operate is that government mechanisms to enforce even the feeble laws that were still there had been gutted out.  Reagan and the 2 Bush presidencies did a lot to gut out government safety regulations.  But the amazing fact is that these miners by and large voted for these men!  In large percentages.  Amazing that people can be so fooled, so deluded, as to vote against their own self-interest.  But they are being fooled and deluded by a mechanism that is out there working very hard to do just that.  This is what keeps that top 1% in control.

Now where are all the churches in all this.  Not a peep really.  Not a voice to counter that propaganda machine.  Gandhi saw problems like this as deeply religious problems that needed addressing.  He was murdered.  Martin Luther Kind, Jr. had at the end of his life connected all the dots–he was no longer just speaking of civil rights for Blacks but saw the war, the economy, and how all people are treated as one big problem that was at root a religious problem and needed to be addressed through a religious commitment.  He was murdered.  Robert Kennedy also saw the light.  He was murdered.  Not much more to say.  Except the silence of all the churches is astounding.

Ancient Greek saying:  “When the gods want to punish us, they grant us our desires.”

Tarkovsky(maker of Andrei Rublev):   “Modern mass culture is crippling people’s souls, it is erecting barriers between man and the crucial questions of his existence, his consciousness of himself as a spiritual being.”

President Eisenhower(1953):  “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

From John Wu’s The Golden Age of Zen: “To Huang-po, as to all Zen Masters, the ‘self-server’ does not really attain selfhood.  He is a  self-enclosed and egocentric seeker of happiness.  But he will not attain true happiness because, instead of being the ‘true man’ that he is, who IS happiness itself, he places happiness outside himself, as something to be strained after.  In fact, he is pursuing an illusory object.”

One of the more cogent surveys of the critical literature concerning the deleterious effects of electronic technology on our minds and hearts can be found in this review in the New York Times by Michiko Kakutani:

Sufi notion:  When we reach perfect servanthood, it is God himself who says “I”.

Adapted from the Sufis:  When God “draws near” you start “subtracting” –you start to lose things — but not until you lose “I” do you know your Friend.

Jan van Ruysbroeck:  “The image of God is found essentially and personally in all mankind.  Each possesses it whole, entire and undivided, and all together not more than one alone.  In this way we are all one, intimately united in our eternal image, which is the image of God and the source in us of all our life.”

Black Elk:  “I am blind and do not see the things of this world; but when the light comes from Above, it enlightens my Heart and I can see, for the Eye of my Heart sees everything: and through this vision I can help my people.  The heart is a sanctuary at the Center of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye.  This is the Eye of Wakantanka by which He sees all things, and through which we see Him.”

Meister Eckhart:  “The eye with which I see God is the same as that with which he sees me.  My eye and the eye of God are one eye, one vision, one knowledge, and one love.”

Gandhi:  “What I have been striving and pining to achieve is to see God face to face.  All that I do by way of speaking and writing is directed to this same end.”

Comment:  If you saw that great movie, Gandhi, you would never guess this.  As good as that movie was in depicting Gandhi, in showing his great political skill and his great moral sensitivity and ideals, it completely missed the very foundations of his life.

A most amazing fact: our death!  It is certain, and it is universal–everyone, no matter how accomplished or how gifted or how wealthy or how anything, everyone arrives at this fact sooner or later.  There is a fear of it, even though this is “the” great adventure of our existence.    Partly because of the “unknown factor.”  No matter our easy words about the so-called afterlife, there is still a little pit of fear deep inside us about what lies “on the other side.”  Also, the finality of it is scary–there is no “turning back.” (Tolstoy was terrified of the thought of his death.) But the bigger part of this fear is simply the letting go that we are called to as we die–everything that we have constructed about ourselves, all our accomplishments, all our history,  all our possessions,  all our stories about ourselves, all our credentials, all our pretensions,  all our sense of our identity, all our lies, all our self-deceptions, all the “solidity” of our world, all our “likes” and “dislikes,”  everything begins to dissolve as we die and there is NOTHING to do but to let go.  It is precisely this enormous superstructure of our identity which seems to be slipping into nothing–our sense of the “self” is like a knot, and then the knot is undone, and then we are “free” but what is “left”?— what an amazing adventure it will be for each of us…….

A few words are needed about all the news concerning the sex abuse of children and young adults within the Catholic Church.  Without a doubt this is a tragic and unspeakably awful thing to have been inflicted on these vulnerable youngsters.  (There are even cases involving deaf children who were in the care of the Church.)   Also, certainly the perpetrators of these abuses are very sick individuals.  However what the rest of us need to look at is why this happened and the response of the Church to the problem.  And it is not a  pretty picture!

What is amazing, at least to this blogger, is the widespread prevalence of the abuse cases–they are not limited to any one country or culture.  They are everywhere in the Church!  When the first cases emerged into the light in the Boston area of the U.S., European and Vatican officials were smug and said that this was an American problem.  Conservative spokesmen blamed the problem on “liberalism” in the Church.  However, as we now see the problem is literally everywhere, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the U.S.  And it has come to light that the founder of the ultraconservative Legion of Mary was a total pervert who hurt hundreds of young people in his sickness.  Definitely the problem was NOT liberalism in the Church–there was even a sex scandal of sorts right within the Vatican.  A very disturbing question is why and how do all these very sick people find a home within the confines of the Church.  True, as some Vatican officials have said, this problem of pedophilia is not limited to the church, but it still is troubling of why they have gravitated in such numbers into the embrace of the church.  No one seems to want to address this question.

The other problem is the response of the Catholic Church as these problems emerged.  It is nothing less than shameful and disgusting.  The concern has been primarily one of “protecting” the Church and its high officials. While on the one hand the bishops are “wringing their hands” and crying out about the awfulness of what has emerged into the light; on the other hand they hire high priced lawyers to fight tooth and nail those who have come forward to get some justice from the Church. Even with all the skill of these lawyers, they already have had to pay out about 2 billion dollars in the U.S. alone–but on the condition that the cases be sealed so nothing about them can come out into public.  One senses a cover-up.   One senses that there is a much bigger story underneath this tragedy, but that has yet to come out if it ever will.  Furthermore, there is one theological point to make here that the Church’s secular critics are less sensitive to.  The institution of the Church has been over the centuries “over defined” as a divine institution.  How much of it is a human construct and how much it is prone to human error has been minimized in official church theology.  The average Catholic in the pew tended to look at his/her church as this divine institution which was always of course right.  History shows us quite the contrary! Also, it seems that every position in the Catholic Church, whether it be pastor, bishop, cardinal, abbot, etc., has taken on this attitude that strikes one almost as an antithesis of the Gospel.  Instead of being “lowly and humble,” instead of taking “the lowest places and living most humbly,” these people have taken on this monarchical, royal aura.  It is secular power and pride dressed in religiosity.   Consider the institution of the pope–it is actually a beautiful notion and a necessary one perhaps.  It is good to have a human embodiment of the Church’s unity and universality and continuity over the centuries–someone who calls all of us to greater fidelity to the Gospel; someone who reminds us that the Church is a much bigger reality than our own concerns or our own culture or our own fashions, etc.  But that does not mean that the pope has to be this monarchical figure encased in an enormous palace with a huge bureaucracy to police the institution.  What if the pope were more like Gandhi, what if all his belongings fit in one little bag, and he lived in a kind of ashram,  and he led primarily by example.   Just a thought.  It is absolutely false to think that the Vatican and the monarchical papacy is a “divine creation.”

Miura, a modern Zen Buddhist Roshi:  “When we enter the Sodo the first instructions we receive is ‘give up your life!’  It is easy to pronounce the words ‘give up your life’ but to do so is a difficult matter.  However, if we do not put an end once and for all to that which is called ‘self’ by cutting it off and throwing it away, we can never accomplish our practice.  When we do, a strange world reveals itself to us, a world surpassing our reckoning, where he who has cast away his self gains everything and he who grasps for everything with his illusory concepts in the end loses everything, even himself.”

Comment:  Jesus would agree.

The Most Important Words

Jesus speaks these words on Good Friday while hanging from the cross:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what  they do.”

“Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

“It is finished.”

These may be the most important words in Christianity.

It might seem strange to be bringing forth words associated with Good Friday during the Easter celebration.  However, recall that we cannot separate/lose sight of Good Friday during the Easter celebration and we cannot forget the Resurrection during Good Friday.  The two are joined together as one experience and one celebration.  It is something like our Buddhist friends saying that nirvana = samsara when you finally see it from the standpoint of your buddha nature.

Lets push this a bit further: discover the Resurrection in these very words.  This presents the ultimate koan from a Christian perspective because these words are a like a wall of no-knowledge that you cannot rationalize away into an explanation on a rational level. Sit before this wall until there is only the Risen Christ.  So Happy Easter to all!