The Place With No Name



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ED: “Now that you have freely declared your will regarding one another, tradition has it that you should now be given advice to help you during your marriage.  There are many places to draw on for this advice.  St. Paul wrote that ‘All scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, reproving, and for setting things straight.’  Throughout your lives, you should not despise any teaching you hear, but rather weigh it carefully upon the scales of truth.  We are all seekers.  In our search for truth we may take many different paths, but we can all benefit from the realizations of the sages of the past and present.  They who have attained enlightenment have the key to happiness.  Their message is for all; take what you can from their words.  Believe teachings that are true, disregard teachings that are false, wonder about the things you cannot prove or cannot know, and do not be easily influenced by the opinions of others.  Observe carefully the things revealed to you, and remember them in your times of need. 

“The simplest teachings are often truest, and teachings with stories are best, so I’ll tell you a very simple story.

“It is a Buddhist story, but you will find the parallel truth in Second Corinthians 5, 1, which says, ‘For we know that if our earthly house should be dissolved, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands.’

“The Buddhist story goes like this: Wan Sung said, ‘Once, as the Buddha was walking along with a group, he pointed to the ground and said, “This place is suitable for building a sanctuary.”  Shakra, Emperor of Angels, stuck a blade of grass in the ground and declared, “The building of the sanctuary is done.”  Buddha smiled.’

“This is a story with only three sentences, but its teaching is very profound.  We can follow its meaning in the context of many other great teachers and teachings.  It has three main elements.

“Buddha, and for that matter, Jesus, and Mohammed, and other notable expressions of the word – traveled in the company of all beings.  The most famous teachings of these beings did not occur in temples, synagogues or churches.  Instead they occurred wherever they unfolded.  Thus we hear most famously about the Sermon on the Mount, or of teachings by the sea.  So, when Buddha points to the ground, it is any ground. 

“Shakra, Emperor of Angels, who conveniently just happens to be nearby, puts a blade of grass in the ground – which quickly gets lost among the other blades of grass and doesn’t change a thing – and declares the building of the sanctuary to be done.  In some ways, Shakra performs a powerful miracle, for, as Walt Whitman wrote, ‘I believe a blade of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.’; but in other ways Shakra did nothing.  The teaching he provides however, is the core element of Buddhism – which is that things are as they are; or, that even commonplace things can be the building blocks for the miraculous and the magical.

“The Buddha did not speak, rather he smiled, thus showing his innate understanding and conveying more than words alone.  It is interesting to note that the shortest teaching in Buddhism is, ‘Buddha smiled.’, and the shortest teaching in Christianity is, ‘Jesus wept.’  In some ways these silent teachings are the most powerful.  Both teachings are expressions of each man’s individual humanity while also expressing their higher nature.  If you transpose the scriptures so that Jesus smiled and Buddha wept, this teaching does not change.

Sometimes truth is truth, even though it may be contrary to what you have popularly heard or what you have always believed.  You will hear much advice for your married life, but think carefully about the advice you receive, because often the converse is true. Often advice sounds good, but you must look deeper and realize there is work to be done in your relationship that only you can do.  Tend to yourselves and each other in such a way that your bond is suitable for the building of a sanctuary; a building not made with hands. 

“How are you going to do this?  By being mindful of your mortality, mindful of your vitality, mindful of your humanity, and by thinking for yourselves.

“For instance, it is often said that the key to a good marriage is communication, but I say to you that it is even more important to know how to sit in sacred silence with one another, both to smile and to weep.  Your words and actions all have effect, but sometimes the greatest effect is achieved by being still. 

“Others say that going to church together is the way to keep a family together.  But I say to you, do not dwell only in churches or temples. Should anyone ask you about your church, you should go outside and say, ‘The ground is my only altar, and the sky is my only cathedral.’ For it is the essence of the belief and the spirituality of the moment which benefits us, not the place.  Remember that any place is suitable for building a sanctuary.

“Some say ‘the family that prays together stays together’, but I say to you that you cannot inform the all knowing mind of anything at all; rather let your every thought and action be your prayer as you work for the benefit of all beings.

“Some will say that the reading of many scriptures will be beneficial, but I say to you that reading scripture is not enough; you must also understand the revealed truths.  Things that reveal clear wisdom are also a kind of scripture and should not be overlooked.  The Fifth Patriarch, when asked why he did not read scripture, said, ‘When I breathe in, I inhale with my whole being. When I breathe out, I exhale with my whole being.  Things are as they are and nothing more.  My very breath is my scripture and I recite this scripture every day – hundreds, thousands, millions of scrolls.’  He was aware of the divine nature of everyday activities.

“Others will say that you need God – or Jesus, or Allah, or The Lady, or Buddha - in your life and in your marriage.  They will say that you need to be saved.  But you must remember to act for yourself rather than to wait for rescue.  Moslems use a saying that we find humorous when they say, ‘Trust in ALLAH!, but tie up your camel.’  The parallel truth in Buddhism is found when the great teacher Joshu fell down in the snow.  He called out, ‘Help me up!  Help me up!’  A monk heard him and came and lay down in the snow with him.  Joshu got up and went inside.  Why didn’t the monk help Joshu?  The monk responded to Joshu, not on the physical level, but on the spiritual level.  The monk was illustrating that many times we cannot help other people in things that really matter.  Often we can only look on and have compassion.  The Buddha cannot enlighten us, nor can Jesus take us to paradise.  They may point the way and open the door, but we have to go in by our own power.  This is our humanity.

“Sometimes you will hear that you must embrace the Kingdom of God, but Jesus said,  ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’  Others sometimes translate this as ‘The Kingdom of God is in your midst.’  In either case the meaning is little different.  Remember the Tibetan teaching ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’, ‘The Jewel is in the Lotus”.  You must make your own spiritual inventory and find the Truth within yourselves.

“Love is often declared as the most essential thing for a successful marriage, but I say to you that compassion is more important even than love.  Even if your love should decline or not be returned to you, compassion will keep you moving on the path.

“You have often heard the words of Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment he said; ‘You must love god entirely, and love your neighbor as yourself.’, but most people take this for granted and do not grasp the deeper meaning.  Jesus went on to say, ‘On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.’  What did he mean by this?  Jesus was saying, ‘The principle doctrine of my Church is Love.’  It is illuminating to hear the parallel teaching, recently given by the Great Fourteenth Dalai Lama when he said, ‘…we can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom.  But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion.  This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith.  In this sense, there is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma.  Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple.  The doctrine is compassion.  Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.  So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with restraint our of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt we will be happy.’  I think that Jesus would agree.[7]

“Jesus also said to be like children, for suchlike ones will inherit the Kingdom of God.  I also I say to you, have a sense of humor; be like children and look upon all things with honest wonderment, thinking clearly for yourselves.  If you do this, you will see things as they are.  After all, it was a child that declared, “But the Emperor hasn’t any clothes on at all!”

“You will hear many words from many great teachers, but keep in mind Musashi, who said, ‘I have lived without following any particular way.  Thus with the virtue of strategy I practice many arts and abilities – all things with no teacher.’[8]  If you think about the things I have told you today, you will see that there is no evil in them.  Even so, you must make your own decisions about all things.

“In the end the only wisdom you have is the wisdom you take with you, and at the end it is the journey that matters the most.  As Basho said, ‘Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old, but rather seek what they sought.’  You should do so not out of selfish interest, but for the sake of one another, and of all beings.”

“I so admonish you now.”

<ED SOUNDS BELLS 1, 2, 3, & 4>


[7] Ethics for the New Millennium, His Holiness The Dalai Lama 

[8] The Book of Five Rings, Myamoto Musashi, Introduction.

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