from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


this was also posted as a diary at dailykos

are beings who are fully enlightened, but do not accept the full benefit of their enlightenment but remain in the world on behalf of other sentient creatures to help them reach enlightenment.

Okay, I am simplifying a bit. And perhaps this lesson from Buddhism is too far removed from your experience. So given that today is Easter of Western Christians (Eastern Christians insist that Easter cannot occur until after Passover has begun, so for those several hundred million Pascha is still a few weeks off) let me offer some thoughts from Christian perspectives.

There are two pairs of ideas we need to consider.  The first, which is addressed today, is Crucifixion / Death  and Resurrection.   The second, which is actually in some ways more important, is Incarnation and Ascension.

Crucifixion / Death  functions on several levels.  If one argues that death is an inevitable consequence of sin, but that death was not the original intent of the creation of man, then the Participation of Jesus in this event makes him fully human, so that when he conquers death by Resurrection, he opens to all men the possibility of conquering death.  This act in fact reopens to man the Garden, his state of being without the pain of sin, of being in a place where God walked in the cool of the evening.

But by itself this was not enough.  By becoming incarnate Jesus took upon himself all of the created universe, not just man   -- as the Theotokian in the Liturgy of Saint Basil in the Orthodox Church notes, "all of Creation rejoices in you, O full of Grace" saying to Mary that she is owed praise because she has allowed herself to be the instrument by which the created universe can again become holy, or as it is says in Genesis, God looked at all he had created and behod it was very good.

That was Incarnation.   And the completion is seen in Ascension.  The created universe, in the person of Jesus (even though he as, as the Nicene Creed says, begotten not made, still we are talking about his human flesh) is raised to be face to face with God, in God's presence at all times.  To revert to Buddhist terminology, all of creation is fully enlightened.

I often note that IANAL.   I also should note IANAT  (I am not a theologian -- in any religious tradition) except in the sense from the Eastern Church, the old expression that a theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian.   I don't even pray all that much in a conventional sense, although I will sit for an hour in silence in Meeting for Worship with my fellow Quakers, and I will pause at a bird, a flower, a cat, a child, a sunset, an itneresting rock  -- at all of creation.

There are those who are prepared to give up.  There are those who have already moved to other places, or are actively considering it.  I understand those concerns.  I also disagree with them.  I believe that we have a responsibility to continue to witness to what we believe is true, to be, as the title of this peace says, Boddhisattvas.  

I am not so arrogant to think that I am fully enlightened. Nor, to use Christian terminology, do I believe that I am fully saved.  I cannot be irredeemably saved because I have free will, and that free will consists precisely in the ability to deny God, to reject the love and forgiveness offered by God.  I believe that my 'salvation' or "enlightenment" cannot be solitary, affecting only myself.  I knowq that birth and death of all, has effect on me.  In fact, the famous lines from John Donne deal with this precisely from a Christian perspective.  The famous passage which begins "No man is an island" and which includes the famous line "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" is part of a much larger work, Meditation XVII from "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions".

Those who read the New Testament are admonished to love the sinner even as we hate the sin.  We are told that even 7 times is not sufficient to forgive our brothers, but rather a number beyond measure we must forgive, represented by 70 times 7. We are reminded by Jesus that we cannot love God whom we cannot see if we hate our brother whom we can see.

The Buddha died because he was given bad pork, which he knew was bad, but which he ate so as not to shame the person who had given it to him.  Jesus in the Garden admonished Peter to put up his sword, that he could if needed command legions of angels to protect him, but that such was not his path.   Socrates drank the cup of hemlock, having completed his task of teachintg.  None of these clung to life, but rather lived -- and died -- in truth.

I cannot and do not presume to teach others how to live.  I do presume to raise questions, as i do in my classroom.  I suggest thoughts worth considering, and am willing to listen to those offered to me, and to accept the challenges with which they present me.

I am not a Boddhisattva.  Whatever wisdom or insight or "enlightenment" I may have gained is certainly not intended solely for my benefit and aggrandisement.  I CANNOT impose it upon others, but surely I must remain, witness to it with my life and my words.

In Quaker Meeting for worship one often hears  -- or even rises to give -- a "message" that one does not understand.  That may be because the message is not intended for oneself, but is needed by someone else.  As a classroom teacher I can never know with certainty when my words will have impact upon the life of some young person.  I am often surprised by the things that make a difference.  Similarly, as a participant in American society, I cannot know which of my words or actions will make a difference.  All I know is that I have the responsibility to the truth as I know it to live it in my own life, to be the living image of that I most value, and then to trust that I thereby, in the words of George Fox, answer "that of God" in others, even if they deny such presence in themselves.

I do not know for whom the message I have just written is intended.  I only know that, like when my knees knock in Meeting for worship, I was required to post this message, both as a comment to a diary, and as a diary in itself.

And so I release it to the blogosphere.

Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed!
Email accepted at "kber at earthlink dot net"
Preface email messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

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