September 17th, 2010

Tao of Jesus

Even after 30 years i am surprised by how often something i read in Buddhism, Taoism, or the Life of Jesus reminds me of the other two traditions.  I'm sure if i knew more about Sufism, Judaism, Hinduism, animism, or other spiritual traditions, i would find the same thing..  Again and again i read what Lao  Tse,  the Buddha , or Jesus says about life and immediately think of how the other two said a very similar thing in a very different way.

Yesterday, i had an occasion to try to look at Jesus from a Taoist perspective and i immediately thought about the 40 day temptation at the beginning of Jesus' public career.  It was as though he was being tested by a Taoist or Zen master.  (Ah, grasshopper, can you turn stone into bread?  Then why not do it?)  Today i started to read Henri Nouwen's meditations on the temptations (The Selfless Way of Christ, Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life)   Nouwen calls the first temptation (turning stones in bread) "the lure of relevance."  One point is, if we really don't trust or value spiritual life,  we will always be bringing material gifts with us to make our offerings seem worth while.
This doesn't mean we should not feed or clothe, or shelter, or heal or comfort people where and when we can--in fact we are urged to do these things, but they should not be confused with spiritual gifts or take the place of them.  Nor was it just that "the devil" was offering these temptations of "relevance," "spectacle," and power, these lures are always dangerous, no matter what their source. 

Reflecting on Nouwen's Catholic interpretation of the temptation as "the lure of relevance" helps me see more clearly the Tao Te Ching's cautions against trying to be relevant.  You will only make things worse, you will only cut yourself.  Seek to follow the Tao and the relevance of your action will follow naturally from your spiritual state.  The best action is non-action.  Great minds do think alike.