Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kindness

All of us expend a lot of energy opposing and too little embracing. We are adept at ferreting out differences and estranged from sameness, long on talking and short in doing. Today in the U.S. is a time we repeat once each year. It’s a day of giving thanks and expressing gratitude for what we have and for a brief time setting aside what we don’t.

When I was a boy I found it confusing and upsetting when I noticed how very pious people were while in church but how corrupt they were when not. As I grew older I was told that the church was the house of God and that was reason for the difference. That answer satisfied nothing and I thought to myself, what kind of God lives in a building but not in the hearts of people? Does that mean there is to be no peace anywhere, except in a building?

Later still I had the opportunity to attend seminary and learned to read Koine Greek and grasp the significance of ideas and words spoken by Jesus. I also spent nearly 40 years practicing and studying Zen. Consequently I am an educated man but not a content one. I remain as confused and dismayed today as I was as a child noticing the hypocrisy of people who appear pious yet act with hatred. For many years I struggled to reconcile religious and spiritual differences among peoples of the world: to bridge those differences and find the common ground of caring among all of God’s people.

I discovered the way in my Greek study. There is a passage in the Bible, allegedly spoken by Jesus (it doesn’t matter if it really was) that expresses the way I was seeking and it concerns ideological differences: the source of all conflict. The passage, like many great words is short: fifteen words that could change the course of human affairs if put into practice. The problem is, most people don’t read Koine Greek and even if they did it seems to be human nature to cling to what they think and reject what they don’t. Nevertheless I have an obligation to share the knowledge I acquired: to lay it at the feet of readers and hope they will take to heart the message. If that should happen, the walls of Jericho (the church) would collapse and hearts would then become the new church.

Here is the passage, and what it means in Koine Greek. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” — John 15:13. And here is how that same passage reads in Greek: “Greater love has no one than this: to set aside one’s mind for their friends.” Now that seems like a stretch but the Greek word undergirding the English word life in this passage is psuché (the basis of the word psyche: the human mind). So the essential matrix of questions: the most important set of related questions is the significance of setting aside one’s mind, how is it done and what is the result?

Ordinarily we confuse a manifestation with a source. And when a ridiculous example is provided we can see how absurd it is. For example we all know that cars don’t suddenly just one day appear by magic at our front door (even though they do in TV commercials). No, instead the car is manufactured in a plant somewhere. The manufacturing facility is the source and the car is the manifestation. The two are directly related. No manufacturing plant=no car. That is so basic even a child can understand, but what how does that example fit the mind? Just as a car is a manifestation of a production facility, our ideas are the manifestation of our true mind. Our ideas are not our mind. They are the result of mind. Ideas are all different and become ideologies over which we have fought since we walked out of the caves.

A few days ago I wrote a post concerning the manner in which Zen people express the true mind. In Japanese the expression is “Mu shin, Shin” which means no mind is Mind. That seems very odd until you realize that the little shin means ideas and the big Shin means the source of ideas (the true mind). So then the question is what is MU? And the answer is nothing (no-thing), and perhaps most curious is this expression: Mu shin, Shin is the same thing as Greater love has no one than this: to set aside one’s mind for their friends.

If you think clearly about conflict and opposition, neither would exist without ideas. But, you say, what would the world be like with no ideas? The answer is when anyone stops thinking, at that very moment (even if it is for a fleeting second) they become unified with all and out of that space of no-thing/no-thinking arises all of the love of the world. It may be a quickly vanishing flash of pure, non-discriminate, unconditional love but that tiny seed, once experienced, can grow into the obliteration of differences and estrangement. We may not ourselves be able to sit under the shade of the tree of love that grows from those seeds but it is a beginning.


So today, be grateful for the love that resides in the hearts of all mankind and out of that heart, perform an act of random kindness.
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