Jesus Yoga & Tilopa’s Mahamudra

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Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden. I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . .  for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mind itself is self-liberated dharmakaya. Within which arises self-liberated mahamudra. This key to self-liberated experience I possess.

 

 

 

 

Great masters leave their mark on this world through their teachings and ultimately the lineage of followers who carry on their work. We are greatly blessed in this historical epoch to have access to two of humanity’s great spiritual yogins. Jesus personified compassion. His example and stories have fashioned a mind set that places ‘a love of neighbor as oneself’ at the cornerstone of behavior.

Tilopa was born in India one thousand years after Jesus. From Tilopa we have the quintessential teachings on mind known as Mahamudra. Tibetan Buddhism is predicated on the principal of Mahamudra. In Sanskrit Maha means ‘great’ and Mudra means ‘seal’.  When Tilopa’s lineage was passed on to Naropa and carried into Tibet by Marpa, Mahamudra became phyag-gya-chen-po. Not content with merely translating the literal meaning the Tibetan yogins went one step further and built into their dialogue a vocabulary that infused each particular word with additional significance. Phyag-gya means not only seal but ‘vast’.  Phyag also means ‘hand’ as well ‘cleaning tool’, i.e. a broom or sponge. Therefore, Mahamudra is a meditational system which purifies our mind of impurities. Our mind is left capable of of recognizing it’s own true nature: at once both vast and empty- Dharmakaya. This ‘recognition’ is ‘self-arisen’ therefore ‘self-liberating’ and the experience is complete, ‘sealed.’

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Tilopa’s most famous expression has been I, Tilopa, have no human guru. My guru is mighty Vajradhara.  As Tai Situ Rinpoche (whose calligraphy is shown above) explains: Let us be careful not to misinterpret this declaration. It was made neither through pride nor through ingratitude to the many, often illustrious, teachers who had helped him in the earlier part of his life. It is certain that he appreciated all those scholars, mahasiddhas’ and dakinis’ help a great deal and that he continued to respect them. By this stage in his life, he had attained perfect realization and full mastery of vajra-like samadhi: he was totally inspired by Buddha Vajradhara (Bearer of the Thunderbolt) and possessed his power of absolute certainty — the extraordinary personal transmissions. It would have been a matter of course for his Indian disciples to inquire after his gurus and the traditions he represented. It was natural for him to reply as above, to impress upon them the power and freshness of his own direct realization and his first-hand link with enlightenment.dakpo-tashi-namgyal-001

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Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (1511-1587) was responsible for codifying the techniques we refer to today as Mahamudra. His exhaustive and thorough treatise The Perfect Description of Moonlight that Illuminates the Stages of Ultimate Mahamudra was the first Tibetan text on meditation translated into English (at the behest of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje).

Anyone stuck inside a human body should not consider going through life without the ultimate owner’s manual Clarifying the Natural State.  Concise and clearly written this is a practical, how-to on meditation (sort-of-like the old books on keeping your VW van alive). Consider Three key points: Remain fresh in unconcerned naturalness. Remain artless and uncontrived without judging. Remain unbound and uninvolved with striving.  For this there are Five Analogies: Elevate your experience and remain wide-open like the sky. Expand your mindfulness and remain pervasive like the earth. Steady your attention and remain unshakable like a mountain. Brighten your awareness and remain shining like a flame. Clear your thought-free wakefulness and remain lucid like a crystal.

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In the middle of the twentieth century, shortly after the horrors of the second world war, Autobiography of a Yogi 001three events took place that rewrote our concept of Jesus, the man and his message. First the discovery at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945 of ancient Christian texts buried some 400 years after the death of Jesus. Included among the codices found was a complete copy of the Gospel of Thomas (the above quote is taken from that text). One year later (1946) Paramahansa Yogananda released Autobiography of a Yogi. On October 4, 1948 Harcourt, Merton-Seven Storey Mtn 001Brace published Thomas Merton’s seminal autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. Seventy years on both of these books have been among the top selling spiritual books. Yogananda and Merton charted parallel paths, one beginning in the West and turning Eastward, the other born in India brought yoga to America and has been instrumental in forging a fresh view on the meaning of Christ.

Thomas Merton was single-handedly responsible for an upsurge in Catholic vocations after SSM was released. His ability to communicate on issues of faith, conscience and inner flaws made him an icon for a generation. He became the public conscience for opposition to nuclear proliferation even when the Catholic Church tried to silence him. Even more importantly he was a one-man band  for inter-faith dialogue. Again the church tried silencing him, even threatening excommunication when he began a now famous exchange of letters with Zen Master D.T. Suzuki. Shortly before his death in 1968 Merton met, and impressed Tibetan lamas who had only recently found refuge in India. The Dalai Lama said Merton was the one who “introduced him to the real meaning of the word Christian.” He also cited Thomas Merton as one of the three most influential influences on his own life.

Christopher Pramuk points out in the best-ever study of Merton’s work, SOPHIA: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton the key element Merton focused on: the unity inherent in disparity. “What Zen realization shares with biblical-mystical faith is precisely the disarming experience of ‘a breakthrough . . . a recovery of unity which is not the suppression of opposites but a simplicity beyond opposites’.”

Thomas Merton calls us still to invest new energy and faith in our search for the Hidden Christ within — Christ has planted in the world the seeds of something altogether new, but they do not grow by themselves. . . For the world to be changed, man himself must begin to change it, he must take the initiative, he must step forth and make a new kind of history.

As Merton looked Eastward to expand his relationship with Christian Wisdom Paramahansa Yogananda emblazoned the ancient Indian science of yoga across the face of America, literally from sea to sea. Indian spiritual tradition both praises the human guru and holds their teaching and example as a beacon toward which the student strives and attains. Such is the inherent power in the Indian subcontinent’s message that the mystical path must result in the dedicated practitioners attaining the enlightenment they will then inspire in the next generation. It must be so or the lineage perishes.

The Apostle Thomas carried the teachings of Jesus to India, he lived there, he died there. The Gospel of Thomas has awakened a long dormant element in the Christian tradition. For two thousand years Western Christianity presented Jesus as a being fromyoga-of-jesus-001 whom we could seek pardon and protection but not someone we could ever hope to approach face-to-face as equals.  Now we know that was not the message Jesus gave to his own followers: Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. . .  I am the light of the world which is before all things. From me all things come forth, and to me all things extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there, lift up the stone, and you will find me. . . Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am, and I myself will become that person, and the mysteries shall be revealed to them.” Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas continues: Jesus took Thomas and withdrew, and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?” Thomas said, “If I tell you even one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; and a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up”. The traditional Gospels state clearly that Jesus gave his close students teachings on a deeper level than presented in the New Testament. This is to be expected, a Master who could heal with extraordinary power, speak deep truths simply and clearly through parable and even indeed walk through his own death experience consciously and produce clear evidence of that experience transmitted some of his own power to others. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles has ample evidence of the disciples newfound powers. The Holy Face veil in Manopello, Italy (The Face of God) is total physical proof of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus left us a trail and then buried the tracks for two thousand years, until now. It is up to those who believe to seize upon this moment and manifest the Consciousness of Christ through belief, prayer and mediation

Paramahansa Yogananda’s message is inseparable from his own relationship with Jesus. Yogananda wrote in THE SECOND COMING OF CHRISTTruth is no theory, no speculative system of philosophy, no intellectual insight. Truth is an exact correspondence with reality. For man, truth is unshakeable knowledge of his real nature, his Self as soul. Jesus, by every act and word of his life, proved that he knew the truth of his being–his source in God. Wholly identified with the omnipresent Christ Consciousness, he could say with finality, “Everyone that is of the truth will hear my voice”. . . The decipherment of this secret code is an art that man cannot communicate; here the Lord alone is the teacher.  Of course, Yogananda is not downplaying the role his own guru, Sri Yukteswar, played in his life. He is merely echoing Tilopa’s teaching, on the final mountain top we attain our own transfiguration and came face to face with reality in it’s most elemental form — a burning bush, Vajradhara or Moses and Elijah.

Which brings us full circle to the present practitioners of Christianity and Buddhism.

book-of-joy-001No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. This is the power we wield. Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fortune or fame. It reside only in the human mind and heart, and it is here we hope you will find it. Tenzin Gyatso/Desmond Tutu

Happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not. Desmond Tutu

Our human nature has been distorted. We are actually quite remarkable creatures. In our religions I am created in the image of God. I am a God carrier.rabble-rouser-for-peace-001 It’s fantastic. I have to be growing in godlikeness, in caring for the other. I know that each time I have acted compassionately, I have experienced a joy in me that I find in nothing else. Desmond Tutu, Rabble Rouser for Peace, a barefoot schoolboy from a deprived black township who became an international symbol of the democratic spirit and religious faith. The Bible is dynamite . . . nothing could be more radical. . . Prayer and social action is not an either-or proposition. Rather, prayer inevitably drove me off my knees into action.

The Dalai Lama visited Belfast in northern Ireland after the Troubles. He was invited to attend a private meeting where victims and perpetrators of violence were present. The atmosphere was very tense, as the suffering was practically palpable in the air. As the meeting began, a former Protestant militant spoke of how, when he was growing up, he was told by other loyalists that what they did in opposition to the Catholics was justified because Jesus was a Protestant and not a Catholic. Knowing that Jesus was, of course, a Jew the Dalai Lama laughed so hard that he completely changed the atmosphere. Able to laugh at the absurdity of our prejudices and our hatreds, everyone was able to communicate more honestly and compassionately with each other. THE BOOK OF JOY

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“I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone.” Thomas Merton

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Danny Thomas/Arab American: Saint Jude’s Messenger

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Danny Thomas was born Muzyad Yakhoob on January 6, 1912 in Deerfield, Michigan, or as he liked to say “over Mrs. Feldman’s bakery in Toledo, Ohio.” Danny’s father,  Shaheed (the Witness) Yakhoob could read Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic and spoke some English. Danny’s mother, Margaret Taouk, like her husband, was a Maronite Catholic from Becheri (B’Sharri), Lebanon.

Danny grew up in Toledo listening to his father playing a wide variety of Lebanese string and wind instruments and telling stories of life in the mountains of Lebanon. Their landlady, Mrs. Feldman, was also a story teller, often involving life in the Polish shetl were she grew up. All his life, Danny maintained a genuine love of all people and cultures and an ability to relate their concerns with humor. He began his show business career as a saloon entertainer using his Anglicized name Amos Jacobs.

His wife, Rose Marie, in a Detroit hospital ready to deliver their first child Marlo, had been urging him to abandon show business and find a real job. The despondent entertainer entered the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul seeking consolation (this was during the Great Depression, a hard time for many). On the pew was a pamphlet for the forgotten saint, Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of the impossible, hopeless and difficult cases. Amos took his last seven dollars and dropped it in the donation box and asked St. Jude to return it ten-fold. A week later he earned seventy-five dollars doing a radio ad.

Shortly thereafter, he was offered a job with a Chicago radio station, so the young family moved from Detroit. In 1940, he took a one-week trial engagement in a new club. The club’s owner asked him what stage name he wished to use. Thinking quickly, he chose the names of two of his brothers and replied Danny Thomas.

Three years later, still at the 5100 Club, Danny was offered a partnership in the club with the proviso that he stay on permanently as master of ceremonies. Danny was torn between the promise of economic security and giving up on his goal of becoming a “big time” star. He again turned to St. Jude:

Help me find my place in life. Give me just a small sign of what road I must take and I’ll dedicate my life to perpetuating your name. Help me find my place in life and I will build you a shrine . . . where the poor, and the helpless and the hopeless may come for comfort and aid.

When the day arrived for Danny to give an answer to the club’s owner, Chicago was hit with a massive snow storm. All travel venues were shut down. Stuck in town, legendary theatrical agent Abe Lastfogel, upon the advice of a friend, decided to check out the young comic at the 5100 Club. He loved what he saw. The rest is history.

Danny Thomas was one of television’s most beloved figures on Make Room for Daddy which ran from 1953 to 1965. He also produced The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show and The Real McCoys. More importantly, Danny Thomas kept his promise to Saint Jude.

For us today, Jude’s story begins with the death of Christ. When the body of Jesus was removed from the cross and taken to a tomb it was dressed for burial in a traditional Jewish manner. Before the massive stone was rolled in place sealing the tomb, Mary Magdalene laid a small veil woven from expensive sea silk (threads of which are spun from fiber produced by clams) upon Jesus’ face. To this day Mary Magdalene can be identified in Christian art by her symbol, a sea shell. When she returned to the tomb on the First Easter Sunday the rock had been rolled away, she ran to tell the other disciples.

Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen wrappings lying there and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, John, entered and he saw and believed. What we can deduce is that he saw Jesus’ face, clearly visible on the sea silk cloth which came to be known as the Veronica Veil.

Any object which had come in contact with a dead body was considered defiled by Jewish tradition. So contact with such items was strictly forbidden. Hence the early Christians great dilemma was that the most tangible proof of Christ’s Resurrection could not even be discussed or displayed publicly. It remained hidden (in plain sight in a church in the Tuscan mountains) until Paul Badde wrote THE FACE OF GOD and THE TRUE ICON.

This was the so-called arcanum [closely guarded secret] of early Christianity, in which what was previously the most impure thing was suddenly revered as the purest of all. The light images of these cloths of light were immediately locked up so tight under this code of secrecy that it was centuries before the news was released from that secret space — while the beautiful rumor of an image “not made by human hands” of God’s countenance gradually filled the whole house of Christendom like incense.  Paul Badde

King Abgar of Edessa (now part of Turkey) had desired to meet Jesus. The king suffered from leprosy and was convinced Jesus could heal him. After the crucifixion, Jude Thaddeus displayed the veil to King Abgar, who was then cured instantly. This scene (taken from The Face of God) is depicted at the top of this article.

Danny Thomas, determined to keep his vow by building a hospital for children, sought assistance from two quarters: Samuel Cardinal Stritch of Chicago (left) who had confirmed Danny many years earlier when he was Bishop of Toledo, and the Arabic speaking community of the United States.

He came to them, his people, because never in the history of this country had people of their ethnic back ground joined together as a group to honor their forefathers who had come to America seeking a new world for their children. Nor had they done anything as a group to say “thank you” to America for letting their forefathers come to this country, establish themselves in the business and professional community and raise their children to enjoy the full benefits the country had to offer.” (From A DREAM COME TRUE The Story of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and ALSAC).

St Jude & Danny Thomas 001With the devoted assistance of LaVonne Rashid (left) and Michael Tamer St Jude & Danny Thomas 002(right) Danny Thomas founded the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities on October 10, 1957 in Chicago. Since then ALSAC has raised more than $500 million annually of which 85% goes directly to St. Jude’s Hospital. According to Wikipedia, “Discoveries at St. Jude have completely changed how doctors treat children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. Since St. Jude was established, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has St. Jude & Danny Thomas 001increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today. During this time, the overall survival rate for childhood cancers has risen from 20 percent to 80 percent. St. Jude has treated children from across the United States and from more than 70 countries. Doctors across the world consult with St. Jude on their toughest cases. Also, St. Jude has an International Outreach Program to improve the survival rates of children with catastrophic illnesses worldwide through the transfer of knowledge, technology and organizational skills.” St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital was also the first fully integrated hospital in the south.

Today, St. Jude is well known for his works. Anonymous newspaper ads across America attest to Jude’s faithful response to requests for his aid. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be honored, loved and praised throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, helper of the hopeless, pray for us.

Danny Thomas intended that St. Jude’s Hospital never turn away a child due to the family’s inability to pay, ethnic origin or religion. Danny Thomas’ belief in St. Jude has made the world a better place. Let us all pray to St. Jude for healing and light to overcome bigotry and hate. May all peoples live in harmony, our common prayers reaching the heaven within our hearts and reflect onto the faces of all we meet.

Standing before a ten foot marble statue of St. Jude, his personal gift to the hospital, Danny Thomas told the crowd, To those of you who are Catholic, this is a symbol of our faith in St. Jude as the patron saint of hopeless causes and our dedication of this hospital as a shrine fulfilling a promise made to him.” He paused, then continued, “To all of you who are of different beliefs, it’s still a pretty nice statue.”
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Lawrence Birney, along with his wife Angelina Birney, is co-founder of The Pure Vision Foundation, a non-profit organization which donates inter-faith spiritual books to New York prisons through its Thomas Merton Prison Project. Lawrence and Angelina have also written two spiritual novels, PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation and TARA THUNDERBOLT and the Sky Dancer Cat.
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Prophetic Voices: Martin Luther – William Barclay – Robert Lax

Luther's Fortress 001On October 31st, 2016 Pope Francis will take part in a joint ceremony with the World Lutheran Federation in Lund, Sweden. This marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s attack on the Roman Church which launched the Protestant Reformation. The Pope released a statement, “I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other churches which has not reflected gospel values.” Even for a man known for radical departures from traditional norms, this is a quantum leap which can only benefit us all. Martin Luther was a true prophet, his vision embarked many in the Christian community in a new direction. He saw clearly the dangers inherent in a strictly celibate priesthood and the blatant corruption involved with selling indulgences.  Luther’s Fortress by James Reston, Jr. captures the pivotal year in Luther’s life that resulted in his greatest triumph.

Luther's Cell - Wartburg 001.jpgIn 1521 Martin Luther was hiding, under sentence of death, holed up in a tower room at Wartburg Castle which he referred to as “his Patmos.” It was in this room, for the next ten months, Martin Luther began his Bible translation, bringing a discordant collection of Latin versions into a coherent German comprehensible to the average man, albeit many of whom could not read. An English priest, William Tyndale, journeyed to Germany and met with Luther. Tyndale translated Luther’s Bible into English. Copies had to be smuggled into England, over 90% of the King James Bible derives from Tyndale’s translation. Luther’s Reformation led to a mass revolt of peasants in Germany and Austria against the societal constraints that left them in perpetual misery. Thousands of the revolutionaries were slaughtered and the leader,  Thomas Müntzer beheaded. Martin Luther threw his support behind the ruling class.

Likewise Jorge Mario Bergolio swung the Roman axis on its heels when he became the first Pope Francis - Vallely 001Pope from the America’s and the first Jesuit ever so honored.  When he also, of his own choice, became the first Pontiff to take the name Francis the world was served notice that the Catholic community now had a leader fearless enough to face the Lords of Capitalism and call them by their rightful name – Shameful. In our insular American bubble television poses as culture and a ‘reality’ show host a politician. Growing up in Venezuela in the 1950’s the disparity of wealth between the haves and the poverty of the have-nots seared itself into my mind stream. What is tragic is now that disparity has become the norm in the United states. Like frogs in boiling water we have watched society morph into a Dickens tragedy without notice. Thank God, literally Thank God, Pope Francis notices. For a clear accounting of Bergolio’s route from chemical technician to priest-archbishop-cardinal and then Pontiff read Paul Vallely’s masterpeice, POPE FRANCIS: The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism.

William Barclay - Ordination 001.jpgWhen God has told you what you ought to do, he has already told you what you can do. William Barclay lived his life based on the tenets of this quote from Walter Savage Landor. I am indebted to my good friend Reverend Alfred Twyman, Ministerial Program Coordinator for the New York State Department of Corrections, for introducing me to Barclay. Born in Wick, Scotland in 1907 by the time he died in 1978 William Barclay was one of the world’s most widely read and studied religious personalities. His New Testament Commentaries, The New Daily Study Bible, are exemplary in their combination of faith and scholasticism. Trained at the Church of Scotland’s Trinity College Barclay was solidly grounded in classical theology, versed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He understood, and fought for, the belief that we lose our spiritual umbilical cord when we toss aside the linguistic roots that led to our present beliefs. Likewise, there can be no true practice of Vajrayana Buddhism if we lose our facility with Sanskrit and Tibetan.

Robert Lax (1915-2000) is most commonly remembered as the friend and classmate of Thomas Merton who brought clarity to Merton’s life with one famous question. In a quiet moment when Merton wasn’t banging on a piano, or bongo drums or the sensibilities of his house mates Lax queried, “What do you want to do, anyway?” Merton responded, “I want to be a good Catholic.” As Merton tells us in THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN:  The explanation I gave was lame enough, and expressed my confusion, and betrayed how little I had really thought about it at all. Lax did not accept it. “What you should say” – he told me – “what you should say is that you want to be a saint.” A saint! The thought struck me as a little weird. I said: “How do you expect me to become a saint?” “By wanting to,” said Lax, simply.

This exchange captures eloquently the noble complexity of Robert Lax’s mind that found Pure Act - Robert Lax 001.jpgtrue expression in simplicity. Michael McGregor’s new biography, PURE ACT: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax, is a wonderful read. More importantly it is an indispensable read for anyone who is drawn to a writer’s life, and we are blessed by the author’s personal friendship with Lax who he met on the island of Patmos, Greece made famous as the home of the Apostle John when he wrote the Book of Revelations.

McGregor tells us, “Merton was a man who needed answers, while Lax was content with questions . . . Lax told me once that whenever the two of them went to a new place, Merton would set off immediately to explore and get his bearings, while Lax would find a coffee shop and contemplate the place from there . . . Where the two met was in their thirst for understanding, their desire to do good, their intelligence, and their humor. McGregor calls, “pure act, a natural living out of one’s God-given abilities and potentials without the splitting-off of consciousness that might question or judge.”

Robert Lax outlived Merton by thirty-two years, a living exemplar of Merton’s notion of one monk in his cell praying being the sole thread preventing the dissolution of the yarn the world is spinning.

Martin Luther based his revolution on faith. For Luther faith alone held the key to salvation. For I say none of the saints, no matter how holy they were, attained salvation by their works. Salvation does not lie in our works, no matter what they are. It cannot and will not be effected without faith.

Referring to the Bible, Sir Walter Scot said, “there is but one book for the true Scot.” Wlliam Barclay was certainly a true Scot. Clive Rawlins who authored the definitive, authorized biography of William Barclay states that Barclay “was first and foremost a Bible preacher. His power derived from logically arrayed detail, delivered eloquently with reverence, a Love of God and deep respect and Love for Man his creation.” Like Martin Luther William Barclay spent his life seeking every available means to share his faith and bring the message of Jesus to life for common people.

Zeffirelli - Jesus & Centurion 001.jpgWhen the classic Franco Zeffirelli film JESUS of Nazareth (1977) was released William Barclay was asked to write a companion book replete with photos from the film. My favorite Jesus story on the subject of faith concerns the centurion who asked Jesus to cure his servant. As Barclay tells the story: “Lord,” said the centurion, “I would like to ask you a great favor. I have a servant in my house who is very dear to me, more like a son than a servant. He is very sick, dying I fear. Lord, in all humility I ask . . .” Jesus broke in, “. . . that I should come to your house? Very well, I will come.” “No, Lord,” the centurion said. “I am unworthy that you should enter under my roof. I know that if you say the word my servant will be healed. I am a man who knows all about discipline and authority. I myself have authority over 100 soldiers, and if I say to one, ‘Do this’, I know that he will do it. If I say to another, ‘Go there’, I know that he will go. I need not see, I know. So it is enough that you give your word, and it will be done.” Jesus was deeply moved. He turned to all to those present and pointed at the centurion. “Did you hear this man? I say to you all, I have not found faith like this among many in Israel” . . . He laid a friendly hand on the centurion’s shoulder. “Go home,” he said “your faith has cured your servant.”

William Barclay wrote, “It would be both possible and natural to hold that ‘Thy Kingdom come’ is the central petition of the Lord’s Prayer, for it is quite certain that the Kingdom of God was the central message and proclamation of Jesus . . . The announcement of the Kingdom was nothing less than the purpose for which Jesus came into the world . . . The initial message of Jesus was a summons to repent . . . literally, a change of mind (metanoia) a turning round and facing the opposite direction . . . The Kingdom of God starts with the smallest beginnings. Men do not enter in crowds, they must enter as individuals . . . That is why the growth of the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, into a tree symbolizes the Kingdom.” From The Lord’s Prayer by William Barclay.

Let us all go forward with our lives, day by day, and see the face of Christ in all those we meet, and pray they see the face of Christ in ours.

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Tibetan Buddhist center in Columbus, Ohio, Karma Thegsum Chöling, struck by arson. Please help the rebuilding effort.

 

Thomas Merton & The Islamic State: The One-Eyed Giant

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The Great task of magnanimous men:- to establish with truth, justice, charity and liberty, new methods of relationships in human society — the task of bringing about true peace in the order established by God. We publicly praise such men and earnestly invite them to persevere in their work with ever greater zeal. It is an imperative of duty: it is a requirement of love.  POPE JOHN XXIII

 

 

It is an article of faith in political circles to posit that the candidacy of Donald Trump is the logical conclusion to years of Republican derision about the United States government. Ronald Reagan loved to opine that , “Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.” The popularity of Trump and his ilk are inheritors of this scorn directed at the vital shards of our society.

It might also be stated that The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, is the inevitable conclusion of hundreds of years of European and American intervention and exploitation of Middle Eastern and African cultures. Hence; The One-Eyed Giant. In his introduction to GANDHI ON NON-VIOLENCE Thomas Merton drew upon a quote by Laurens Van Der Post who said, “The white man came into Africa like a one-eyed giant, bringing with him the characteristic split and blindness which where at once his strength, his torment and his ruin.” Merton expounds on this theme with his comments that the one-eyed giant swaggered into the Arabesque crystal shop of Eastern culture full of bluster and military might and precious little sensitivity and no spiritual insight Our hammer-headed blindness still looks upon all problems as a nail.

Herein strides Donald Trump, a gas filled balloon that he himself has let go off so it careens across the stage disparaging anything and everyone. There is a great danger here. The Islamic State will take his rhetoric and use it with savage precision. Young people around the world look to America for leadership. If that leadership shows itself blind to their vThe Year of Fear - Urschel 001alues and heritage they will answer the jihadist call. Lest we think terrorism is a new phenomena in America, read Joe Urschel’s excellent study of America in the 1930’s, THE YEAR OF FEAR: Machine Gun Kelly and the Manhunt that Changed the Nation. Homegrown terrorism, rooted in violence, awash in blood, robbing banks, kidnapping businessmen, not for an ideology but for money and thrills. Nevertheless terrorism. From this era our modern concept of policing was born without which we live in chaos.

To defeat The Islamic State we must first defuse our own explosive arrogance. The legacy of the East/West fault lines run deep. We cannot heal foreign societies without first  healing our own inner wounds. America’s obsession with guns speaks to a deep disassociation with our own inner ‘Christ’. This is the front line battle against terrorism, our own desperate need to seek a violent solution to all our frustrations. The answers won’t be only legislative, we must publicly call out those ‘stalwarts of society’ that sit in the board rooms and occupy the executive suites of money making monstrosities that live only to make money destroying lives.. The number of guns in American homes speaks to a lack of Christ in America’s heart. When we turn to violence we breed more Monks of Tibhirine 001violence. Facing an Arab insurrection in the French colony of Algeria in the 1950’s and early sixties, French settlers and veterans of World War II formed the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS; Secret Army Organization). During one five month period in 1962 these French ‘patriots’ were assassinating one person every six minutes. Viewed through this lens the chaos in today’s North Africa takes on a sharper focus. In 1996, seven monks from the monastery Notre-Dame de l’Atlas of Tibhirine in Algeria, belonging to the Roman Catholic Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists) were kidnapped and later beheaded. In contemplating Algeria’s troubled relationship between Islamic nationalists and Christian practitioners we can begin to grapple with the seriousness of the problems. 

Jesus speaks clearly to us, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ In confusion we answer, “When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?”  Jesus’ reply contains the summation of his life’s message, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Today 47 years after his death on December 10, 1968, Thomas Merton’s voice calls us clearly forward. Forward, into the inner sanctum of our personal spirituality. As Christopher Pramuk. Associate Professor of Theology at Xavier University, said regarding Merton’s companionship on the path, “He is a faithful companion, indeed, one of the very best, who still has much to teach us, not only about the human condition but also about the mystery of God unveiled in Jesus Christ, the One who radically shapes our image of what it means to be human.”

Pramuk gave us an excellent view into Merton’s heart with Sophia: The Sophia 001Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton. No less an authority than Brother Patrick Hart, Merton’s secretary, called this,  “The best book ever written about Thomas Merton.” Merton called Sophia, the Feminine Face of God, “At once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thoughts and Art within me.” Now Dr. Pramuk has a new treasure to share with us, AT PLAY IN CREATION: Merton’s Awakening to the Feminine Divine.

‘Merton is a mystical theologian because he moves beyond discursive theology to appeal directly to this “always already” experience, and to shape it, in the responsive imagination of his readers . . . we must try to keep in view Merton’s insistence that when the mystical tradition is properly understood — that is, when it is integrally lived — that tradition is far from abstract, divorced from history, or alien to the body. At its best the mystical tradition forms and affects the whole person; “intellect, memory, will, emotions, body, skills (arts) — all must be under the sway of the Holy Spirit.” To do theology under the light of Wisdom is to open oneself to the whole of reality and allow something to break through, an inner music to be heard in the breathtaking overture that is the whole world, and not just the Catholic condition’  . . . Connecting with an audience steeped in doubt and skepticism, yet still yearning for something beyond what society today Buddhist Merton - Robert Lentz 001packages (and sells) as “reality,” is one of Merton’s most enduring gifts as a spiritual writer and mystical theologian.’   C. Pramuk

“If I can unite in myself, in my own spiritual life, the thought of the East and the West of the Greek and Latin Fathers, I will create in myself a reunion of the divided church and from that unity in myself can come the exterior and visible unity of the church. For if we want to bring together East and West we cannot do it by imposing one upon the other. We must contain both in ourselves and transcend both in Christ.”  Thomas Merton

Buddhist image of Thomas Merton by Robert Lentz from Bridge Building Images. The Greek inscription reads ‘Holy Thomas’.

Christ – The Path

A new miracle has been wrought, in our time, before our eyes. We now have pure vision, the Face of Christ.

Through the sincere, inspiring faith of German investigative reporter Paul Badde we can now be certain there is a burial cloth that was laid over the face of Jesus and reflects his transformation as the Risen Christ. The entire gripping tale is told in two books, The Face of God and The True Icon.

The face on the left is the veil of the Holy Face/Volto Santo hidden in plain sight for five hundred years in a church of the Capuchins at Manopello, in the Abruzzi region of central Italy. The face on the  right is the same image ‘superimposed’ over the Shroud of Turin. With a faith supreme Blandina Paschalis Schlomer, a Trappist nun, studied images of both cloths for years and made the startling composite without ever having seen either cloth.

Manipulos in Latin means ‘a handful of wheat.’ Bethlehem means ‘a handful of wheat’ in Hebrew.

                            May I see the face of Christ in all those I meet.

                            May all those I meet see Christ’s face in me.

The miracle of Jesus is not entirely in the parables, or healings, or even the Resurrection. The greater miracle is the survival of faith. This man, Jesus, transformed himself, then the world. The great miracle is the transmission of spiritual power to Mary Magdalene and the other apostles.

Hundreds of books are written yearly about this transformation. How did Jesus do it? How do we follow?

The Eastern Orthodox Hesychasm tradition has long relied on the simple Jesus prayer, from the heart, as a means to realize the inner Christ.

                          Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Nowhere is this faith explained more clearly than the Russian classic, The Way of a Pilgrim. The genius within is revealed in its seeming simplicity. A nineteenth-century peasant, albeit with the ability to read and write, is challenged by a priest’s admonition during a sermon on Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians to “Pray constantly.” And pray tell, how does one do that, our friend wishes to know.

Turning to his Bible he finds the charge repeated In Ephesians 6:18, to pray in the Spirit on every possible occasion and in 1 Timothy 2:8, in every place to lift your hands reverently in prayer.

Our pilgrim begins his quest simply.He seeks out men of learning and spirit and requests guidance.

The course of this conversation brought us close to the hermitage. In order not to let this wise man go, and to quickly receive my heart’s desire, I hurried to ask him, “Please, be gracious, Reverend Father, and explain the meaning of ceaseless mental prayer to me and show me how I can learn to practice it. I can see that you are both well versed and experienced in this matter.”

The elder received my plea lovingly and invited me to visit him in his cell. “Come, stop by and I will give you a book of the holy Fathers from which, with the help of God, you can learn all about prayer and understand it clearly and in detail. When we entered his cell, the elder said, “The ceaseless Jesus Prayer is a continuous, uninterrupted call on the holy name of Jesus Christ with the lips, mind and heart: and in the awareness of his abiding presence it is a plea for His blessings in all undertakings, in all places, at all times, even in sleep. The words of the Prayer are: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!’

The book the elder gives the pilgrim is the Philokalia. Wikipedia explains, ” The Philokalia (Gk. φιλοκαλία, “love of the beautiful”) is “a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters”[1] of the Eastern Orthodox hesychast tradition. They were originally written for the guidance and instruction of monks in “the practise of the contemplative life”.[2] The collection was compiled in the eighteenth-century by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth.

Our earnest pilgrim stayed with the old man for a summer, reciting the prayer, twelve thousand repetitions a day, counting on his prayer beads, and tending the hermitage garden. Alas, before Fall set in, the old monk died and our friend was homeless again. His story continues as does his mastery of the Prayer’s mystery.

The trail picks up again in the twentieth century with our spiritual master,Thomas Merton. Fons Vitae (Fountain of Life) Publisher has a remarkable series on Thomas Merton dedicated to his inter-faith dialogues. MERTON & HESYCHASM – The Prayer of the Heart contains writings by and on Merton and the Christian prayer tradition. I probably had a copy of The Wisdom of the Desert before I read The Seven Storey Mountain.

Until recently, Western theologians were highly suspicous of Athonite Hesychasm and regarded it as perilous, even heretical. Deeper study and a wider acquaintance with non-Western forms of spirituality have made Hesychasm seem a little less outlandish. It is now no longer necessary to repeat the outraged platitudes of those who thought the Hesychasts were practicing self-hypnosis, or who believed that, at best, the monks of Athos were engaged in a kind of Western yoga.

The “Prayer of Jesus,” made known to Western readers by the “Tale of the Pilgrim,” surely one of the great classics of the literature of prayer, is now practiced not only by the characters in Salinger’s novels but even by some Western monks .”  Thomas Merton

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer by Norris Chumley is a modern pilgrimage into the world of hesychia, Greek for silence — a resonant prayer which has prayed the Face of Christ into our presence through faith. There are photos and facts and tales which enrich our understanding of the deep tradition. Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy, is drawn from Luke 18:10-14 where the tax collector stands in the back of the Temple in Jerusalem with downcast eyes saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Thereby finding praise in the the words of Jesus and the eyes of God.

Images frame our vision. Medieval art represents the classic lineage of Christianity. No finer reproductions are available than those offered by the Spanish publisher Moleiro.

The epic scope and history of Christianity is brilliantly covered by Diarmaid Mac Culloch in CHRISTIANITY: The First Three Thousand Years. “Belief in the truth of the Resurrection story and in Jesus’ power to overcome death has made Christianity act over twenty centuries in the most heroic, joyful, beautiful and terrible  ways. And the fact that Christianity’s Jesus is the resurrected Christ makes a vital point about the misfit between the Jesus whose teachings we have excavated and the Church which came after him.It mattered much less to the first Christ-followers after the Resurrection what Jesus had said than what he did and was doing now, and who he was (or whom people thought him to be). And as he emerged in the first  Christian writings, they now thought him to be a Greek
Christos, not a Jewish Messiah-even though Greek-speakers beyond the Jewish milieu hardly understood what a Christos was, and quickly assumed that it was some sort of personal name. Historians might take comfort from the fact that nowhere in the New Testament is there a description of the Resurrection: it was beyond the capacity or the intention of the writers to describe it, and all they described were its effects. The New Testament is thus a literature with a blank at its center; yet this blank is  also its intense focus. The beginning of the long Christian conversation lies in the chorus  of assertions in the writings of the New Testament that after Jesus’ death his tomb was found empty. He repeatedly appeared to those who had known him, in ways which confused and contradicted the laws of physics: he showed witnesses that he could be touched and felt and could be watched eating grilled fish, but also he also appeared and disappeared regardless of doors or any other normal means of exit and entrance. Many who at first found such claims absurd when others made them are reported as having being convinced when they had the same experience. Luke’s Gospel ends with one of the most apparently naturalistic-sounding and circumstantial of theses encounters: a conversation between a stranger and two former disciples, Peter and Cleopas, on the road from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. It was only later, over a meal in Emmaus, that Peter and Cleopas recognized Jesus for who he was.”

Now, of course, thanks  to the modern Miracle at Manopello we have a deeper understanding of the Resurrection and its effects on the first Christians. Interesting that in the course of writing a one thousand page book published in 2009, Mr. MacCulloch did not uncover the Volto Santo.

As we seek the true Christ, Orthodoxy promises a timeless lineage. “Like untrained gardeners going into an overgrown garden, successors to the Reformers hacked about with machetes, slashing unknowingly through material that had been affirmed for the first thousand years: the sacraments, the honoring of Mary, the eucharistic Real Presence. Protestants were trying to rediscover the ancient Church, but instead they created a dancing array of sorcerer’s apprentice brooms, all trying to sweep one another clean.” FACING EAST A Pilgrims Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxyby Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Jesus – The Routes

The roots of Christ, no doubt, extended wide in the world of the ancients.

For uncounted millenniums, India has been the Spiritual light land of the earth. It is in India that the divine soul-science of yoga–union with God through direct personal communion with Him–has been preserved. That is why Jesus went to India as a youth, and why he returned to India and conferred with Babaji for the spiritual evolution of the world.” Paramahansa Yogananda The Second Coming of Christ.

There has been no higher spiritual authority in the last one hundred years than Yogananda. Yet, a mysterious unknown visionary agrees with Yoganada and lends his own inestimable voice to his.

Levi Dowling (1844-1911) began preaching at the age of sixteen. He served as a chaplain in the Union Army during the Civil War. For forty years he meditated on the Akashic Records and presented his visions from the life of Jesus in a remarkable book, The Acquarian Gospel of Christ.

His vision of Jesus’ journey to the Himalayas closely parallels the discoveries made by the Russian scholar Nicolai Notavitch at Hemis monastery in Ladakh in 1887. Jesus Lived in India by Holger Kersten covers much of the elements, while also wandering into the bulrushes with frivolous claims that Jesus survived the crucifixion. The fact remains that Jesus died on the cross. Then three days later he appeared to Mary Magdalene. Now his resurrected face on the Manopello cloth will revolutionize our world.

The Words of Christ

                                                          “She smiles, for though they had bound her, she cannot be a prisoner. Not that she is strong, or clever, but simply that she does not understand imprisonment.”  Thomas Merton – Hagia Sophia

Christ unveils the meaning of the Old Testament.” Drawing by Thomas Merton. Used with permission of the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.  John 1:1

A wonderful blessing of living in this age of communication is the ever evolving sphere of light being shed on what Jesus said and how it reflects what he meant.

It is simply not possible to understand the message of Jesus without reading The Hidden GospelDecoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus by Neil Douglas-Klotz.

If we begin to understand holiness as the creation of space, we can reevaluate what is really holy in our lives.

To become holy in an Aramaic sense then means to create separate space for whatever becomes the pivot of our lives, the axis on which our world turns.

John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth,and the life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This teaching has become the central stumbling block in our perception of Christ. Dr. Douglas-Klotz walks us through the Aramaic terms in the root text; “I am”, ena-ena; ” the way”, urha; ‘truth”, sherara; and “life”, hayye. By explaining the nuanced Middle Eastern-Aramaic layering of philosophy, philology and etymology the author presents a new rendering of this stanza, one more relevant to Christ and ourselves.

“The I AM is the path, the sense of right direction and the life force to travel it … No one comes into the rhythm with the breathing life of all, the sound and the atmosphere that crated the cosmos, except through the breathing, sound  and atmosphere, of another embodied “I” connected to the ultimate I AM.”

Om Ah Hung 001

These three seed syllables form the Christ root mantra: Om Ah Hung
(Sanskrit above, Tibetan below)

White Aum – the primordial sound. The seed sound of yogis and mystics. Pictured in the pineal gland, between the eyebrows. Red Ah – in the throat. Blue Hung – in the heart.

This is the essence of the living, transmitted message received by Jesus in the Himalayas that led to his evolvement into the Christ, and our visual reference is the Volto Santo in Manoplello.

Aum and Hung calligraphy by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, one of Tibet’s greatest teachers, a rare enlightened presence who selflessly shared his wisdom with several generations of Western students. Ah calligraphy by the first incarnate Tibetan teacher to live in the West, Chogyam Trungpa.

JESUS – Son of Man

SON OF MAN  by Andrew Harvey is the quintessential analysis of the interior path to Christ.

With a writer of Andrew Harvey’s caliber it is best to let his own words describe this work.

This immense meeting with the Christ, which has continued to grow within me, has not made me a ‘Christian’; there are no possible labels or dogmatic containers for the vast force of divine love that I experienced that Sunday and continue to experience, steadily and more and more intensely burning to the core of my body and trying to infuse everything I write or do. The Christ I know is beyond all religion, all dogma, all churches, especially perhaps the ones created in his name; he is nothing less than the love force at the heart of every human being, the love force that is at the heart of the Direct Path, the volcanic, all-transforming nuclear power of active divine human love that is waiting in everyone on earth to be released and expressed and lived and incarnated in every law and institution, in every creative and scientific and political activity. . . . in my most recent work, especially SON OF MAN: THE MYSTICAL PATH OF CHRIST, I have tried to do for the Christian mystical tradition what my work with Sogyal Rinpoche and Patrick Gaffney did for the Tibetan Buddhist in THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING–to make available for seekers everywhere the transformatory passion and practices that stream from realization of the Christ.
THE DIRECT PATH

JESUS – The Vision

“At the time, the best way to describe it was to say that ‘a little radio switched on inside of me’, and I became aware of Christ speaking to me. (It wasn’t something I heard with my ears, but an inner voice, filling my awareness.”

I never knew what to make of that ‘little radio’; it didn’t fit our familiar division of people into ‘head’ and ‘heart’. But as I began to read the literature of Eastern Christianity, found they were familiar with this ‘little radio’. They even had a word for it: the nous. It’s a word that recurs throughout the Greek New Testament, but we don’t have a good equivalent in English. It gets translated ‘mind’, but it doesn’t mean the talkative mind, the one that cogitates and constructs theories. It is the receptive capacity of the intellect; we could call it ‘the understanding’ or ‘the comprehension’. The Eastern Church has always known that the nous can be trained to register, or perceive, the voice of God. That is where the Jesus Prayer comes in.”   THE JESUS PRAYER: The Ancient Desert Prayer That Tunes The Heart To God by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Helena Kowalska was a Polish nun born in 1905.  Despite her modest upbringing she persuaded the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw to accept her as a lay sister provided she could pay for her habit. She accomplished this by working for a year as a house keeper. She became Maria Faustina. The name Faustina means the “fortunate or blessed one” and may have been a feminine form of the name of the Christian martyr Faustinus. On the night of February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to her as the “King of Divine Mercy” wearing a white garment, with rays of white and red light emanating from near his heart. He told her, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You”. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

It was three years before Faustina was able to find an artist to bring her vision to the world.

In her diary Faustina predicted that her work would be suppressed for some time, then accepted again. Two decades after her death the Divine Mercy devotion was banned by the Vatican, but was approved again in 1978 and she was declared the first saint of the 21st century in April 2000.

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

Marians of the Immaculate Coception based in Stockbridge, Massachusetts are keepers of Faustina’s vision. They offer a wealth of resources to experience Divine Mercy.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy CD is a wonderful resource for use at home or in the car. It opens with I AM A VOICE, a spiritual hymn and continues with a long continous reading of the Chaplet set to music.

The novel, PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation, is just that a vision. Peace will come to Earth when we acknowledge a world peace capital, the natural site of this capital is Jerusalem. To accomplish this women from around the world will rise with one voice and say ENOUGH – NO MORE.

The second vision is that Jesus’  teachings were directed toward and understood first by women. Mary Magdalene was the Apostola apostolorum – apostle to the apostles.

The third vision is the realization that Jesus journeyed to the Himalayas and there received the sacred transmissions which transformed him into the Christ. A path we may all follow today, with clear markers, a journey into our own inner spirituality.

PURE VISION was written with my wife, Angelina Perri Birney. We were inspired by our own life experiences. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and lived there until I was ten. My family then moved to Tripoli, Libya for five years. I was deeply moved by Libya and her people and have been inspired to find ways to bridge Christian and Muslim culture. Angelina grew up in Queens and has traveled extensively throughout India, Nepal and Tibet. She studied Vajrayana Buddhism for many years under some of Tibet’s great yogic masters. PerriBirney.com

“The secret of the Mysteries became manifest in Christianity.” Rudolf Steiner