Posts Tagged ‘sermon on the mount’

Radical Humility

November 13, 2017

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

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 Heaven.” 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 unmasks 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 Heaven,” 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 Heaven” — 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.  Radical humility offers the key to spiritual and social transformation.

Therefore, may we all be “poor in spirit” and collectively discover the “Kingdom of Heaven,” in our hearts and in the world around us.

Peace, Paul

She lived life as though the Truth were actually true.

January 28, 2013

“She lived as though the Truth were actually true.” Dan Berrigan responding to the question, what had most impressed him about Dorothy Day.

Another year has passed and I find myself once again diving into the writings of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker.

What is it about this woman, that I never met, that has so gripped my heart? Reading about her last days and passing brings tears to my eyes and the painful feelings of grief and loss.  Her death is as a light lost to the world.

I do not have any delusions about my ability to live the life she lived. I have tried and failed. The constant lack, the day-to-day struggle for the many simple things of life, was, for me, defeating.  There is nothing romantic about poverty, which Dorothy Day often called precarity.

I do not yet have the faith to live the life that Dorothy Day lived.  A life lived with the poor. A life lived in dependence upon providence and prayer.

However there is still much I, a Buddhist, can learn from Dorothy Day, a Catholic. Dorothy Day shows me that the teachings of the great religious teachers of this world are not just aspirational. They are livable and living teachings which each of us must strive to live. The “Sermon on the Mount” must be put in practice on a daily basis.  The Buddha’s compassion must be practiced in real and concrete ways in our daily lives.

In Dorothy Day’s life I find a woman of Faith struggling to live the teachings of Jesus as a response to the inner transformation that is the awakening of Faith.

In Dorothy Day’s life I find the inspiration to respond to the daily challenges of life with Faith.

In Dorothy Day’s life I find the strength to resist the temptation, albeit poorly, to respond to hatred with hatred.

And finally, in Dorothy Day’s life, I am challenge to live my Faith more deeply and to love more broadly.

Namo Amida Bu!