Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Zen Parable: The Story of the Student and the Thief.

There is a Zen Koan which goes something like this:

Once there was a Zen student who was meditating in his room. A robber broke in while he was meditating on the floor, put a knife to his back, and demanded money. "I keep the money in the jar over on the table." The student said without opening his eyes. The robber went over to the table and took the money from the jar. "They are coming around in the morning to collect taxes." said the student. "Leave a little money so I will have enough to pay them." So the robber put some money back into the jar, and turned to leave the room. "Don't you say 'Thank You' to someone who gives you a gift?" asked the student. So the robber thanked the student, and left the room.

After some time, the robber was caught by the police. He confessed to many crimes, among them the robbery of the Zen student. The police went to the home of the student to seek his testimony against the robber. The student refused to testify. "The man came in, I gave him some money, he thanked me, and that was that." is all the student would say about the robbery.

Eventually the robber was convicted of his many other crimes, and spent several years in prison. When he was released, he went back to the Zen student. "Will you accept me as your disciple?" the man asked.

This story points to a truth that is found in both Buddhism and in Early Christianity; that of Universal, Unconditional Love. Love of friend and foe alike. Indeed the student in this story is unable to distinguish between friend and foe. He treats the robber as he would an old friend asking for a loan. He does not seek to recover any of the money that was lost, with the exception of the small amount of money needed to pay his taxes; the same amount of money which the robber put back voluntarily into the jar. This same teaching, in different words, can be found in the Sermon On The Mount: "Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; pray for your persecutors." And again, "If someone takes from you your coat, give him your shirt as well." An early Christian document known as the Didache (The Teaching Of The Twelve Apostles To The Nations) is even more to the point, "If someone takes anything from you, do not ask for it back, for indeed you can not." The lesson contained here is clear; Love is more important than property, even the Love of one's enemies.

The effect of such Love is clearly shown in the above story. After seeing the error of his ways, the man returns to the student, much as the Prodigal son returns home to the Father. "Will you accept me as your disciple?" The young Zen student suddenly becomes a Master! All though the simple act of teaching from one's life example.

This is a lesson we all can learn from today. Today, if a Temple or Church is broken into, more often than not the people of that Temple or Church wish to demand "justice". They take the offender to court and seek restitution. A few years ago a local church was broken into by a man who was high on drugs and alcohol. He ransacked the Pastor's office looking for money, finding none. In the process, however, he caused considerable property damage. The man was arrested by police who responded to a silent alarm. The Pastor of that church wished to forgive the incident completely. Insurance would cover the damage. All he wanted was for the man to get addictions counseling and become a better husband and father in the process. A church elder, who was also the county prosecutor, would not hear of such a plan. He sought to make an example of this thief who broke into and damaged "his" church. What lesson was taught to this man and his wife and his four children? Basically this; that the church is no different from any other institution. Cross the church and you pay a price equal to, if not greater than, offending any other "worldly" organization. As far as the church is concerned, money and property are always the bottom line. As Christians should we not strive to be better than this? As Paul once wrote, "If you share in blessings that are imperishable, how much more should you share in the perishable things?" Jesus sums it up well in this commandment, "Be Perfect (in Love) as your Heavenly Father is Perfect." Let us live as our Saviour and Master demands.

With Metta in Christ,


Sunday, May 16, 2010


Laurence Freeman OSB presents Jesus as a teacher of the Contemplative life; a teacher of Meditation. This is a point Christians have overlooked for centuries, but a point that is clearly illustrated in the Gospels, especially The Sermon On The Mount found in the Gospel according to Matthew. It is a point we need to get back to as Christians, and more importantly as followers of Jesus the Christ. So much of Christianity today is focused on egotistical self-seeking ways; making sure of our salvation, and to hell with the rest of humanity or creation. Jesus calls us beyond this mindset and into a direct relationship with God. This relationship with God brings us into Unity, not only with God, the Greatest Good and Root of All Being, but into Unity and relationship with our fellows and the rest of the Universe. Thus when we are in a direct relationship with God, there is no way we can doubt the Salvation of ourselves or others. Rather we see the One moving and working within the many. Just as a wave on the ocean can not doubt in any way that it is water, so too when we discover our true Self through the practice of Meditation, can not doubt in any way our Ultimate identity or destination. Give just one hour per day to the practice of Meditation, and you will soon see what I am talking about, and more importantly, what the Almighty seeks to remind you of! Bringing the Contemplative Life and the practice of Meditation back into Christianity is truly the Great Unfinished Work of our day and age.



Saturday, May 15, 2010

"What-so-ever You Do..." A Story of Sheep and Goats.

When the son of Adam comes in His glory, accompanied by His messengers, then He will occupy His glorious throne. Then all peoples will be assembled before Him, and He will separate them , much as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats to His left. Then the King will say to those at His right, "Come you who have the blessing of my Father, inherit the domain prepared for you from the foundation of the world. You may remember, I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a foreigner in your land and you offered Me hospitality; I was naked and you clothed me; I was ill and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to see Me."

Then the virtuous will say to Him, "Lord when did we see you hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You a drink? When did we see You as a foreigner and give You hospitality? When did we see You naked and clothe you, and when did we find you ill or in prison and come to visit You?"

And the King will respond to them, "I swear to you, whatever you did for the least most inconspicuous members of My family, you did for Me as well."

Next He will say to those at His left, "You condemned to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his messengers, get away from Me! For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you refused Me anything to drink; I was a foreigner and you failed to offer Me hospitality; naked and you did not clothe me; ill and in prison and you did not come to visit Me."

Then they will give a similar reply, "Lord, when did we notice that You where hungry or thirsty or a foreigner or naked or ill or in prison and not attempt to help You?"

He will respond: "I swear to you, whatever you did not do for any of the least most inconspicuous members of My family, you did not do for Me."

Then the second group will head for everlasting punishment, but the virtuous for everlasting life.

Gospel According to Matthew 25: 31-46 (SV)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Rabbinical Parable On Helping The Poor.

It is related of Nahum of Gamzu that he was blind in both of his eyes, his two hands and legs were amputated, and his whole body was covered with boils and he was lying in a dilapidated house on a bed the feet of which where standing in bowls of water in order to prevent the ants from crawling onto him. His disciples said to him, "Master, why has this befallen you?" And he replied, "I have brought this condition onto myself. Once I was on a journey to my father-in-law's house with three donkeys. One donkey was loaded down with food. The second donkey was loaded down with all kinds of drink. The third donkey was laden with delicious desserts. Close to my father-in-law's home a poor man stopped me and said, 'Master, please give me something to eat.' I replied, 'Wait until I have unloaded all three donkeys at my father-in-law's home, and then I will return to give you something to eat.' But before I could finish unloading the donkeys, the poor man died of starvation. I then went and threw myself upon the man's body and exclaimed, 'May my eyes which had no pity on your eyes become blind, may my hands which had no pity on your hands be cut off, may my legs be amputated, and may my whole body be covered with boils for not having had mercy upon you.'" Thereupon the disciples exclaimed, "Alas that we see you in such a plight!" To this he replied, "Woe to me if you did not see me in such a plight."

Babylonian Talmud, Taanith 21.A

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Cry Of The Poor.

Last week I passed a man and a woman standing on a street corner with a sign saying they needed help. I was in a hurry so as not to be late for work, so I passed them by. The next day I saw the same couple sitting a few yards from where I had seen them last, both now severely sunburned and clearly in bad straights. I stopped to offer help, as did another lady right behind me. This raised the question in my mind; How much suffering does it take before otherwise good people will stop and do the right thing?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Give Me Something To Believe In - Music by Poison.

What Do We Really Believe?

I hear many people say they believe in helping the homeless, the sick, the destitute. I hear many people say they believe in relieving the suffering of so many people around them. I hear people say, "Somebody ought to do something about things like this." not realizing that they are somebody with the means to act.

What do we really believe in? Where do our hearts really lie? Take a moment to look through the ledger on your checkbook or to look at your latest credit card statement. Where have you been spending the bulk of your time and money? That is what you believe in the most. Does it match well with what you say your inner beliefs really are? Chances are it doesn't.

The problems of the world seem so many and so diverse. We often times wonder what any one of us can do to solve even a few of the worlds problems, let alone the many we see. What can one person do? Perhaps not much. But, a group of people working in community...sharing their resources...pooling together their time, talents, and material resources....providing spiritual support and encouragement...seeing to their own inner growth and the spiritual growth of others...this is where miracles can happen and lives can be changed. Working alone we are limited in what we can do. Working together, in harmony, we can all give the world a little something to believe in!