World Religion Day 2020

Today is World religion day 2020. I’m the MC for the devotional event in my small rural community in far north Australia. While it is a small community – the local government are has about 18,000 people – there are around 40 ethnic groups representing all the larger religions of the world. Here is my welcoming address.

Eckhart Tolle, in telling the story of his coming to meditation, said, “ There’s great freedom … in not compulsively interpreting other people, situations, and so on, not imposing thinking continuously on the world, which is so alive and so fresh and new at every moment… What we are talking about here is a state of alert attention to what is … where you rise above thinking to a large extent in your life, still being able to use it, but not being used by it.” Interview with Krista Tipppet On Being

Eckhart Tolle is famous for his books and courses on meditation. Meditation and mindfulness have been made popular and perhaps the single most common modern person’s access to the spiritual life. For many people, meditation is access to happiness. And, as we will hear in today’s readings, across the various religious traditions, meditation has a vital role not always connected to our personal happiness, but always connected to a view of the human being as a relationship to God and ourselves as more powerful than we ordinarily consider.

Berlin_RoomofSilenceThe image you are seeing on the screen is a composite of the Brandeberg Gate in Berlin – a hub a tourist activity from all around the world. Off to one side, hosted by a committee of all the religious organisations in Berlin, a number a little bigger than those of our religions, here – is a Room of Silence. Anyone can enter and stay as long as they want, in meditation, reflection or silent prayer. The past 200 years of Berlin since Napolean has been fraught with tyranny and wars. Only these last 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down could it be said that Berlin has had reprieve. It really looks like it might keep that way. However we cannot build a fully human planet with paying attention to how we are human. And meditation is a crucial element to being human.

This comment from the World Community of Christian Meditation Interfaith Program is very relevant to todays gathering. “Religion is becoming more, not less important in the world today. It is urgent that the deep changes taking place in religious consciousness across all faiths and in their relationships are connected to the contemplative power residing at the heart of all the great wisdom traditions.

Meditation opens us to the common ground of humanity – and the essential goodness of human nature. The differences between traditions and cultures are as important and enlightening as their similarities. Meditation establishes a spiritual friendship between the members and practitioners of all faiths and ensures that the differences do not become divisions or false justifications for intolerance or violence.

Notions of Gravity

I live in a well
in the matrix
a mass called
theeconomicsofcolonialcapitalism
balanced at the other end by
theapathyofaconsumerswarm.

The wells sag so deeply at each end
that the matrix, between, sings
like a well-tensioned drumskin.

Climbing the well, I saw a bird
with bright and trailing plumage,
swoop low.

Catching a tail feather,
and soaring up,
I got excited by the plain
appearing above the rim
and, unprepared, dropped heavily
in a bounce
so hard I tumbled clear across
and fell
into the other well.

I am nothing if not persistent, though,
For I HAVE SEEN ……
so i spend my time running
in a circle of inertia
like a circus motor cycle acrobat,
grabbing for a tail feather
that it might lift me to a more
perspicuous elevation above
the bustle of hostility.

Come with me!
Come test the gravity!
Hitch a lift!
and help me find purchase
on that vertiginous plain.

Let us make another indentation,
a nest of peace,
a dimple of care,
a valley of creativity
a new mass against
the old, deep wells.

Come on trapeziers and surfers!
Risk it all!
Leap out above the chasm
and grasp for the unseen cord,
and soar.

Speak no more of sadness
of living in the well of
perpetual and fading twilight.
Speak not of some abstracted place,
some heaven for the good.
Speak of what you have created new
where you dance across
the endless rolling fields,
forests, and soaking skies,
where I am so grateful that you helped me
with my vertigo.

PRAYER II

I want to achieve.
In my prayer I notice
the resistance to my desire
to love everyone
by what they do
and what they say.
Resistance makes a struggle.
I struggle to achieve
and ‘achieve is a struggle’.
The resistance sits in fear
that if it blows away
then so does the struggle
and anything that could
be achieved.

PRAYER I

(my desire reaches out
“I want …. ”
so much to achieve)
My speech falters
…. it isn’t adequate to ask
The vision seems strong.
Not sure of Your Will.
Perhaps, if I ask
Your Will,
You will
throw what I desire, away.
See how my desire is frightened
that You Will throw it all away?
Do you throw things away?
Or is it me.
Do I throw things away?
I don’t want the things
I desire, gone.
I want that achievement.
I don’t want it gone,
just for Your Will.
Could there be a way?
An open heart?
Yes, an open heart
so people will come
to what I want to achieve.
That should work for you, yeh?
… the pen throws down
and the lip curls …..
“… save them from outward semblances.
Make them to be a comfort
and a solace to humankind
and servants to the peace of the world.”
Bowed in my ineptitude
I shall dance
as an opening to Your reply.
 

DOES GOD EXIST?

The word EXIST, like all words, stands as a symbol of a symbol, in this case an idea of phenomenon. As a word, it is, itself, a phenomenon. As a word it points for me to something that I am experiencing, that can, therefore, be said to be a phenomenon. The word God and Exist in the same sentence, for me, falls away, awkwardly, to the degree that I am leant to declare, God doesn’t Exist.

In the Baha’i Faith there are two words that stand for the idea of God: UNKNOWABLE and ESSENCE.

Unknowable, in the sense it is used for God, is an absolute feature. It is not like the idea that I know I don’t know, or even that I don’t know that I don’t know. It is not the mathematical idea of nothing in the set, zero. It is an idea that anything I can be, anything a sentient being will be, will not come any closer to knowing. It is that there is no set to hold no items. The word God, itself, is a placemark for the unknowability of, and here the second word comes into play, Essence.

Essence is the idea of the merest hint, the barest sense, a fleeting awareness. The fleeting awareness is a register of an ocean of power that is itself something manifest, something phenomenal. This ocean of power exudes both an awesome potentiality as well as a deeply inviting calm. An awareness of the ocean of existence only points further to the hint of an infiniteness of existence that, nonetheless, has certain regulations, a way that it works. And, there, as the way it works, lies the essence of the unknowable. The bringing of existence into existence is tangible as that it works the way it works, and that it is not ours to expect differently, nor decry that it works the way it works, for it works for we.

When I bring up the word exist, it is if essence ceases to exist. The word ‘exist comes up like an impenetrable wall which shuts out all merest hint, all barest sense. Exist not only has no capacity to speak of, to point to God, it is a heavy veil between my sense and the essence. To seek for the merest hint of the unknowable essence, put away all thought that God exists. Sit with your sense of being, ranging widely and seekingly, without any more purpose than just broadening the range across the ocean of power.