June 29th, 2010

Dhammapada (26) - The True Master

26. The True Master

Wanting nothing
With all your heart
Stop the stream.
When the world dissolves
Everything becomes clear.
Go beyond
This way or that way,
To the farther shore
Where the world dissolves
And everything becomes clear.
Beyond this shore
And the farthest shore,
Beyond the beyond,
Where there is no beginning,
No end.
Without fear, go.
Live purely.
Be quiet.
Do your work, with mastery.
Dhammapada (26) - The True Master

I come to the end of my first reading of the Dhammapada.  This set of verses is the longest of the twenty-six, three pages, each mostly blank.  Its been a great month.  The path is so simple; hard but simple.  The same few simple ideas are repeated over and over, but each restatement says something fresh.  "Wanting nothing with all your heart, stop the stream."  How many times have i heard "detach?"  Yet how fresh and unique this statement is.  There are so many different ways it can be read.

I have only read the Dhammapada once, it has not become my companion, my friend.  Yet i already know it is high among my spiritual and ethical texts.  It does not yet form a trinity with the "sermon on the mount" and the Tao te Ching; but it is certainly up there with my favorite Christian, Taoist, and 'Sufi texts, and, with the eightfold path itself.

I have long believed that if one were to live out the implications of one of these great paths--aboriginal, Hindu,  Taoist, Jewish, Parsi, Buddhist. Christian, Muslim, Sikh, or Baha'i--with open-mindedness, tolerance, open-heartedness, wisdom, and commitment, one would be living all these paths simultaneously.  Indeed, i sense echos of tribal wisdom and foretastes of the Tao te Ching and the authentic teachings of Jesus in the Dhammapada.

I try not to mock the spiritual paths of others.  This is usually not hard; but i do have to admit that fundamentalists of any tradition frighten me and bring out the worst in me.  I walked away from fundamentalist protestantism, i thought, with no hard feelings on either side.  I was a little sad at leaving (it meant leaving family and many friends) and i saw no signs of resentment on the part of non- family whose path i abandonedt.  It seemed not a wrong path, it was just not my path.  More recently. as i have encountered the lies and anger emanating from that direction, i have been angry in return.  What i have not realized is that this anger in fundamentalism is, perhaps. a result of positive changes in fundamentalism itself.  Going "green" and living the sermon on the mount and the works of mercy have become as "fundamental" as the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of the body.  This challenges the right wing political allies of the fundamentalists and frightens those fundamentalists who have not broadened their definition of "fundamentalism."  After all, if every word of scripture comes from the mind of God, and if the mind of God is perfect, then there is no reason to prefer the sermon on the mount to, say, the story about the bears eating the children who mocked Elisha (or was it Elijah?).

Higher power:
Open my heart
Silence my mind
increase my courage,
grow my tolerance
Grant me wisdom,
Own my will,
Help me meditate,
Make me a lover again.