Tag Archive: Religion


Imbueding

Commentator Jay Busbee wrote of Tiger Woods continuing back dilemmas.

“The clue was right there, buried deep in an otherwise routine Tiger Woods interview last week: ‘I feel good, not great,’ Woods said. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever feel great, because it’s three back surgeries, four knee operations…’

I feel good, not great. For Woods, who has spent an entire career insisting, often in the face of all sane evidence, that he wasn’t just great, he was greater than you could imagine, this was a remarkable concession. This was a man laying down his sword and shield. This was surrender.”

I read no further into Busbee’s article. That’s not to say Busbee’s analysis wasn’t spot-on. Busbee could be right.  Yet, I have no prolonged thoughts of Tiger Woods. Regardless of what’s occurred or hasn’t occurred in Woods’ life, I wish him all the best.

My thoughts are personal. Laying in bed, unable to move due to the Multiple Sclerosis symptoms, disabling neck pain and circulatory problems, I experienced my own personal “remarkable concession.”

I simply want to surrender. I am tried. I want to move on.  


 Fast forward several weeks.

I wrote the above and never posted into the blog, sidetracked by pain management. I thought of changing what I wrote but left the front part of this post intact, as written. I wrote the above in a time of such personal pain.

Anyone living in chronic pain knows, they’ll eventually have to surrender. As life’s end nears the horizon, all query “Surrender to what?

Most Buddhists are taught that if you wish to develop understanding, kindness, and clarity, you must willingly surrender to dukkha, the inevitable pain of life. Suffer? Hmm. I do not necessarily believe my suffering is worse than others. Yet there is a time when I realized I myself must find a way to the spiritual (the other side).

I know one cannot escape death. I do not fear death. When I think of fear, I remember watching the movie Wyatt Earp, when Doc Holiday said “…I wake up every morning looking in the face of Death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad” to which I replied “…damn straight Doc!

What I am amazed me is the weakness and fragility of my human body. In my 20’s, I would laugh at simple walking. At 57, a simple walk exhausts me for days. And as man who has traveled the world, I wonder why I took so much of living for granted.

Still, I continue to reach out to all whom I hurt. I have asked for forgiveness, reached to touch those I have not and sought truce to old lingering wounds. As best as possible, I wish for my death to be calm and peaceful. I simply wish to imbued positive thoughts at the time of death.

Therein lies my message everyone. Imbued! Rather than waiting to reconcile at the end of life, inspire a feeling or quality now. Live in love. Permeate others with a feeling of quality. Honor all around you.

Imbueding” is real living.

hooksAs many readers know, I’ve been absent for many months. Much of my time away has been due to a series of medical issues, high-blood pressure and heart problems. Then something new, cervical spondylosis, commonly called arthritis of the neck. Although many people with cervical spondylosis experience no noticeable symptoms that was not true the case for me.

So I read Kate Bowler’s column in the New York Time’s SundayReview with great interest. Writing of her struggles, she wrote of her Stage 4 stomach cancer diagnosis, heart and back and forth issues of religion, specifically prosperity gospel.

As many know, prosperity gospel belief’s center upon God providing material prosperity for those he favors. The idea goes both ways: materially successful people achieve such success because they’re favored by God and, at the same time, people who are favored by God will eventually be materially successful. In other words, godliness causes material prosperity.

Just to get this out of the way, to me, buying into the prosperity gospel message is like eating a week old banana – we all say we love it, but in reality, it’s shit. If the message of prosperity gospel were true, every single person of faith would bathe in material wealth. Additionally, it implies a nonsensical quid pro quo. The entire idea of a prosperity gospel is based on direct reciprocity – meaning if you believe in God, you will be given wealth.

So my question is as follows: how many prosperity gospel minded believers succumbed to cancer? More than likely, a whole lot. To phrase it another way, the late radio show host Bob Collins (WGN 720) once said, “In the end, something’s going to get you.” Prosperity gospel nor regular gospel will prevent one from cancer, car accidents, or any other malady. Death happens. That’s life.

So I can relate to Ms. Bowler’s comments:

It is the reason a neighbor knocked on our door to tell my husband that everything happens for a reason.

“I’d love to hear it,” my husband said.

“Pardon?” she said, startled.

“I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying,” he said, in that sweet and sour way he has.

While keeping Ms. Bowler’s comments in the forefront, technically speaking, I understand my problems are no where near the breath of difficulty others have. But I cannot tell you the number of people who’ve offered me simplistic medical advice:

  • A new bed:
  • Eat a plant-based diet;
  • Quit my job and enjoy life;
  • Move to the southwest;
  • Natural medicine;
  • Participate in Reiki healing; and
  • Align my spine.

I’ve received many comments from the well intentioned, some are bizarre, others rude.

  • It’ll be okay, I just know it.” (Really? That’s great. Tell me how you know?)
  • Someday this will all be behind you.
  • Don’t worry, things will get better.” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better. I can get spinal fusion, but the condition does not get better).
  • So when will you be all better?” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better.)
  • When will your conditions be gone?” (When I die or until all the Southern Comfort in the bottle to my right is consumed … whichever occurs first.)
  • Live in the moment.” “Be strong.” “Fight hard.” “Keep your chin up.” “Don’t give up.” “Attitude is everything.” (I will remember this when I can barely move in the morning.)
  • We’ll pray for a miracle.” (Is spinal fusion considered a miracle?)
  • What’s your prognosis?” (Pretty fucked.)
  • Could be worse.” (Just did. Listening to you say that confirms it just got worse.)

And the coup de gras of all statements:

  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • It’s all part of a larger plan.”

To this, I remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.

In many ways I sympathize with Kate Bowler and for the seriously injured. For them everything’s on the hook.

second-comingWhile having lunch with a client, we overheard the luncheon conversation from another table. Discussing an enigma in his life, the patron blurted in great anguish, “God I wish Jesus was here. If He were, everything would be perfect.”

Hmm,” muttered my client. “What a load of crap.

I’m sorry,” I replied in astonishment.

Jesus coming again,” he muttered. “You know, quoting the Bible, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.””

Yeah, what about it.

Well, the Bible does the whole ‘second coming’ thing in a couple of chapters. Sounds pretty damn easy, right?

Yeah, I suppose some say that,” leaning back in my chair.

Too damn easy. Too damn easy.

How so?

Taking a sip of water, “Well, first off, just imagine Christ coming down in a chariot and some nut like Putin shoots a BUK SA-11 missile. God,” he laughed, “I would love to see to what happens next.

Smiling, “That’s an interesting thought.

So Christ gets here, right?

Right,” I confirmed.

Continuing, “So, Christ is going to judge the living and the dead, right?

Right.

There’s currently 7 billion living people on earth. Even if He adjudicates everyone’s life in one minute apiece, it would take over 13,000 years to finish.

Never thought of it that way,” I nodded.

Imagine, every living soul gets one minute to state their case … and then ‘pppppiiiiiffffffff’ … done. Pausing for a moment, “And those are just the living. Yes sir,” he smirked with a ‘tonal’ computer voice, “your number is in year 14,072 …. Next?

Have a seat,” I chuckled.

Exactly,” he sighed.

Maybe Christ saves the 2.5 billion identified Christians and just summarily executes the rest. Then the whole process will only take a smidgen over 4,700 years.

Ah,” he pondered. “There’ll be other issues.

Such as?

Think about it,” he explained. “If Christ starts healing the sick, I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts someone will sue Him for practicing medicine without a license. If He started turning water into wine, the wine conglomerate will sue for restraint of trade while simultaneously requesting an EPA toxicology report. Then He’ll have to mediate the Israel and Hamas Strip problem, Ireland’s Catholic and Protestant battle, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Catholic Priests and a host other nut groups. I guarantee you, some group will be extremely pissed when God doesn’t vote their way. So what’s He gonna do with them? And guess what? Once all the elderly start donating money to Him, the U.S. Government and IRS will sue Christ for violation of tax exempt organization regulations, infamously known as 501(c)3.

That’s quite a list.

There’s also the environmental thing.

You mean global warming?

No. I mean. What happens if people just quit their jobs because He decided to return? Think about it, nuclear reactors and power plants require daily, weekly, monthly care. Otherwise, kablooey! What happens when damns aren’t properly regulated and they fail? What happens to all those churches and jobs supporting evangelical missions, Bible publications and other items? Do children suddenly stop going to school because Christ came back? Does society stop working and wait for Christ to repair everything? What will people do? What will you and I do?

Man,” I said depressingly. “Now that I think about it, those few chapters in Revelations seems to gloss over it.

Yeah,” he said. “What’s that old quote,” as he searched his memory. “Be careful of what you ask for….

You may get it,” finishing his sentence.

Maybe we don’t get Christ until we live like Christ. Maybe we just need to learn to live and love now while we have time,” thoughtfully opined.

Amen to that!

imageIn 2012, the Supreme Court of The United States chose to reaffirm the conclusion of Citizens United ruling that corporations are people — at least as far as the First Amendment is concerned. The Supreme Court of The United States continued to reaffirm that decision today by stating some corporations have religious rights, that certain for-profit companies cannot be required to pay for specific types of contraceptives of their employees.

Hobby Lobby and other small Christian based companies claimed the Affordable Care Act forced them to set aside deeply held religious beliefs by requiring them to provide contraception in their employee health plans. The owners said they cannot have any role in providing access to certain forms of contraception without having to violate those beliefs. Their attorney, former Republican Solicitor General Paul Clement, said that because the Obama administration has provided some exemptions to the rule — for churches and certain nonprofits — it should be willing to exempt companies, too.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court affirmed that thought process.

The irony of Hobby Lobby is that not all Christian business leaders actually follow and apply Christian centered principles. The forefront of Hobby Lobby’s argument is as follows:

Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one.

The Green family may claim to honor the above principle, but like many Christian businesses, they send their “Christian” money overseas to China where its one child policy of and forced abortions is an everyday occurrence. China is one of the worst offenders of human dignity, unborn infant life, and economic justice anywhere in the world.  It’s also important to note Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) retirement plan invested $73 million in pharmaceutical companies that developed and produced various forms of contraception.

Are there other Biblical rules which aren’t followed? Yes. Here are a few.

  • Leviticus 19:27 – “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” Most Hobby Lobby employees have no beards.
  • Leviticus 19:19 – “Do not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.” Most Hobby Lobby clothing consists of many different threads, manufactured in China with cheap labor.
  • Timothy 2:9 – “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” Hobby Lobby sells a lot of ‘gold’ jewelry, mostly produced in China.

Since corporations are now considered people, they enjoy privileges those in the lower class cannot obtain. For instance, you and I cannot get tax incentive financing. If the corporation is involved in illegal activities, how does the court system jail a corporation? And of course, the average working ‘Joe’, such as you and I, will never spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for politically targeted television ads.

Jeffery Tobin (CNN) noted, the Hobby Lobby case is all about politics and little of religious principle.

As for me, I will never spend another dollar of my money at Hobby Lobby.

maxresdefaultCosmos’ final hour revealed the final message embedded in the space probe Voyager’s Interstellar Golden Record. It was a recording of life on Earth, ending with Carl Sagan’s life-summing meditation on this “pale blue dot.”

So was the show worth it? Cosmos was television on an ambitious scale, a full-blown science program in prime time on a mainstream broadcast network, on the most crowded, and competitive night of the TV week.

Throughout the show, there were those who sought to deny the scientific evidence presented. The opening episode featured an introduction by President Obama and stirred controversy with a lengthy segment that deliberately pitted religion against science, providing an animated story about the Catholic Church’s persecution of the 16th-century monk and astronomer Giordano Bruno.

To the creationist viewpoint, there was no opportunity for rebuttal. But that wasn’t the show’s premise either. With that being said, one can believe in religion all they want, but when an asteroid falls from space at about 22,000 miles per hour and crashes into earth, I’m presuming God won’t be there to stop it. Remember, I didn’t say “if.”

Tyson said if he reached just one viewer deeply enough to get them interested in science, Cosmos will have succeeded. Cosmos began and ended with Carl Sagan:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Dr. Tyson, regardless of my faith … you reached me. I loved the show.

Jamie Coots: The Leadership of Ignorance

jamie-cootsJamie Coots, a snake-handling Kentucky pastor who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show “Snake Salvation,” died after being bitten by a snake. Pastors such as Coots cite a Bible passage from the Bible’s book of Mark, Chapter 16, that reads, in part: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Coots is being hailed as a “martyr.” Professor Ralph Hood stated, “They will continue, and praise Jamie Coots as a martyr who died for his faith.” Seriously, martyr?

The simple definition of martyr is someone who is killed because of his or her religious or other beliefs. In both Islam and Christianity, the words used for martyr originally meant ‘witness‘ or ‘testify to’ as in a court of law, and the words quickly became extended to those who by their deaths testified to, or witnessed to, their belief in their respective faiths.

Many in our world believe there are ideas worth dying for. Many in our ‘parents’ and ‘grandparents’ generations thought ideas were worth dying for when they fought in WWII.  Christianity and Islam, the two largest world religions, teach explicitly that they are worth dying for, and they both have martyrdom as core values which shape their practice and sense of identity.

So let’s lay it out there; right now, right here. Dr. Martin Luther King was a martyr. Gandhi was a martyr. Christ was a martyr. President Lincoln was a martyr. Coots? … Well, Coots was bit.

Looking at Coots’ life via the National Geographic reality television, I’m amazed at what he did not do.  His pastoral life focused entirely upon getting live venomous snakes.  There was little focus upon how to employ the parish’s unemployed, generate food drives, increase childhood education, develop healthcare and raising the standard of living for his congregation.

All Coots contaminated pastoral leadership. He was fined in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes, sentenced to a year of probation for illegal wildlife possession after crossing into Tennessee with five venomous snakes. He had no life insurance, leaving his wife a widow and children fatherless.

His ministry was choked by ignorance. And a week later, the train wreck continues:

  • Coots will be remembered with a special tribute to air on National Geographic Channel.
  • Cody Coots, son of the late Jamie Coots, said he would handle deadly snakes during upcoming services.  What’s more, he says there will be no anti-venom meds on hand in case the snake attacks again. “I will lay right there and say to everyone, it’s God’s will.  It’s good enough to live by, and good enough to die by.”

I’m positive God cringes when we repeat stupidity.

Be careful when choosing faith over evidence. Some will claim Coots was faithful. In truth, ignorance is what killed Jamie Coots. That same ignorance condoned slavery, suppressed women’s rights, attempts to oppress gay and lesbian communities (such as in Arizona, Kansas and other states). For Jamie Coots, faith meant death.

john-quincy-adams-2About a week ago, I awoke suffering from tremendous vertigo, blurred vision in one eye, tremors, and a stiff neck with pain in the jaw.  Some might say, “Hell of a night Mr. Buddha.” Truthfully, this is just a part of the disease I must endure to the end.

Waiting for the usual plethora of tests, I’ve been asked several times about how I’m doing. When queried in such a manner, I internally reflect upon Quincy Adams last letter and quote, The Buddhist “… is well, but the house in which he lives at the present time is becoming dilapidated.”

I know the real battle is the not the disease, it’s within the mind. As CNN anchor Zain Verjee described her battle psoriasis, “My mind is living a separate life from the body beneath it.” Many sitting in the impractical and uncomfortable hospital lounge chairs understand the ocean of pain and fear crushes far worse than the disease. That fear slaughters and drives many from their faith. Likewise those clutching rosaries, religious revivals have swept through thousands of new converts.  Yet death’s angel culls both faithful and unfaithful equally.

All of us will stumble upon someone dying. Technically speaking, life itself is both sexually transmitted and terminal. But as we meet those transferring from this life to another, it’s important to remember: this is not about you. It’s about the person with the illness. If you are a friend you will need to get over your discomfort or get out of the way. Those dying really don’t want to console their visitors. For those suffering, romantic conceptions of the battle and gallant heroes riding to save day rarely come. No one visiting someone’s personal battlefield should ever regard life in quite the same fashion as before. Doing otherwise catapults one to being worse than the enemy.

If I can be so bold as to speak for others, being a compassionate and caring friend does not require personal experience identical to what I am living. Don’t disappear. Sure I represent your fear, but I also represent God’s love. Check in with me. Remind me that I’ve not been forgotten. Remind me that I’m your friend.

I will close with an excerpt from When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner:

“Life is not fair. The wrong people get sick and the wrong people get robbed and the wrong people get killed in wars and in accidents. Some people see life’s unfairness and decide, ‘There is no God; the world is noting but chaos.’ Others see the same unfairness and ask themselves, ‘Where do I get my sense of what is fair and what is unfair? Where do I get my sense of outrage and indignation, my instinctive response of sympathy when I read in the paper about a total stranger who has been hurt by life? Don’t I get these things from God? Doesn’t He plant in me a little bit of His own divine outrage at injustice and oppression, just as He did for the prophets of the Bible? Isn’t my feeling of compassion for the afflicted just a reflection of the compassion He feels when He sees the suffering of His creatures?’ Our responding to life’s unfairness with sympathy and with righteous indignation, God’s compassion and God’s anger working through us, may be the surest proof of all of God’s reality.”

As Quincy Adams wrote, “Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it; its roof is pretty well worn out.  Its walls are much shattered, and it trembles with every wind.”

But I my friends … I am having a great day.

JesusHaving walked though all 50 states and a wealth of countries on this little island “Earth,” I have witnessed many exhilarating, magical and tragic events.  I have seen the Berlin Wall fall, the rise of communication, the Arab Spring, progressive women rights, the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, the walk against apartheid, the battle against HIV, the music of Louis Armstrong, the tragedy of September 11th, the tsunamis, earthquakes, the space shuttle. I’ve seen some wonderfully terrific men and women as well: Francis Collins, J. Craig Venter, Nelson Mandela, Richard Stallman, Aung San Suu Kyi, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Clara Barton, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, the Clintons, General Powell, Bill Gates and many, many more.

Personally, I’m under no illusion. I am not worthy to sit in the shadow of such great men and women. I have not cured the world of disease. Nor have I solved a nation’s critical problem. I have not invented something that positively impacted anyone, let alone bring water to a village, electricity to the poor, nutrition to the hungry, freedom to the enslaved or hope to the hopeless. Nope …. sorry. I do not count myself in that realm.

But what my travels has revealed is the opportunity to review the collective soul of all whom crossed my path. And in that, many United States leaders and politicians, at some point in time, have crossed my path.  These paths have ranged from the short momentary sight and quick handshake, to an actual conversation of meaning and thought.  I have been lucky to witness the soul and these snippets of time bared unknown quantities of fruit. For some, the soul bursts forth with ideas and thought exchange.

Seriously, these men and women all have faults. But many share at least one solid character trait. Their need became the needs of the many. Each was able to align themselves to the greater good, not so much for themselves, but for the betterment of humanity.  Something inside brought forth an unknown quantity of fruit to which they were willing to share. In splendor and blemish, each willingly gave life to all whom they touched.

In the ongoing battle within Washington these days, I see a darkness. Borrowing from Spock (Star Trek), the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Yet today, it’s as if one party loyalist or another openly defies the world and claims, “The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.”  Budget hawks claimed stripping services from the poor were crucial for economic soundness while ultra-conservatives placed a stake in the ground by stating the unborn is their mission. Bishop E.W. Jackson, candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia repugnantly claimed government programs created more harm to blacks than slavery; and that non-Christians are “engaged in some sort of false religion.” For faith voters, tons of guns remain really good while gays are vile. And yes, religious freedom seems to be always under attack.

For all the “let’s get back to God” symposiums, there are the overlooked: the complete and utter lack of interest in the poor, immigrants, the unemployed, the father and mother working two jobs, the sick, the mentally handicapped, the hungry, the handicapped, those in constant pain, the poor in spirit – yeah, the very people Jesus loved. In an era of big money, big politics and ego, it’s apparent there aren’t enough representatives for many: the meek, the soiled and outcast.  We’ve have been abandoned by the wayside of life’s road.

From a Buddhist perspective, we must acknowledge many nations reflect a kaleidoscope of religious faith and belief. Religion is a sacred engagement, often believed to be a spiritual journey. In some instances a heavenly god may be the center of a religion. In other cases it may be saviors, scriptures and sacraments. In this light, we all are interconnected. And that interconnection swallows us into the collective of “the many.”

When the needs of the few mirror the nation, we become more than just ourselves. We transform from a substandard set of egos to consciousness. Only then can any of us reach for the greater glory within. This is the Christ, the Buddha, the Muslim, the Protestant, the Catholic and Atheist we all want.

Seek the needs of the many, not the needs of the few … or even the one.

How Did You Make It?

thThe Barnes and Noble I currently sit offers little comfort my from the muscle aches and pains I endure.  Literally, some days wrench my life with true exhaustion.  While I am not some fanatic guided by overbearing and miserable thoughts, my wonder of the hereafter often cruise through my brain on such days.  The basic question is similar to those who probably sit around me, “If there is indeed an afterlife, is it really any better? Does the sum of your days condemn one to an afterlife of pain and anguish or does a merciful God await one’s soul near life’s end?”

Would that merciful God appreciate all the deaths from Ireland’s Catholic/Protestant wars, the anguish Catholic Priests caused during sexual scandals, the genocide of Hitler, Rwanda, suicide bombers, fake evangelical television preachers and the like? Would God allow politicians utilizing demagoguery to pervert the very nature of kindness and love a wonderfully filled heaven with incense and mirth? Would God call me, the most vile of humans, to live at all?

Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn’t believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn’t think that a spirit or soul survives the body’s physical death. Profoundly, his thought is that we have a profound effect on those who live beyond us, that many of the things we now regard as worth doing would no longer seem to us worth doing. And by living beyond us, we are ensured for moments, maybe even years, that our spirit lives on.

The Rev. Gabriel Salguero suggests we as people have learned to live together, despite difference and despite our cultural backgrounds. This means that acts performed over the centuries in the name of faith (i.e., God) will become washed away. A right relationship with God here on earth, and also in eternity. So we’re going to see people from across the geographic spectrum, and across the racial/cultural spectrum, and we’ll all be one.

I am not sure if either of those perspectives would comfort any of those whom surround. Most would certainly follow those often chimed words, “Everyone wants to go to heaven – just not today!

Truthfully speaking, here and now, I know exactly where I will end after my days close.  How I know will be set for another writing.  But being Buddhist, I believe what God really wants all of us to do is to develop and invest in the right relationships. For some, that may be through the Christian faith. For others Muslim. And others, leading a wonderfully beautiful atheist life. I believe any right relationship established here lasts throughout eternity.

I am befuddled by those who despise such an earth as elitism or socialism. Yet, almost to a word, that’s almost how they perceive God’s view of heaven.

But being a Buddhist, what if we built heaven now? What if we built our heaven here? What if we built a world where there’s no concept of power or money. The hungry eat, the thirsty drink, no iPhone APP, nothing to kill or hate, no one to rape or abuse. No one to politicize. No wars. No unnecessary death.  All receive healthcare. All are cared?

Buddhists believe that there is a deeper, more complete understanding of reality than the one we think of and participate in every day. Having partially seen part of the next world, I can say our bodies may die, but our minds will live. Like a river running through several countries, we continually pass through one boundary into another. That river never changes.

I suggest we life heaven now.  As Kevin Spacey quotes in the movie K-Pax:

Even your Buddha and your Christ had quite a different vision, but nobody’s paid much attention to them, not even the Buddhists or the Christians. You humans. Sometimes its hard to imagine how you’ve made it this far.”

How did you make it this far?

Sacred HoopBeing in the Denver, Colorado area for the past nine months has allowed me to visit various Native America n homes. Visiting one such home today, the patriarch retold a recent passing of a good friend. And being a Buddhist, I found that Native Americans view this earthly plain as a world of learning experiences. Creator places everyone here for only a moment. Each of us comes with many gifts. Thus, these gifts are meant to be shared.

Often they pray to the four directions:

  • East is where the sun rises. The eastern spirit of sun or fire brings warmth and light. It is the place of beginnings. Its light brings wisdom. It is the power of knowledge.
  • South is the sun at its highest point. It is the direction from where warm winds blow. South is the spirit of earth, the power of life. It represents peace and renewal.
  • West is the spirit of water. It is the direction from which darkness comes. It is the power of change, the place of dreams, introspection and the unknown. The west signifies purity and strength.
  • North is the spirit of wind. The cold wind blows from the north. It is the power of wisdom. Here we take time to reflect on what we began in the east, in the morning, in our youth.

Praying to the four directions is a beautiful is symbolic to the Sacred Hoop and is one’s ability to be embodied by all four points. As we journey around the sacred hoop of life, at the point of the four directions, we learn lessons. Some journey at a rapid rate, others slower, knowing they don’t wish to hasten our time here before we journey on to the other world.

Many Native Americans believe we pass over into the spirit world, where we are met by ancestors who passed before us. This world is a world of love and beauty, not to be feared.

In my own experiences, I have heard many who’ve had a near-death experience state it was a difficult choice to make, whether to remain in the spirit world or to journey back to this earthly plain. Some chose to return; others wished to remain in the spiritual state of being.

Regardless, Native Americans, believe our spirits live on. Our outer shells deteriorate, but our spirits choose this life while we are here on our journey.  In truth, as a living Buddhist, as a living Christian, I cannot fathom a better view of life itself.

We are all artists. Share your gifts. Share your life. Life different than I. Live better, love better. Please paint the brushstrokes of love on every person you meet.

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