Lately I’ve been working to complete a long project. A book, I dare say. Between writing and doing work that pays the bills, I’ve ignored this blog. It’s a shame. I enjoy publishing an article and seeing if anyone notices.
Unexpectedly this morning, however, a loud idea for a posting struck. The article could be composed quickly, without great imposition on my regular schedule. And the piece would be about spirituality, a topic not previously addressed here. The promise of a new subject was refreshing.
What inspired me? Synchronous readings. Coincidences usually trigger my “Is it odd or God?” response. They alert me to take notice, as if the Universe is winking at me.
So it was with this morning’s spark.
I begin my daily prayer and meditation routine by reading a short passage from the Bible and whatever other spiritual book is within reach. Today, continuing my linear progress through the Bible, I read Acts 11:1-18.
In summary, Simon Peter has returned to Jerusalem after dining with Gentiles. “The circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?'” And Peter explains by telling a story of how the voice of God had told him, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” And later, upon further reflection about baptism, Peter had realized, “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” The passage concludes with, “When [those challenging Peter] heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.'”
I found a message of acceptance in this passage. We may have our differences but can be united in faith. No one type of person (in this case, the circumcised) is greater than another (the uncircumcised). Familiar territory, but a nice reminder.
Then I reached and grabbed Elegant Failures: A Guide to Zen Koans, by Richard Shrobe.
I opened to a passage about Hui-chung. “He was born to a peasant family in a small village in the south of China where, it is said, he never spoke nor crossed the bridge in front of his family’s house until he was sixteen years old. That was when a Zen master appeared, and the boy immediately crossed the bridge, bowed to the teacher, and said, ‘Please, master, I want to take refuge in meditation and the Way. Please ordain me as a monk and take me as a student.’
“The Zen master said, ‘The teaching of our sect is very steep. If someone who is not worthy of the task takes up the teaching of our sect, then it will decline. So how could you, who are essentially a country bumpkin, be equal to the task?’
“The boy replied, ‘The true teaching is about equality, so why do you make high and low? Why do you hinder my good intentions by talking this way?'”
The Zen master pauses and then directs the boy to Mount Ts’ao Ch’i in Canton Province, to study under the Sixth Patriarch.
Did you note the word “Hinder” in both passages? What an odd coincidence, I thought, my antennae rising. Take note. The actors from the first reading could easily slip into the roles of the second. Thus, the Gentile could say to the circumcised, “The true teaching is about equality, so why do you make high and low? Why do you hinder my good intentions?”
Reflecting upon that repeated thought, I can ask myself if I hinder anyone on their journey to enlightenment. Am I prejudiced against a pilgrim because they don’t match my conception of a good person, a spiritual person, an enlightened person?
Good questions to ask ourselves in meditation. Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. Enjoy the day.