November 13, 2017 at 7:46 am #2392Acharya Sujatin (temple host)Moderator
“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”
Being “Poor in Spirit” is often understood to mean, “being humble.” This is not the affected humility of “polite society” with which we are all familiar. Rather, in this passage from Matthew, Jesus is describing a radical humility that opens us up to the “Kingdom of God.” It is the experiential recognition that we are completely dependent upon others for our existence. Without the earth, the sea, the sky — the whole universe — we could not exist. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, are all the result of others’ work. Our body is a gift from our parents and the sustaining circumstances of life. Even our thoughts arise— usually unasked — from previous thought moments and experiences.
Radical humility deconstructs our personal and social myth of independence. It unmask the lie of separateness! Radical humility reveals our total dependence on others.
While such a realization may be disheartening for some, within a religious context it is liberating. It is an experience of joyous gratitude, which is the heart of religious experience. All the little mundane moments of life are perceived as the gifts they are. Each moment is fresh and new. Humility allows us to rejoice in the simple pleasures of life: the air we breath, the water we drink, the love an support of friends and family. We discover Jesus’ “Kingdom of God,” or Amida Buddha’s Land of Love and Bliss all around us.
What then do we do? Do we keep this joy and insight to ourselves or do we share it with others? Many choose the former. But in today’s challenging times we need people willing to live humble lives of overflowing gratitude. We need people willing to work to reify the “Kingdom of God” — not through dogmatism or fundamentalism — but through loving and compassionate action. We need inspired visionaries working side by side to free the world from the evils of want, war, and discrimination.
The work begins, however, from a place of radical humility. We start by recognizing our limitations and our dependence upon one another. No one is completely other or separate. No one can do it all. We are in this together. Racial humility offers the key to spiritual and social transformation.
Therefore, may we all be “poor in spirit” and collectively discover the “Kingdom of God,” in our hearts and in the world around us.
Peace, Paul (@ananda)
November 13, 2017 at 4:04 pm #2403
Thank you Ananda, an inspiring piece. I’m glad I’m not the only one who speaks about God & Amida in the same breath 🙂
November 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm #2406CarolineParticipant
Thank you – this is a wonderful idea – radical humility…less ego and more happiness/kindness.
I was struck with a quote (I may be mis quoting) from Leonard Cohen – “the less of me there is, the happier I am”
And interconectedness means we are not alone…
Thank you again, Caz X
November 15, 2017 at 3:03 am #2408AnandaParticipant
Thanks for the warm words. I think we could have quite a long discussion about God and Amida. Personally, I don’t really like mudding the waters by equating God and Amida. I do think there are parallels between Jesus’ references to the “Kingdom of Heaven/God” (basileia) and Amida’s pureland. The Gospels are generally better in grounding our understanding of a sacred realm of awakening in a shared and historical experience of life. Whereas the The Longer Pureland Sutra goes into more depth about the transcendent or future nature of a realm of awakening. Both Jesus’s basileia and sukhavati can be experienced as imminent and transcendent.
Having said all of the above, my upbringing in a very conservative Christian household — heavy emphasis on hell and judgement — makes me wary of using the term “God” without a lot of preconditions and shared understanding. The God portrayed in parts of the so called “Old Testament” is pretty awful. Even today, there are a lot of Christian believers that follow a hateful and judgmental God, a God of exclusion instead of inclusion.
Amida simply offers us unconditional love and compassion. The Jesus teachings are potent and moving. They point us toward an all loving God that demands action to protect and help the vulnerable and oppressed. But we do need to be honest about the wrathful, prideful, jealous, and judgmental nature of the God in the Bible.
For me personally, Amida and the Christian God are different. Though we can visit various Christian Pure Lands (basiliea) and learn from its great teachers and pay homage to the Buddhas we encounter in those Lands.
Namo Amida Bu!
November 15, 2017 at 3:28 pm #2410
Thanks Ananda – yes, I’m sure we could have a long & interesting conversation! I’m ‘lucky’ in that I haven’t got a history of a relationship with Christianity and so can come to the readers I know (Henri Nouwen, Thomas Kelly, Richard Rohr etc) from a naive perspective. I guess my current way of thinking of it is that Amida & God are both attempts at describing Dharmakaya, but as you say there is lots of stuff in the Bible that characterises the kind of God who wouldn’t be a Buddha, as Dh puts it. When we come to Hawaii (or vice versa) let’s put this conversation on the agenda! Namo Amida Bu _/\_
November 16, 2017 at 8:24 am #2411
Coincidentally I’ve just started reading a book by Mirabai Starr, ‘God of Love: A guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam’, and love this quote she starts with:
“Ever since I was a little girl, I have been drawn to the living heart of every spiritual tradition I have encountered. Like a night wanderer who comes across a sanctuary in the woods, I peer through a stained-glass window, aching to enter and bow down at the altar I see blazing within”.
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