Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An Alternative Universe

"Home Sweet Home"
-just outside my house-

Over the past few days there have been countless interviews with people living in Ukraine and Crimea,  inquiring about the "loyalties" of the people who live in these countries.  I heard one such report yesterday when a man being interviewed told a reporter, "I live in Ukraine, but my loyalty will always be with the motherland (Russia)."  

The man's response got me to thinking that, in a very real sense, I also live in one world; however, my loyalty is always with another world. In fact, as I see it, this is at the very heart of what being on a spiritual journey is all about.  

Jesus taught his disciples:

Be in the world but not of the world.

Jesus lived in a world of "empire," a world controlled and dominated by the oppressive powers of Rome.  Everyday life in this world was governed by a system of violence and division. The rich, the strong, the healthy and powerful were divided from and lorded it over the weak, the sick and the poor. 

While living in this world, Jesus also had the vision to be able to see another world- an alternative universe, a new world order radically different from that of the dominant system of oppression that characterized the world of empire. In this alternative universe, there is no division, there are equal places of dignity for every human being. Mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion are the standards for living every day.  

Jesus called this alternative universe, "The Kingdom of God," and he announced that although people may live in the world of empire, their "true home" is the "Kingdom of God" - not some future place you go when you die, but an alternative way of seeing the world and living everyday life in the here and now. 

Be in the world but not of the world

No matter where you live, pledge your loyalty to the motherland- your true home, the "Kingdom of God."

The Buddha essentially had the very same vision as Jesus and he taught the same wisdom.  

The Buddha also lived in an everyday world of division, oppression, violence and poverty. Like Jesus, he was "enlightened," and so he was also able to see the "true" nature of all being. 

The Buddha was able to look beneath the outward facade of everyday life in the everyday world and  see an alternative universe in which there is no such thing as a separated, isolated, individual ego - everything and everyone is dynamically interconnected and interdependent in a complex web of interrelationship.

Like Jesus, the Buddha also taught that mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness and compassion are the standards for living everyday life in this alternative universe  - our true home as human beings.

As usual, I am sitting in my garden, beginning my day with a time of morning reflection, and as I sit here, I am thinking about the everyday world in which I live, and what will be going on in it today.

I live in a world of "empire," in a culture of division and oppression. On this day, people will continue to be divided and there will be violence in places like Ukraine or Syria. On this day in my own country, the rich and powerful will ignore and step on those who have been relegated to the lower rungs of the ladder of life. On this day people will hold grudges, cheat one another, and manipulate their fellows for their own personal gain. 

And while I live in this world, I am not loyal to it. I live in the world of empire, but I choose not to live according to its standards.

I am in the world but not of the world.

My loyalty is to my true home, to the "Kingdom of God."  The "Kingdom of God" is my homeland. The "Kingdom of God" is my motherland. 

My loyalty will always be with the motherland. It is here that I find liberation and perfect peace. 

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