After a group meeting, an acolyte once asked his teacher, “Why do you always say the same thing?”
The guru’s reply: “Because you haven’t heard me yet.”
I’ve been thinking about those lines lately, because I’ve begun to notice so many PORTENTS around me. I’ve been studying a little Buddhism lately (nothing serious, just reading “Best Buddhist Writing of 2007” and a few other books). I read a great article, where a group of Buddhists traveling with a Master stop at a toll booth on the highway. The wind is blowing fiercely and the toll booth lady says, “Where does this wind come from?”
The Master then says to his students, “That woman is a Goddess because she has given you a valuable koan!” (all this is paraphrased). A koan is an “unanswerable question” that gives you something to meditate about and thus advances your spiritual life. Perhaps the trouble with Western religions is that we assume all questions can be answered!
I had an interesting spiritual journey recently. It started with having lunch with someone who is very troubled, dark and despairing. She can’t see any hope for the world and has embraced a philosophy, that she discovered in a book, which postulates that the world is populated by ancestors of the evil people who destroyed Atlantis (I may have that partially wrong, but that’s the gist of it). I’ve often noticed how New Age folks and religious fundamentalists, who otherwise would seem to have nothing in common, both seem to only see the Dark Side of things.
Then I put down my Buddhist writings and go to our church, where the pastor tells me that “God loves me.” Several Sundays ago, in his homily, he told a story about REAL tragedy: He was invited to supper at a parishioner’s home, where he met a young man whose future seemed full of extraordinary promise: He had graduated cum laude from both his college and his Ivy League law school. Then, a few weeks later, the young man contacted the priest and told him he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The priest said, “I’m his new best friend.” I thought to myself, “Meeting this young man WAS NOT an accident!” The priest is dealing with real tragedy, yet he doesn’t wallow in the Dark Side.
After that came MY particular portent: We went to a book fair in Los Angeles, where Whitley signed copies of 2012 and I poked through the booths, trying to see if I could find any free samples I wanted to read. While walking around, I noticed a black person (couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman) outfitted in a white angel costume, complete with halo and wings. This was obviously a book promotion of some sort, but it reminded me of the angel I met in Kinko’s, who berated Whitley for worrying too much about my health. I thought, “Hmmm?Does this mean something?” A few days later, I had a health scare which turned out to be something benign, and I remembered that angel.
On a subsequent Sunday, I was sitting in church daydreaming through a homily that was much less interesting than the one about the young man with the tumor. The message was “Feed my sheep,” and I began to fanaticize about the person we went to lunch with, who is estranged from her children. In my mind, I saw myself as the ultimate heroine, reconciling everyone?then humbly accepting the many praises that would be heaped upon me. I was so lost in my thoughts that I only half heard an announcement about baby bottles that were being given out, to be filled with money and returned to help support a child care clinic that the church started many years ago.
Only later, when Whitley and I went biking, did I remember the bottle, so we rode back to the church to see if we could still get one, but they had all been given out. I thought to myself, “Instead of just DREAMING about helping someone (to great acclaim), you had the chance to REALLY help someone anonymously, but you let that chance slip through your fingers.” And I remembered how, in First Corinthians, 13, Paul writes: “Love doesn’t brag, isn’t inflated.” Since I often catch myself wallowing in a sort of self-congratulation, I also remembered the words of that Master, “You haven’t heard me yet.”
This was a small spiritual journey for me, of the kind we go through every day. I was lucky to have noticed this one. And the moral of the story? That’s a koan, for now anyway.
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