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A month or so ago, I landed in the hospital again. This time, thank God, it was a short stay and the pain level was far less severe. Nonetheless, the various procedures were scary. Old tapes played relentlessly in my head despite every effort I took to dismiss them. Unbidden tears coursed down my face when I heard the words IV, PICC line, CAT scan. Old, bad, experiences were conjured up. I was not a happy camper.
However, the recall born in those bad times met opposition in the many Buddhas who traveled with me on the roller coaster ride called life. I was reminded of “Kundun,” a movie depicting the life of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. A singular commission summed up his philosophy and life journey: “Be for others what they need. Love all living things. Wherever life is, the Buddha appears. All are blessed by his presence.”
I felt miserable. The call to be a woman for others was more than I could hear much less bear. I needed to remember there were indications of darkness that hovered over the life of the Dalai Lama. Crows nesting on the roof over his birthplace were signs of dread to his family as well as portents of greatness. He, and they, received constant reminders that things change. Win or lose, things change. So, it is best to love all living things without attachment to any of them.
To think otherwise produces a certain pride. It educes the divisiveness seen in the haves versus the have-nots. Pride creates suffering. If there is needless suffering, we need to look to the cause. We need to find the path to peace. We need to reveal the wholesomeness of inclusivity.
That makes sense to me. It is a reasonable approach to the myriad darknesses that crop up as we go and grow. Find the path to peace, the road that avoids violent elitism and exclusivity. Believe and act on the verity that violence is never good, no matter how beneficial it presents itself. Violence to ourselves destroys our original blessedness. Violence to others destroys belief in divine goodness. Ultimately, it makes God unbelievable. In place of a violent reaction, virtuous response opens the door of compassionate understanding.
Sometimes our response is best offered in prayerful silence. This means more than counting to 10 before speaking. It means giving ourselves and others the opportunity to discern God’s will rather than setting our will in concrete. Unfortunately, silence has been taken away from us. Better said, we have allowed silence to be replaced with noise and have not taken account of the loss incurred.
Hearing-impaired individuals are well aware of the cost of deadly noisiness and the loss of healing silence. Hubby Dear often returns from a meeting in grand frustration because he could hear the noise of talking but could not understand any of the words. Communication was impossible. Obstacles grew exponentially as noise filled the spaces of silence. Talk became louder; comprehension diminished accordingly.
Healing happens with wisdom and compassion. No one can accomplish this for us. You cannot liberate me. Only I can liberate me. However, each of us can assist the other. Each of us can seek to secure the silence necessary for us to grow in wisdom, age and grace. Each of us can help in the quest to reveal the true meaning of survival. Our mutual journey is long in immeasurable ways. The pilgrimage is not quantifiable in terms of years, months, or days. It is perceptible only in kairos time, God’s time.
As nurses, doctors, various hospital workers affirmed my weakened life, God was beseeched not to leave my world, our world, in darkness. “God has plans for you,” was the mantra I heard at every turn. The Buddha would have phrased it in these words: “Your foes will become nothing. Your friends will become nothing. You, too, will become nothing. All will become nothing.”
When all is nothing, no thing will interrupt or interfere with the only reality that is; God is in charge. We will have entered the ocean of wisdom. It is sink or swim. Float when necessary. Dive when needed. Take deep breaths. Keep on going.
Let the truth release us. Become a divine reflection like the moon is reflected on still waters.
The result is nothing less than miraculous. We will see ourselves as we really are. We will see others as they truly are. Our sight will become insight. When we see others, we will see ourselves.
Kundun, the 14th Dalai Lama, gained this wisdom as he entered the monastic way of Buddhism ever more deeply. He grew from a little boy who suffered the agony and the ecstasy of being placed on a spiritual pedestal to a profoundly compassionate man whose desire was only to “liberate those who were not liberated; to release those who were not released; to relieve those who were not relieved.”
His vocation is not labeled as Christian but it is eerily comparable to the call of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the mission that Jesus left as a legacy for his disciples: us.
We are the ones who believe that religion is not the opiate of the peoples, dulling their senses and commanding a false sense of submissiveness. Instead, religion provides an opportunity to be present to God who is uniquely present to us, if only we will open our hearts and minds to the divine spirit dwelling within each of us...and all of us! We are the people of God who will change the world, change the institutions, change the understanding of either/or to that of both/and.
The question remains: “Will we accept the challenge and become drops in an ocean of wisdom or will we remain stoic and silent, giving subtle assent to death rather than overt attentiveness to all that is life-giving?”
Will we choose to “be for others what they need; love all living things?” Will we embrace the reality that wherever life is, God appears; we appear and all are blessed by the divine presence?
I can only trust that we’ll make the choice.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Novant Medical Center, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.