Richard Rohr – „Do Not Be Afraid”

I am aware of the phrase “true self” occurring only once in the Bible. Paul used the words to describe what he was desperately trying to locate in the midst of some major trials with his false self. He wrote of it in a telling way: “When I act against my own will, then it […]

via Richard Rohr – Do Not Be Afraid — Persona

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Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

On Death and Resurrection

There is a thread you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread. 

—William Stafford [1]

My words for the thread that Stafford speaks of are the True Self. Your True Self is who you are, and always have been, created in the image and likeness of God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower. Most of human history has called the True Self your “soul” or your participation in the eternal life of God.

The great surprise and irony is that “you,” or who you think you are, have nothing to do with your True Self’s original creation, and you can never get rid of it. It’s sort of disempowering and utterly empowering at the same time, isn’t it? All you can do is nurture your True Self, which is saying quite a lot. It is love becoming love in this unique form called “me.”

The dying process at every stage of life is a natural opportunity to let go of the small, separate self and return to the fullness of True Self. Kathleen Dowling Singh, who spent hundreds of hours contemplatively ministering to dying people, wrote:

As we return and/or are returned to our Original Nature, virtues that we have acquired, usually through deliberate cultivation, flow naturally as water from a spring. The qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, presence, centeredness, spaciousness, mercy, and confidence all radiate naturally forth from our transformed being as we come closer to death. . . . Many a time I have seen the dying comfort those in pain around them. . . .

Love appears to be the last connection the dying have with the world of form. We become expressive vehicles for the power of the Ground of Being [i.e., God], inhabited and vitalized by far greater Being. . . . The Ground of Being is, in a very real sense, Love. As we merge with it, self-consciousness and all questions of self-worth and previous psychological issues of lovability spontaneously melt. Love simultaneously pours into and pours out of us. . . .

With this basic change in identity, in the sense of who we are, death is no longer seen through the peephole of the mental ego. It ceases being a frightening enemy, a defeat, an unfortunate error in the universe and becomes, instead, an incredible moment of growth and transformation. It is a graduation into a previously unimaginable scale of being. [2]

 

[1] William Stafford, “The Way It Is,” Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems (Graywolf Press: 1977; © 1998, 2014 by William Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford), 42. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.

[2] Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Dying: A Message of Hope, Comfort, and Spiritual Transformation (HarperOne: 2000), 211-212.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self(Jossey-Bass: 2013), 176-177.

Une année commence

Dans le monde juif.

Dès ce dimanche soir, on sera en 5779 !

Wikipedia: Roch Hachana (hébreu : ראש השנה לשניםroch hachana lachanim, « commencement de l’année pour les années civiles ») est une fête juive célébrant la nouvelle année civile du calendrier hébraïque. Appelée « jour de la sonnerie » ou « du souvenir de la sonnerie » dans la Bible, elle est également considérée dans la tradition rabbinique comme le jour du jugement de l’humanité, inaugurant ainsi une période de dix jours de pénitence dans l’attente du grand pardon accordé aux repentants à Yom Kippour.

Elle est fêtée les deux premiers jours du mois de tishri, en terre d’Israël comme en Diaspora. Ces jours ont lieu, selon les années, en septembre ou en octobre dans le calendrier grégorien.

Le rite principal de cette fête solennelle est la sonnerie du chofar, corne de bélier dans laquelle on souffle sur différents rythmes pour inviter l’assemblée au repentir et à l’introspection. Une coutume plus tardive s’est développée dans de nombreuses communautés de consommer des mets symboliques dans un but propitiatoire.

Il est de coutume, depuis le Moyen Âge, d’inclure dans sa correspondance les vœux que le destinataire soit « inscrit et scellé pour une bonne année ». Ces souhaits sont réitérés en sortant des synagogues lors des deux soirs de la fête (on ne le fait pas en journée car le jugement est en cours).

Nourriture symbolique du Roch Hachana.

 

Les Juifs devant manifester leur confiance en la mansuétude divine par la joie, les repas de fête sont dignes de l’occasion. La table comporte des aliments symbolisant, parfois par des jeux de mots, l’année que l’on espère heureuse et les aliments aigres ou âpres sont évités. Cette coutume, déjà mentionnée dans le Talmud, a connu diverses variantes et été fortement développée par les kabbalistes de Safed en un séder de Roch Hachana.

http://www.consistoire.org/112.le/287.roch-hachana:

Roch Hachana, littéralement „Tête de l’Année” est le Nouvel An juif.

Il rappelle :

– La création d’Adam et Eve, créés à l’image divine, et dont descend l’humanité tout entière.

– La ligature d’Isaac, quand l’Eternel refusa le sacrifice humain pour le sacrifice animal.

La leçon de Roch Hachana est double : L’humanité dans son ensemble, peuples, individus, est jugée par le Juge suprême, afin de souligner le partenariat irréversible qui existe entre le Créateur et ses créatures. Ce jugement divin fait écho à la liberté et à la responsabilité des hommes, les uns par rapport aux autres.

Comme Adam puis Caïn, chaque personne doit répondre à Roch Hachana à deux questions : « Où es-tu ? » et « Où est ton frère ? »

En refusant le sacrifice d’Isaac, l’Eternel a enseigné que le service divin ne pouvait passer que par le sacrifice de son animalité intérieure et non par l’assassinat de l’homme.

En écoutant la corne de bélier (chofar), nous nous rappelons ces leçons, afin de revenir vers notre Père et d’accepter sa volonté.

choffar

Sources bibliques

«Et l’Eternel parla à Moché en ces termes : Parle aux enfants d’Israël en ces termes : Et le septième mois, le premier du mois sera pour vous jour chômé, souvenir de sonnerie, appel de sainteté, vous ne ferez aucun travail, et vous approcherez des sacrifices au nom de l’Eternel.»

(Lévitique Vayikra XIX).

« Et le septième mois, le premier du mois sera un appel de sainteté pour vous, ce sera un jour de sonnerie. »

Sens

A Roch Hachana, tous les habitants de la terre passent devant Lui comme le troupeau du berger, ainsi qu’il est dit : „Celui qui a façonné ensemble leur cœur, distingue tous leurs actes.” 

(Traité Roch Hachana 16a)

« Pourquoi sonne-t-on d’une corne de bélier à Roch Hachana ? Ainsi répond le Saint, béni soit-Il : Sonnez devant mois la corne de bélier, afin que Je me souvienne, pour vous, de la ligature d’Isaac fils d’Abraham et J’en tiendrai compte comme si chacun d’entre vous avait été lié devant Moi. »

(Ibid.)

« Trois livres sont ouverts à Roch Hachana, le premier pour les vrais pervers, un autre pour les justes parfaits et un troisième pour les individus moyens. Les justes parfaits sont immédiatement inscrits dans la livre de la vie, les méchants immédiatement inscrits dans la livre de la mort, quant aux moyens leur jugement est suspendu de Roch Hachana à Kippour, s’ils sont méritants ils sont inscrits pour la vie, s’ils ne sont pas méritants, ils sont inscrits pour la mort. »

(Ibid.)

« Les anges du service divin ont demandé au Saint, béni soit-Il : Maître du monde pourquoi Israël ne récite-t-il pas de chants de louange à Roch Hachana et à Kippour ? Il leur dit : Est-ce possible qu’au moment où le Roi est assis pour juger et devant qui les livres de la vie et de la mort sont ouverts, qu’Israël entonne des chants ? »

(Ibid. 32b)

« Bien que la mitsva de sonner le shoffar à Roch Hachana soit un décret divin, il s’y trouve une allusion, à savoir : „réveillez-vous de votre sommeil, et vous les endormis levez-vous de votre somnolence” faites un bilan de vos actes, revenez en repentir et souvenez-vous de votre Créateur. Et vous qui oubliez la vérité par la perte de temps, et qui perdez vos années en vanité et en leurre sans aucune valeur, observez votre âme, considérez vos conduites et vos fautes et que chacun abandonne son mauvais chemin et ses mauvaises pensées. »

(Rambam. Lois sur le repentir)

Le seder de Roch Hachana

seder

seder

Dinim & Lois pratiques

Veille de Roch Hachana

1 – Certains ont l’habitude de jeûner la vieille de Roch Hachana, afin de bien se préparer spirituellement et d’entrer dans le grand jugement avec crainte et humilité (Maran 581, 2. Ben ich Haï paracha Nitsavim).

2 – On ne récite pas les supplications, tahanounim, la veille de Roch Hachana, ni à chaharit, ni à minha, et bien qu’elles aient été récitées aux Sélihot, car Roch Hachana possède malgré tout un caractère de fête. (Maran ibid., 3). De même, on ne sonnera pas le shoffar, afin de marquer une interruption avec le jour de Roch Hachana lui-même, où la mitsva du jour consiste justement à écouter le shoffar. (Maran ibid.)

3 – Certains ont l’habitude d’aller se recueillir au cimetière sur les tombes de leurs parents ou des rabbins et de réciter des prières de circonstance (voir livre de Roch Hachana). Mais on ne priera pas les morts, et on adressera sa prière à l’Eternel en évoquant le mérite de ceux qui ne sont plus. (Rama 581, 4. Michna béroura note 27. Kaf hahaïm note 95). Comme d’habitude, le Cohen ne pourra se rendre au cimetière.

4 – Nous nous lavons et nous nous rendons chez le coiffeur la veille de Roch Hachana, pour témoigner de notre confiance en l’Eternel qui pardonnera nos fautes (Maran ibid., 4). Certains ont l’habitude de se tremper dans un bain rituel, mikvé, à défaut on prendra une douche en versant sur son corps 12,5 litres d’eau. (Rama ibid. Michna béroura 26. Ben ich Haï ibid.)

5 – Dans beaucoup de communautés, on procède à l’annulation des vœux, hatarat nédarim, après l’office, afin de ne pas garder le poids d’engagements qu’on n’aurait pas tenus. (Hayé Adam ibid.)

Prières de Roch Hachana & cérémonies du soir

1 – A la prière du soir, on récite le poème liturgique ahot kétana « Petite sœur » qui porte en refrain « que l’année se termine avec ses malédictions » et qui s’achève par « que commence l’année et ses bénédictions. » Puis l’on entamera les psaumes du jour et la prière avec crainte et humilité devant le Juge suprême. (Hayé Adam 139, 1).

2 – Dans la troisième bénédiction de la amida on termine : « Béni sois-Tu Roi de sainteté », ha mélekh haqadoch, et non „Dieu de sainteté” comme toute l’année. Si l’on se rend compte de son erreur immédiatement, on se corrigera, sinon on recommencera depuis le début. (Maran 582, 1).

3 – Dans la amida, on rajoute des formules de supplication comme « Inscris-nous dans la vie … » ou « Qui est comme Toi. » Si on a omis ces passages on ne se reprendra pas. (Maran ibid., 5 et Rama).

4 – A la fin de l’office, on se congratulera l’un l’autre par la formule « que tu sois inscrit pour une bonne année de vie », léchana tova tikatev. (Rama 582, fin).

5 – A la maison, la table sera dressée, les lumières allumées en signe de bénédiction et de joie. Puis l’on procédera au kiddouch des fêtes et récitant, les deux soirs la bénédiction chéhiyanou, et on a l’habitude le second soir de mettre sur la table un nouveau fruit, mais ce n’est pas obligatoire (Ben ich Haï ibid.)

6 – Certains ont l’habitude de procéder à la cérémonie du soir de Roch Hachana avant le lavage des mains et d’autres après. Chacun suivra sa coutume paternelle. On apportera donc sur la table toutes sortes d’aliments dont le nom ou le goût évoque de bons présages, comme les dattes, la grenade, la pomme au miel, la blette, la courge, le sésame, etc. Dans le cas où l’on prendrait cette collation avant le lavage des mains, on commencera par réciter la bénédiction sur les dattes (boré péri aets) puis sur un légume (boré péri adama). Dans le cas où l’on aurait déjà fait nétilat yadayim, alors on ne récitera pas du tout boré péri adama. En ce qui concerne la formule de yéhi ratson (cf. les livres de Roch Hachana), l’idéal est d’agir ainsi : on récite boré péri aets sur la datte, on en goûte un peu, puis on récite yéhi ratson et l’on finit le fruit, (de même pour le légume, si on le consomme avant nétilat yadayim. Ensuite on consommera tous les aliments en récitant le yéhi ratson adéquat. (Resp. Yéhavé daat I, 51).

7 – Le matin on récitera avant Hachem mélekh, Hachem hou HaElokim (bis) et ce durant les dix jours de téchouva. de même le psaume mimaamakim entre yichtabah et le yoster, et Avinou malkénou après la amida (Kaf hahaïm 582, notes 13 et 14). En ce qui concerne Avinou malkénou le Chabat on suivra l’usage de l’endroit, sans créer de zizanie.

8 – On se réjouira avec une belle table, et on ne jeûnera pas à Roch Hachana. (Maran 597, 1).

9 – Après l’office de minha du premier jour, on se rendra auprès d’un fleuve, d’une rivière d’un lac, pour réciter, tachlikh, qui symbolise la destruction des péchés dans la mer selon l’image du prophète Sophonie (Sophonie . Rama 583, 2). Si le premier jour tombe un Chabat, on récitera tachlikh, le second jour, afin de ne pas porter les livres durant Chabat.

Lois concernant l’écoute du choffar

1- C’est un commandement positif de la Torah d’écouter le choffar à Roch Hachana ainsi qu’il est dit ; „Ce sera un jour de sonnerie pour vous.” Du fait des conditions de l’exil, nous avons perdu la manière exacte de sonner et nous ne savons plus s’il s’agit de sons rapides et saccadés (nommés téroua et représenté dans nos livres par un R) ou s’il s’agit de sons plus longs et entrecoupés (nommés chévarim, représenté par un CH), ce que nous savons c’est ce que cette sonnerie antique était précédée et suivie d’un son long (nommé tékia, représenté par un T). Afin de nous acquitter de notre devoir, nous combinons toutes les possibilités, trois fois chacune. Ce qui donne : T.CH.R.T x 3 ; T.CH.T x 3 ; T.R.T x 3, ce qui donne un total de 30 sonneries. (Rambam Lois du choffar III,1 à 3. Maran 590, 1 et 2).

2 – Nous avons la coutume de sonner également 30 sonneries durant la lecture à voix basse du moussaf, ainsi que 30 pendant la répétition, ce qui fait 90. S’ajoutent 10 sonneries au moment du dernier Kaddish, ce qui fait un total de 100 sonneries. (Kaf hahaïm 585, note 28, 592, note 1. Resp. Yéhavé daat VI,37)

3 – Il est interdit de consommer une collation comportant plus de 56 g. de pain (kébétsa) avant d’avoir entendu le choffar. Mais une petite collation de fruits ou de pain inférieur à cette quantité est licite. (Resp. Yalkout Yossef Lois du shoffar 9)

4 – Le sonneur doit penser acquitter chaque membre de l’assemblée, et chaque membre doit penser être acquitté par le sonneur. Et il est bon que le sonneur rappelle cette règle avant de sonner. C’est pourquoi au moment de la bénédiction, les fidèles ne s’interrompront pas par la formule baroukh hou ou baroukh chémo, mais répondront simplement amen. (Ben ich Haï paracha Nitsavim 14. Kaf hahaïm ibid. Note 12, Kitsour choulkhan aroukh 129, 14.)

5- Il est interdit au sonneur et aux fidèles de s’interrompre entre la bénédiction et les sonneries. Et durant les sonneries on ne récitera pas de supplications par sa bouche, mais on pensera à se repentir sincèrement. (Resp. Yabia omer I, 36, III, 34. Resp Igrot Moché II Orah haïm 36)

6 – Une personne qui n’aurait pu se rendre à la synagogue et qui recevrait un sonneur chez elle, devra elle-même réciter les bénédictions, mais si elle ne sait pas le sonneur récitera pour elle. Et si la personne peut rester debout au moment des sonneries, elle gardera cette position. (Michna béroura 585, note 5. Ben ich Haï ibid. 17)

Lois des 10 jours de Téchouva

1 – Durant les dix jours de Téchouva, nous terminerons la troisième bénédiction de la amida par la formule „Roi de sainteté” (hamélekh hakadoch), au lieu de « Dieu de sainteté », afin de prendre conscience que l’Eternel est le Roi et le Juge suprême. Si par habitude, nous avons dit „Dieu de sainteté”, mais qu’immédiatement nous nous reprenons, nous poursuivrons la prière, par contre si nous nous rendons compte de notre erreur après coup, ou même si nous ressentons un doute, il faudra reprendre la amida à son début. (Maran 582, 1 et 2)

2 – De même, dans la bénédiction dans laquelle nous demandons le retour des juges appliquant les règles de Torah, nous conclurons « Roi du jugement » au lieu de « Roi qui aime la tsédaka et le jugement ». Là encore si nous nous sommes trompés, nous pouvons nous raviser immédiatement, sinon nous nous reprendrons au début de cette bénédiction, même dans un cas de doute. (Maran ibid. Resp. Yéhavé daat I, 57.)

3 – Le ministre-officiant mentionnera dans la bénédiction meïn chéva (bénédiction qui suit la amida) du vendredi soir « Qui est comme le Roi de sainteté ! » S’il s’est trompé, il se reprendra tant qu’il n’a pas conclu la bénédiction « qui sanctifie le Chabat » mekadech hachabat, s’il a conclu, il ne se reprendra pas. (Maran ibid. 3. Resp. Yabia omer II, 29.)

4 – Dans la amida des dix jours, nous intercalerons des formules liturgiques qui rappellent le jugement divin et notre souhait d’être inscrits dans le livre de la vie et de la paix. Si nous avons omis ces formules, tant que nous n’avons pas récité la bénédiction qui les suit, nous pourrons nous reprendre, sinon nous continuerons la prière. Il est toutefois possible de les mentionner dans la bénédiction « qui écoute la prière » choméa téfila, voire dans la conclusion « Mon Dieu garde mes lèvres. » (Kol Sinaï lois des dix jours de Téchouva 5)

5 – Durant les offices du Chabbat, nous avons l’habitude de réciter Notre Père, Notre Roi, avinou malkénou, en omettant les passages qui évoquent les fautes et les transgressions, ce qui ne sied pas avec la joie inhérente au Chabbat. Dans certaines communautés cette prière n’est pas récitée, chacun suivra la coutume du lieu sans créer de zizanie (Resp. Yéhavé daat ibid. 54)

6 – Que l’homme ne se sente point éloigné du niveau des justes qui l’ont précédé, à cause de ses transgressions et de ses fautes, mais qu’il pense qu’il est aimé et précieux devant le Créateur (qu’Il soit exalté) comme s’il n’avait jamais fauté. Et qui plus est, sa récompense sera importante, car cet homme a connu le goût du péché, et s’en est écarté en dominant sa passion. Et c’est sur lui que les sages zal ont dit : « Dans le lieu où se tiennent les repentants, même les justes parfaits ne peuvent se tenir. » (Rambam, Lois sur la Téchouva VII, 4)

„Buddha: The Great Physician”

Buddha: The Great Physician

The Buddha is compared to a doctor because he treated the suffering that ails all of us. His diagnosis and cure, says Zen teacher Norman Fischer, is called the four noble truths.

„It is said that just as the Buddha was close to approaching awakening, his nemesis Mara appeared, desperately determined to stop him. Mara’s attack centered on the Buddha’s body, first with sensual temptations, next with threats of harm.

This lurid archetypical scene—the Buddha serenely sitting, Mara’s minions hurling arrows and flames—is the very image of the human drama. Our bodies are under attack. Flesh is vulnerable. And yet, if we are determined, wise, and strong, we can avoid defeat. Like the Buddha, we can not only endure; we can heal and transcend. We can become enlightened beings.

The Buddha is often called the Great Healer. He is the ultimate physician, providing medicine to cure the human disease. His four noble truths follow the classical medical model of diagnosis, treatment, and cure. In their classical formulation they are: 1. The truth of suffering (diagnosis); 2. The truth of origination (cause); 3. The truth of stopping (cure); 4. The truth of the path (treatment).

The diagnosis is drastic: “All conditioned existence has the nature of suffering.” That is, we human beings are inherently ill, even when we think we are not. What we think of as health isn’t really that, for beneath our apparent health, illness lurks.

The Buddha asserted that our disease can be cured.

Illness is the basic human condition. The cause of this condition is desire, which includes not only sensual desire but even the very desire to remain healthy and to stay alive. As long as we cling and grasp we will suffer, because nothing can be held onto. Everything changes, slipping away moment by moment.

Since we can never eliminate desire, our condition seems hopeless. Yet the Buddha asserted that our disease can be cured. That is, though desire can’t be got rid of, it can be clarified and transmuted. Healing is possible. The fourth truth, the path, outlines the course of treatment—a thoroughgoing way of living and understanding that will bring us to full health and wholeness, if only we practice it with diligence.

This straightforward program sounds good to us empowered modern people conditioned by generations of scientific know-how and progress.  We believe that health is good and illness is bad and can be eliminated. With enough effort and energy, and with good doctors and psychotherapists, we can, like the Buddha, overcome suffering. We can defeat Mara.

But notice that in the gentle stories of the Buddha’s life, as told in the Pali suttas, Mara is never entirely defeated. He appears throughout the Buddha’s lifetime, constantly trying to foil the great sage. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, in one traditional tale Mara becomes discouraged, and the Buddha tells him, “Mara, don’t quit! I need you. Without you I can’t be Buddha.” Buddha and Mara depend on one another.

What is health? What is illness? In the modern medical model, health is the default, the norm. When I get my blood test, I want to hear that all my indicators are in the “normal” range, which means I am healthy. Illness is, by this definition, abnormal.

But as the first noble truth implies, there is no ultimate physical health. The human body can’t be perfectly free of impediment. There is always something more or less wrong. Even a child has bumps and afflictions, and throughout our lives illness and health are constantly jockeying for dominance. What we call health is simply a brief period of homeostasis. Even a person who seems to have preserved this homeostasis for a lifetime will undergo aging, in which physical vitality gradually decreases until it breaks down entirely and death occurs. Health is an illusion.

“Health” and “healing” literally mean “wholeness.” Wholeness implies inclusion of everything—of well-being as well as illness, the good along with the bad—into a larger sphere. In spiritual cultures, notions of healing and health always evoke a category larger than physical and psychological well-being, though physical and psychological well-being are included in it.

People may imagine that after his awakening the Buddha lived a healthy, happy, trouble-free life. But the Buddha’s life after his awakening was not trouble-free. There were moments of frustration with fractious members of his community. There was the sorrow of trying and failing to stop impending wars. There were physical problems too. Later in his life the Buddha complained of bellyaches, backaches, and general weariness.

The Buddha’s fundamental and unshakeable well-being went beyond the condition of his body and mind.

So, the Buddha was not always healthy and happy in the conventional sense. But this did not obviate the strength and thoroughness of his awakening. For even in the midst of problems, the Buddha remained ultimately healed. He didn’t expect to transcend the limitations of his body and mind. In wisely accepting and fully understanding the vulnerability of his physical existence, he was whole. His fundamental and unshakeable well-being went beyond the condition of his body and mind.

This more profound sense of health is implied in the four noble truths. Notice their traditional order: suffering, cause, cure, path. This is counterintuitive. The natural order ought to be suffering, cause, path, cure. This is what we expect from the doctor—that once she figures out what we’ve got and prescribes medication, which we carefully take, we will be cured. But the end point of the Buddha’s analysis isn’t the cure, stopping. It’s the treatment, the path.

So, curing is not the goal; it’s an aspiration, a hope, a faith. The path goes on and on; it has no endpoint. The Buddha’s biography bears this out: he doesn’t stop treading the path after he awakens. He doesn’t just enjoy himself and go on to other things. Instead he continues to practice the Way for and with others for the rest of his life. He doesn’t defeat Mara. Their dance goes on. If there is a cure, this is it: delight in the ongoing dance.

Let’s return for a moment to the scene of Buddha’s awakening. In response to Mara’s physical attacks, the Buddha is said to have touched the earth. In doing this, the Buddha was not only calling on the Earth Goddess to be his protector. He was also saying, “The earth is my body. My body expresses earth; it’s produced and supported by her. So, as long as earth exists, nothing, even what looks like complete destruction, can threaten my body. Even if pierced and broken by your arrows and flames, even when succumbing to illness and death, my body continues to circulate and flow, returning home to its source and mother, the great earth, which has always embraced it.” With this earth-touching gesture, Mara and his forces were dispelled.

At the end of his life, old, ill, and weary, the Buddha was visited one last time by Mara, who tempted him this time with peace and rest. “Now is the time,” Mara said, “for your final nibbana [Sanskrit: nirvana].”

“You need not worry, Evil One,” the Buddha replied. “Three months from now I will take final nibbana.” And three months later, suffering from a severe bellyache with diarrhea, the Buddha laid down between two Sala trees. Surrounded by tearful disciples, he breathed his last. Mara finally won, as he always does.

Or does he?

The worldview of the Buddha’s ancient Indian culture was the opposite of ours. We are radical materialists with an impressive record of mastery of the physical world. This makes us life-affirming and optimistic. As best we can, we try to avoid the inconvenient fact that we die. We say, why obsess about it? Death comes later, after a long happy life. There’s no use spoiling things by thinking about it. That would be morbid. Anyway, science will stave off death for a long, long time. The best doctors can cure even the worst diseases, and they are discovering new cures every day. Perhaps we will even be able to eliminate death at some point. Who knows? Scientists are working on it.

The ancient Indian view of life and death couldn’t be further from this. In ancient India, life was not long and happy; it was brief and brutal. The daily struggle to survive was arduous and miserable. Disease, starvation, and crushing poverty were the fate of most people. And, as the ancient Indians saw it, even at the end of this terrible lifetime there was no escape. We leave this life only to wander for a time in hideous post-life realms from which we will be reborn into yet another miserable life. This diabolical process goes on and on and on.

The goal then, according to ancient Indians, is not to prolong life; it’s to end this painful process once and for all. This is nibbana: final peace, complete rest, freedom from the beginningless cycle of birth and death.

The word nibanna means “to blow out,” as in blowing out a flame and entering peaceful darkness. Nibbana isn’t death; it’s the opposite of death. Life and death are restless and painful; nibanna is completion, fulfillment. Though old and infirm, the Buddha did not succumb to illness; he transcended it. In entering nibanna he became whole.

For the Buddha, what we call death is ultimate healing. Though the metaphor is the mirror opposite, the nibanna proposed by the Buddha may not be so different from the Christian conception of heavenly eternal life after death.

To be sure, nibanna isn’t the only goal of early Buddhism. Even in the midst of life’s unpreventable difficulties, suffering can be reduced by following the Buddhist path. Though we can never eliminate illness and harm, we can reduce the self-inflicted suffering we ourselves produce when we take a bad situation and make it worse through our resistance and unwise behavior.

A lifetime of such exacerbation is normal for most of us. It leads to all sorts of bad effects, from making enemies we don’t need to make, to ruining our physical health with bad habits and too much unnecessary stress. If, on the other hand, we practice meditation, ethical conduct, and the other Buddhist virtues, living mindfully and harmoniously, we will have community, cooperation, peace, and love, which will promote and extend our life.

Even when the body can’t be healed, the soul can be.

Such is one view of the path set forth in the Buddhist scriptures. It’s the view emphasized in Western Buddhism and in the Buddhist-inspired mindfulness movement. Buddhism is good for you; it accords with the healthy life we all want.

And yet, in Asia throughout the ages, beginning with the Buddha, who nearly starved himself to death, sages put their lives at risk in pursuit of the Way. Why?

As we’ve said, in Buddhism, as in all spiritual cultures, there is an overlap between what we usually think of as physical and emotional wellness and the greater healing promised by ultimate commitment to the path. The Buddhist teachings, as they are interpreted in the West, accord with current scientific research, which has been influenced by them. But the traditional Buddhist canon is full of miraculous stories of physical and emotional healing effected merely by the Buddha’s presence. Jesus and other saints also had the power to heal the sick, and tent revival preachers still cause the blind to see and the lame to throw off their crutches and walk. Faith heals the body and heart by healing the soul. So yes, whether rational or not, spiritual traditions are concerned with our ordinary well-being.

But even when the body can’t be healed, the soul can be. Putting us “right” with our inmost hearts, regardless of our physical condition, is the larger goal of all religious traditions, including Buddhism. If we cling too tightly to physical and emotional healing as our goal, we won’t be able to find spiritual healing when we need it most. Like the Buddha, we can heal, we can become whole, even when we are ill, even as we let go of our life.

Widening the concept of healing in this way necessarily widens our sense of who and what we think we are. If we are the body, and the thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with it, then we’ll want to preserve the body at all costs, and, thus, ordinary healing will be of utmost importance. But all religions, including Buddhism, teach that we are more than the body and its associated mental and emotional states. In Buddhist terms we are also, perhaps most saliently, buddha or buddhanature—awareness itself, luminous consciousness.

The Buddha affirmed that “this Mind, O monks, is luminous, only it is obscured by adventitious defilements from without.” The path purifies these defilements, enabling the luminous mind to shine forth unobstructed. In the later mind-only schools of Mahayana Buddhism, there is much teaching about the nature of this mind, and there are deep meditation practices to help guide us to it, insofar as this is possible. Clearly, mind is not something inside our brains. It is not a state or a condition. It is inside, outside, and everywhere else. It exists and it doesn’t.

In the light of Mahayana teachings like this, the point of the path is to appreciate that this is what we are—as much as, and even more than, the body and its mental and emotional concomitants. To affect this identity shift will enable us to die as the Buddha did—fully and with perfect healing. This is the goal of the Mahayana path.

In Mahayana Buddhism, recognition of this ultimate form of healing, beyond the body and sense of self, has an altruistic and communal dimension. If my body is the sacred instrument through which I appreciate, as the Buddha did, that I am embraced by and identified with both life and death, then I will understand that my desire to be and have more is a painful projection of my fear and separation, born of the ignorance that has caused beginningless suffering. Feeling life in this way, I can’t continue to be selfish. I’ll be motivated by love for all sentient beings, who are my true self, and I will care for them, protect them, and grieve for their losses and pain. To fully live with such a spirit, regardless of my own condition, is the ultimate form of healing.

In Zen Buddhist lore and discourse, the enlightened sages are ordinary people, masters of “everyday mind.” There is, as the saying goes, “nothing special” about them. The implication is that to be a normal, fully functioning, healthy human being is to be a loving, caring, compassionate person, one who takes care of, without being overly concerned about, one’s self. The fact that in this sense almost all of us are abnormal should not deter us from seeking a path to simple normalcy and everyday health—what the Zen masters understood as awakened life. I think we all need to do this, for our own good and for the good of us all.”

The Ultimate Reality

„All wisdom traditions have something to say about four important matters: (1) the nature of ultimate reality, (2) the possibilities for human knowing of this ultimate human reality, (3) the nature of personhood, and (4) the goal of human existence. . . .

  1. However named, God is the Ultimate Reality. Language does not serve us well to describe this Ultimate Reality since it is so profoundly supra-human and trans-personal. . . . All names for this foundation of existence point to the same reality—a reality that . . . is both transcendent and immanent, not set apart from the world of humans and things but deeply connected to everything that is. . . .

    Ultimate Reality is the source, substance and sustenance of all that is. Nothing exists without it. To be removed from this vital connection would be to instantly cease to exist. We exist because we are in relation to Ultimate Reality, or, more precisely, because we exist within it. . . .

  2. The mystics of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition assert that direct, immediate knowing [of Ultimate Reality] is possible. They tell us that such knowing is not based on reason or deduction, but on communion. . . . Knowing is intimate, and this intimacy is transformational. We come to resemble that which we know. . . .
  3. There is a place in the depths of [the human] soul in which Ultimate Reality alone can dwell, and within which we dwell in Ultimate Reality. . . .
    The knowing that humans seek, in every cell of our being, is to know the source and ground of our existence. This, the Perennial Wisdom Tradition teaches, is the goal and meaning of being human. Life has a direction. All of life flows from and returns to Divine Presence. . . .  Union with Ultimate Reality is sharing in the divinity of Christ. It is participating in the Divine Presence. This is the fulfillment of humanity.”

David G. Benner, “Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living,”

„Practice Self-Compassion With Forgiveness”

„Practice Self-Compassion With Forgiveness”

by Sharon Salzberg: We cannot force ourselves to move on from a painful situation…

expecting forgiveness to be quick and voluntary can have negative effects. Explore this mindfulness practice for creating space for ourselves to forgive.

We’ve all heard the idiom “forgive and forget,” as if processing pain inflicted upon us by others is a quick and easy job. The phrase is an imperative and renders the idea of forgiveness compulsory; in order to heal, we must enter a state of denial and effectively avoid the pain that we have been experiencing.

But, of course, forgiveness is a process, an admittedly difficult one that often can feel like a rigorous spiritual practice. We cannot instantaneously force ourselves to forgive—and forgiveness happens at a different pace for everyone and is dependent on the particulars of any given situation. What we can do is create space for ourselves to forgive—and, perhaps ironically, part of that involves allowing ourselves to wrestle with our feelings of anger and pain to begin with. Once we are honest about our feelings, we can invite ourselves to consider alternative modes of viewing our pain and can see that releasing our grip on anger and resentment can actually be an act of self-compassion.

Accepting forgiveness as pluralistic and as an ongoing, individualized process opens us up to realize the role that our own needs play in conflict resolution.

Telling the story, acknowledging what has happened and how you feel, is often a necessary part of forgiveness. Without that, we live in an artificial reality that is frozen in time, and sometimes woven from fabrication. I have a friend who believes that a central reason for her divorce is that she spoke the truth after her ex-husband’s parents died and he waxed on about his perfect, idyllic childhood. “But you put your drunken parents to bed each night,” she would point out. “You dropped out of college to do that.” Her words undermined the story he was telling, and his need for a rosier past took precedence over the love between them. It also took precedence over his ability to forgive his parents, and the chance for love alongside the pain of his broken dreams.

At times, reality is love’s great challenge. When our old stories and dreams are shattered, our  first instinct may be to resist, deny, or cling to the way things were. But if we loosen our grip, often what fills the space is a tender forgiveness and the potential for a new and different kind of love.

Helen Whitney, director of the documentary Forgiveness, has said, “We talk about forgiveness as if it were one thing. Instead, we should talk about forgivenesses. There are as many ways to forgive as there are people needing to be forgiven.” In other words, there are an incalculable—even infinite—number of situations in which we can practice forgiveness. Expecting it to be a singular action—motivated by the sheer imperative to move on and forget—can be more damaging than the original feelings of anger. Accepting forgiveness as pluralistic and as an ongoing, individualized process opens us up to realize the role that our own needs play in conflict resolution. We cannot simply “forgive and forget,” nor should we.

A Forgiveness Meditation

Meditating on forgiveness is not terribly different from a loving-kindness practice, as both invite us to be with our emotional states without judging them and to use the meditation as the anchor of our attention. These practices require courage, as we are not denying our suffering or the harmful actions we’ve taken.

Forgiveness demands presence, reminding us that we are not the same as the feelings we possess in a given situation, nor is the person who we’ve harmed or who has harmed us.

Forgiveness is not passive, but an active gesture of releasing feelings like anger, guilt, and resentment, all of which deplete us if we become lost in them. Forgiveness demands presence, reminding us that we are not the same as the feelings we possess in a given situation, nor is the person who we’ve harmed or who has harmed us.

Traditionally, the meditation is done in three parts:

  • first, you ask forgiveness from those you have harmed;
  • next, you extend forgiveness to those who have harmed you; and
  • the final practice is that of self-forgiveness, for all of those times we harm ourselves with judgmental habits of mind.

1) Sit comfortably, and allow the breath to be natural. Begin by silently (or audibly) reciting phrases of forgiveness for those you have harmed. You may try, “If I have hurt or harmed anyone knowingly or unknowingly, I ask their forgiveness.”

2) Notice what comes up. You may find that offering forgiveness to one person may catalyze memories of another tough situation or person. Don’t push these feelings or thoughts away—but maintain your focus on the practice, and don’t get lost in guilt or self-blame about your distraction. As other thoughts arise, send your forgiveness in these new directions.

3) Next (after however long you want to spend on the first part of the reflection), you can begin to offer forgiveness to those who have harmed you: “If anyone has hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive them.”

4) Once again, thinking about past painful experiences may trigger emotion. As these feelings, images, and memories bubble to the surface, you may simply recite, “I forgive you.”

5) Finally, we turn our attention to forgiveness of ourselves. Most of us have experienced self-blame—at work, in relationships, or simply because we have habitually kept ourselves in cycles of perfectionism. “For all of the ways I have hurt or harmed myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer forgiveness.”

Source: Mindful

„Service Instead of Domination”

By R. Rohr, A Thought for Monday, July 16, 2018

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. —2 Corinthians 13:13

Without the nondual mind, it’s almost impossible for us to find another way of doing politics. Grounding social action in contemplative consciousness is not a luxury for a few but a cultural necessity. Both the Christian religion and American psyche need deep cleansing and healing from our many unhealed wounds. Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love.

Contemplative Christians can model a way of building a collaborative, compassionate politics. I suggest we start by reclaiming the wisdom of Trinity, a circle dance of mutuality and communion. Humans—especially the powerful, the wealthy, and supporters of the patriarchal system—are more comfortable with a divine monarch at the top of pyramidal reality. So Christians made Jesus into a distant, imperial God rather than a living member of divine-human relationship.

Spiritual power is more circular or spiral, and not so much hierarchical. It’s shared and shareable. God’s Spirit is planted within each of us and operating as each of us (see Romans 5:5)! Trinity shows that God’s power is not domination, threat, or coercion. All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous power.

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—giving away and humbly receiving. This should have changed all Christian relationships: in churches, marriage, culture, and even international relations. Isaiah tried to teach such servanthood to Israel in the classic four “servant songs.” [1] But Hebrew history preceded what Christianity repeated: both traditions preferred kings, wars, and empires instead of suffering servanthood or leveling love.

Since this is so ingrained in our psyche, we must work hard to dismantle systems of domination. I emphatically state, together with my fellow Christian elders and leaders:

We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. . . .

We reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. . . . Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority. [2]

What if we actually surrendered to the inner Trinitarian flow and let it be our primary teacher? Our view of politics and authority would utterly change. We already have all the power (dynamis) we need both within us and between us—in fact, Jesus assures us that we are already “clothed” in it “from on high” (see Luke 24:49)!

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

[1] See Isaiah 42:1–9; 49:1–13; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12.

[2] Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis, http://reclaimingjesus.org/

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Rebuilding from the Bottom Up: A Reflection Following the Election,” https://cac.org/rebuilding-bottom-reflection-following-election/;
The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinitydisc 5 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), CDDVDMP3 download; and
Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 95-96.