By Bill Malcomson
I want to draw on insights from three wisdom traditions. The first is the Christian.
I am making an assumption: That Jesus of Nazareth was a religious and a political subversive. I am making another assumption: That Jesus' central message was the Kingdom of God. His central message was not about himself.
The second tradition is the Buddhist.
The assumption here is that enlightenment, as understood and experienced by Buddhists, can be a vital part of our lives here and now. This is the meaning of Buddha Nature.
The third tradition is the Hindu.
The assumption here is that our major deterrent to experiencing real living is IGNORANCE. We need to remove the veil of ignorance (MAYA) in order to see life as it really is.
To proceed: The term Kingdom of God is unfortunate for our time. We are not interested in kingdoms and we do not need a sovereign. But what Jesus was pointing to in the use of the image in his time was and is very real. He used the term Kingdom because he wanted his fellow Jews to know that the Roman Empire had no power over them. That Caesar was not "King." There is only one sovereign, and that sovereign is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He also wanted his fellow Jews to know that the Judaism that had evolved in Israel in his time, the Judaism as determined by the priestly class under the protection of the Roman government, was not of God, but a human construct, based on maintaining power over the masses of people. Jesus was crucified because he was seen as seditious by the Romans and the priests. And they were correct. But it really was not Jesus the man who was dangerous as much as it was his message: that real life is life in the Kingdom of God. Following the death of Jesus, his followers began to experience real life as they sensed his presence with them, enabling them to break free from Empire and priestly dominance, and to live life "in the Spirit."
The Buddha was subversive in that he challenged the religious system of that time which said that only certain persons could experience enlightenment, that you had to renounce everything and follow a self-abasing path. He also challenged the assumption in his culture that people were meant to live within "castes" in which they knew their place and they could not deviate from or break out from their social position. For the Buddha, all people are basically one, and, as his later followers spoke of it, all could experience the "Buddha nature" within and among themselves.
What are the characteristics of real life, life in the Kingdom of God, enlightened life, life in which the veil of ignorance has been lifted?
What follows is my language, not that of the wisdom traditions. However, I believe that the language I will use is consistent with those traditions. It is a matter of updating for our time.
Real life is life lived interdependently. Life lived in the recognition that we need each other in order to be who we are meant to be. We are not alone. We are one with all beings, human and otherwise. We are one with all of life. In Hebrew terminology, RUACH or animating Spirit, gives and maintains life for all that lives. In Hindu terms, that which is at the basis of all that is, the ONE without a second, the unity within that which appears to be disunited, is who we all are. We are one, we are within the ONE. In Christian terms, what John Shelby Spong has called CHRISTSPIRIT animates all of us.
I think of real life as life permeated by Spirit, opening us up to each other. Life is to be lived inclusively. There are no castes, no class distinctions, no good people and bad people, no sinners and saved. Furthermore, no power has dominance over us. We are by nature liberated. As the apostle Paul saw, nothing, no earthly power, nothing in life, nothing in death, can separate us from Spirit, from the liberating experience of oneness.
(more on this in the next blog)
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist