Category Archives: quakerism

Parable (based on a dream)

Each spring, there would be war between the village shepherds and the wolf-men. Each spring, the village shepherds would watch in fury as the wolf-men would steal their sheep. Each spring, many would die: villagers and wolf-men alike.

One spring, the villagers decided they’d had enough. A village council was called where all in the village could speak.

“Those no-good rotten thieving wolf-men!”

“Who do they think they are, that they can walk into our pastures and steal our sheep?”

This continued for quite a while until a young woman found the courage to speak.

“But… what if they don’t know that what they’re doing is stealing?”

Silence rocked the village council until a belligerent voice called out, “But how could they not know? It’s obvious those sheep are ours!”

More angry voices rang out, but the young woman, now that she had found her courage, would not be silenced.

“But what if they don’t know? What if we’re killing each other over a misunderstanding?”

The village council decided this question was worth investigating and decided to send an ambassador to the wolf-men. The young woman was chosen as the ambassador, marked with a brown stripe down her chin, and given a bucket of mutton chunks to carry with her to attract the leader of the wolf-men.

She set out into the woods, fear leaping out at her from every movement. Yet she kept on walking, deeper and deeper into the forest, until she no longer knew her way back.

Lost, and tired of smelling the mutton chunks, she tossed the bucket away and sat down to rest.

As she sat leaning against a tree, she noticed slight movement in front of her. Scared but resolute, she didn’t run away when the leader of the wolf-men approached her.

“Why have you come out this deep into the forest? Are you lost?” He asked.

“Yes, I’m lost.”

“But why have you come?”

“To ask a question.”

“What question?”

“Why do you steal our sheep each spring?”

Taken by surprise at her question, the wolf-man paused a moment before answering.

“Steal? You think we are thieves?”

“Well, yes. Those sheep belong to us.”

“But they are outside. Does this not mean they are free for anyone?”

“No, we keep them outside because… well, because it’s easier than keeping them in our houses.”

Now it was her turn to pause as a new question came to her.

“Wait–if you didn’t know you were stealing, why did you think we were attacking you?”

The leader of the wolf-men shrugged. “We just thought it was something you humans did each spring, like some kind of weird ritual. Like, ‘Oh, now it’s March, time to kill the wolf-men!'”

After another moment, during which both collected their thoughts, the leader of the wolf-men dared to ask, “If we stop… stealing… the sheep, would you stop attacking us?”


And they lived happily ever after.


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Egypt and Peace

We pacifists have been told we’re living in a dreamworld.
We’ve been told we’re idealistic, that nonviolence isn’t powerful enough to really exhibit change.
We’ve been told that violence and oppression are more powerful than peace.

To the doubters I say:
How many nonviolent revolutions have to occur until the world realizes that “There is no way to Peace, Peace is the way”?

The Egyptian people have done what the United States military has, in many cases, failed to do: they pulled down an oppressive government. And they did it without violence. They did it with dignity, with their hearts yearning for peace and freedom. They did it with integrity, and with equality: men, women, children, Muslims, Christians, all standing together.

As a Quaker, today I stand with Egyptians. I stand with Tunisians. I stand with everyone everywhere who is working for the true meaning of peace: not the cessation of conflict, but the sense that everyone everywhere has rights, that these rights must be respected…

That there is that of God in everyone, though those exact words may not be the ones used.

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Practice: A Slogan Post

I pulled this slogan a few days ago and am only now getting around to writing this post, which is appropriate given what I’m planning on writing:

“If you can practice even when distracted, you are well-trained.”

I could delve into the teacher/guru-student structure that’s so central to Tibetan Buddhism, which is the tradition from which I get these slogans, but I think that’s not the real message to be had here.

I’ve received this slogan many, many times over the past few years, and I’ve always discounted it as one of the “boring, inapplicable” ones, like the ones that seem to be pontificating on what I usually discount as Buddhist dogma and philosophy that really doesn’t matter.

(Okay, let me explain that last part a bit: I graduated from a college that spends an awful lot of time and energy on philosophizing everything. By the end of it, I started wondering what, exactly, the point was of being able to define everything. Just because maybe the exact definition of, say, a table can’t be known–what’s the eidos of a table, for those of you schooled in Greek-geek-speak–doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize a table when we see it. So, a lot of Buddhist philosophizing about perception or the 51 mental states, etc., I have difficulty finding ways to apply to my life, probably because I’m coming at it from this particular lens. … This may be something I need to work on.)

Back to the slogan at hand. I always thought this slogan was about the ability to meditate through distractions, that, say, if I can meditate even though two kitties are wrestling on the bed behind me, then I’m “well-trained”.

Right, because the whole purpose of Buddhism is to learn how to meditate well.

Let me say that more clearly: the purpose of Buddhism is not to teach people how to meditate well. While meditation can be both a means and an end, it is not THE end of Buddhism. It’s only a means.

What is the end?

I realize I’m still relatively new to Buddhism, but the purpose of Buddhism seems pretty clear to me: to alleviate suffering. The path that Buddhism recommends to do so is meditation, which allows one to develop right understanding so that one’s actions can truly alleviate suffering. (How many times have we tried to do the right thing and found out later that we had a critical flaw in our understanding of what the problem was?)

There is what I’ll call a Quaker fable that relates to this slogan:

A first-time attender is sitting in Meeting for Worship, waiting for the service to begin. As the silence stretches into many minutes, the attender whispers to his neighbor, “When does the service begin?” The Quaker replies, “When the worship ends.”

The point of this slogan is that it’s not easy to practice Buddhism, to be alert and aware enough all of the time to skillfully act in ways that alleviate suffering. I often find myself feeling very compassionate and loving during meditation sessions. I’ll resolve that the next time my sister calls, even if she calls for no reason and more than once a day, I’m going to be truly present for her and give her whatever it is she’s needing from me. But how long does that resolve last?

I think you all can relate to my answer. It lasts until I hear her ring-tone on my cellphone, when annoyance and irritation replaces my intention of love and compassion.

Or when I sit in Meeting for Worship, steeping in that Divine Love that centers us as Quakers and enlivens us, thinking about all the ways I’m going to be better at following Him. I’m going to be more alert to leadings and less fearful. I’m going to be more trusting. I’m going to be more loving and compassionate (that is the main common thread for me between Quakerism and Buddhism: the desire to be loving and compassionate).

So, this slogan is not about becoming an expert in meditation after all. It’s about, as Quakers would say, “letting my life speak”. It’s about maintaining that feeling of love, compassion, and mindfulness after the meditation session is over. It’s about maintaining that connection to God outside of Meeting for Worship.

It’s about practicing.

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Filed under buddhism, compassion, daily life, jamie, meditation, meeting for worship, mindfulness, obedience, quakerism, slogans, submission

The Testing of Abraham: To Follow Where We Are Led, a Bible Post

Imagine this: you and your wife have tried and tried for years to have a baby.  After so many failed attempts, you and your wife have finally given up all hope. Your wife no longer has her periods; you both have entered into old age. Then, God comes to you and says:

“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and [your wife] will then have a son.”

Your reaction, of course, is to burst out laughing. And when you tell your wife, she does the same.

But God knows what He’s doing–of course–and come the next year, you and your wife finally have a baby. You name him Isaac, as God directed, and life is good. Isaac grows up strong in your faith and you–of course–absolutely adore him.

Then God calls to you and tells you:

“Take your son Isaac… and there you shall offer him up to me as a sacrifice.”

Wait, what?

(Readers familiar with the Old Testament will recognize the main character in this story as Abraham. Readers not familiar with the Old Testament will find this story in chapters 18 and 22 of Genesis.)

As Abraham is leading Isaac up the mountain God led him to, Isaac, being rather astute, notices that his father has all the makings for a sacrifice to God, except one. He asks:

“Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?” (Genesis 22: 7)

And his father, perhaps out of a desire to hide the truth from his son or perhaps because he believes what he says, replies:

“God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.” (Genesis 22: 8)

But as they get to the appointed place, there’s been no word from God. Abraham builds an altar and places Isaac on it. Just as he’s about to slaughter his son, a messenger from God shows up and tells Abraham not to kill Isaac. Relieved, but still needing an offering, Abraham spies a ram caught in a thorny bush.

Two thoughts struck me as I was considering this story. The first is how faithfully Abraham was willing to follow where God led him. As Quakers, we believe that we, like Abraham, can be led by God. But are we as willing to follow our leadings? If we are given a leading that we know is from the Divine Source, but is utterly abhorrent to us, are we still willing to follow where God would lead us? Or are we more willing to follow those leadings that are comfortable, that do not shove us violently out of comfort zone and into a really, really uncomfortable place?

In addition to the Bible, I’ve been reading “Fit for Freedom, not for Friendship”, a book about Quakers and their relationships with African Americans in the US. One thing that has stood out to me is how faithful individual Friends were in following their Guide, and how often bodies of Friends would not follow them. I wonder if Friends back then (I’m only partway through) were subject to the same doubt by other Friends that Friends today who are given uncomfortable leadings are subject to. I wonder if we are more likely to doubt the veracity of another’s leading if it’s one that makes us uncomfortable.

Back to Abraham… the second thought that came to me was how often the intention behind God’s leading is not what we expect. God told Abraham, “Go, kill your son for me.” Abraham, like most of us would have, must have assumed that the purpose of walking up that mountain was to kill his son. But the purpose was to reveal the strength of Abraham’s faith. The notes in my Bible indicate that God was “testing” Abraham, to see if he was truly worthy of the blessings God was planning on giving him. I have a different idea: the test wasn’t for God’s benefit, but for Abraham’s, so that Abraham would truly know how strong his faith was and would no longer doubt it.

Sometimes God calls us to do something and we think we know the intent behind it. Sometimes the call itself seems to contain its own purpose. But if we get caught up in what we believe will be the end result of the leading, we may miss the point. If Abraham had gotten caught up in the idea of killing Isaac, he might never have made it up that mountain. Sometimes the point of a leading is just to follow it. God alone knows what the purpose is. All we are called to do is to be faithful to our Guide and follow where He leads.

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Filed under bible, discernment, leadings, quakerism, the bible

Inherent Goodness

One of my favorite aspects of both of my religions is the belief in inherent goodness. This is the opposite of what I was taught as a Catholic growing up, which was the belief in Original Sin, man’s tendency towards wrongdoing and separation from God. I never really believed in the concept of original sin. After all, if God made us, then how could we be naturally bad?

As Quakers, we tend to believe that the “Kingdom of God” is available to us, right here, right now. It’s an internal, personal event, instead of the worldwide, external, apocalyptic event that many Christians view it as. We tend to believe that because everyone is a creation of God, we all have access to the Divine within, the “that of God within”. This is the theological foundation for our method of silent, waiting worship. We believe that everyone and anyone can commune directly with God*, no intermediary necessary. We believe that God can lead us; that if we pay attention, we can follow God’s will for us.

*(When I speak of God here, I am speaking of the Divine in general, no matter what name you may give it.)

This is a huge deal, and, in my mind, one of the most important aspects of Quakerism, if not the outright foundation. Other Christian denominations make the claim to be welcoming, but this Quaker faith in inherent goodness, in our innate ability to commune directly with God, in our ability to access that Seed within, makes us utterly unique and uniquely welcoming. “Come worship with us and commune with God!”

In Buddhism, too, there’s a belief in inherent goodness of people. This is usually named as our “inherent Buddha-nature” or “bodhichitta”. Any and all people have the potential to become Buddhas, or enlightened ones. We are encouraged to treat anyone we meet as a potential Buddha. By meditation and mindfulness, we can encourage the seed of bodhichitta to grow within us.

We are not inherently bad. We all have innate goodness within us. We just need to

“dig deep… carefully cast forth the loose Matter, and get down to the Rock, the sure Foundation, and there hearken to that Divine Voice which gives a clear and certain Sound.” (John Woolman)

Or come to realize that:

“Whatever good or useful things you want for yourself, others want them just as much. So just as you work hard at bringing about your own happiness and comfort, always work hard to others’ happiness and comfort, too. Just as you would try to avoid even the slightest suffering for yourself, strive too to prevent others having to suffer even the slightest harm. Just as you would feel pleased about our own well being and prosperity, rejoice from your heart when others are well and prosperous, too. In short, seeing no distinction between yourself and all living creatures of the three worlds, make it your sole mission to find ways of making every one of them happy, now and for all time.” – Patrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher

Notice that in both practices, there is an aspect of letting go of the primacy of self. What I mean here is that we need to let go of the idea that we are the most important person, the center of the universe. We need to let go of our self-centeredness. In Quakerism, we strive to let go of our self-centeredness so that God can become our center, so we can discern between our ego speaking and the “still, small voice” of the Divine. In Buddhism, we recognize that the foundation of compassion comes in the letting go of our attachment to our ego, to our self, because true compassion can only grow when we are no longer the center of our own universe.

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The Importance of Friends

A couple of months ago, my husband and I traveled to Lewes, Delaware, to visit two f/Friends of mine who live in a Quaker retirement-to-nursing home community there (let’s call them A and J). We’ve visited them during our anniversary vacations for the last couple of years, and every year I think the same thoughts before going: What will we talk about? What do we really have in common? This year, in fact, I was considering not visiting them as usual, but my husband, who is often good about not letting me slack off spiritually, insisted that we should.

When I first began attending Third Haven Friends Meeting, I felt both at home and out of place. Mostly, I felt at home, but I also felt out of place because I was unable to drive myself to and from and knew that my husband would not often be willing to drive me, as he found Meeting for Worship “boring”. So, while I felt I’d finally found my spiritual home, I also worried that the distance would be an impediment to my actually becoming involved with the community. Then, after attending my second Meeting for Worship, I was introduced to two Friends who lived nearby. A & J were a good 60 years older than me, had never met me before, but immediately offered to drive me to and from Meeting whenever I wanted.

I was, frankly, completely shocked at their willingness. It took me months to get up the courage to call them and ask for a ride.

But once I did, they faithfully drove me to and from Meeting for Worship for over a year. During that year, we became quite close. When they decided to move to Lewes, Delaware, to their final home, I knew that I would not only miss the rides, but their friendship.

Since they’ve left, my husband has taken up the responsibility of driving me to and from Meeting for Worship, but there are often weekends I don’t make it because he is too tired and needs the extra sleep.

Anyways, what is particularly interesting about A & J is that their marriage is similar to my own in one important way.

Without going into too much detail, there was a conflict at Third Haven many years ago over same-sex marriage. Most members wanted the Meeting to perform same-sex marriages, but a few did not. A lot of feelings were hurt, people felt they weren’t listened to, and the conflict ended in a compromise that many members could not feel settled with. This conflict happened a few years before I joined Third Haven.

Shortly after I joined, I felt a Disquiet about what had happened and felt led to encourage the Meeting to begin talking about same-sex marriage again. As many of you can imagine, this leading was not always welcomed by all members of my Meeting. In any event, the seeds I planted eventually blossomed, and a committee to discuss Same-Sex Marriage was developed last June (see this entry ).

In December, Third Haven finally found unity to perform Same-Sex Spiritual Union Ceremonies, but the word “marriage” was not used in the approved minute. I, and several others, were led to stand aside.

The similarity between A & J’s marriage and my own is a religious one. A was in favor of same-sex marriage when it was first discussed at Third Haven while J was not. In my own marriage, I am strongly in favor of same-sex marriage (at Third Haven and anywhere else!) while my husband is not. A and I are very open to the idea of Quakers having multiple faiths (she is supportive of my Buddhist faith and understands how it can complement my Quaker faith) while J is a bit more Christocentric. My husband is also a Christian.

Over our last meal before my husband and I left A & J’s home, we discussed what had happened at Third Haven over the last year. I mentioned how I’d sometimes felt like my ministry was not listened to as much as Friends who are older, even if we were saying the same thing. In particular, I was slightly hurt that it took an older Friend speaking in Meeting for Worship to get the Meeting to start discussing Same-Sex Marriage when I’d often offered similar ministry many times before. I do enjoy that Third Haven is a very well-grounded Meeting with older Friends very grounded in Spirit, but I do sometimes feel that the voices of younger Friends who may also be grounded in Spirit sometimes go unheeded.

It came to my mind that a Meeting functions best when there’s a strong segment of older Friends and a strong segment of younger Friends as well. Meetings are like a body of water: we need the depth of older Friends to keep us grounded in Spirit and the current of younger Friends to prevent stagnancy.

In spite of the complaint I voiced above, I do feel lucky to have Third Haven as my Monthly Meeting. We have a wide variety of beliefs, from conservative Christians to Buddhists to agnostics to Universalists. We have a wide variety of ages, too; I’ve noticed an influx of people in their mid20s to mid30s in recent years. Most of all, though, I love how gathered our Meetings for Worship are. I love our old Meetinghouse, even when it’s hot and I yearn for the convenience of air conditioning (built in the 1600s, it has no electricity). I love our “new” Meetinghouse, built in the 1800s, with its tall white walls and large windows. I love the grounds, the trees, the squirrels and birds that serenade us during Meeting for Worship. Most of all, though, I love the Spirit that flows through us as we sit in Meeting for Worship.


Filed under friends, gay love, GLBT rights, lgbt issues, meeting for worship, quakerism, third haven

Finding Balance

When I was in 8th grade, I had a theory about how the world worked. The theory was that there was a finite, definite amount of suffering and happiness in the world, and that, consequently, the more I suffered, the less others would suffer. In a way, this gave my pain of that year a purpose: after all, if I wasn’t suffering, that would mean someone else would be.

8th grade was a hard year for me. I’d had a falling out with most of my friends from the previous year and was left with only 2, other outcasts who it was social suicide to spend too much time with. But they were good, true friends, and I wish I had treated them better before I had no other choice. In addition to social things, there was family turmoil. And, of course, there was always my Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis looming in the background.

In retrospect, I suspect this worldview came from a desire to find meaning in my suffering. At the time, my faith was very strongly Christian, if not completely in line with the Catholic Church. But Jesus was very important to me and I related very strongly with the suffering he went through. If my suffering was to prevent others from suffering, then it had a purpose, a meaning, like Jesus’s suffering did. After all, Jesus suffered on the cross and died so that we could be free from sin. Like Jesus, I was willing to suffer so that others wouldn’t have to. And that connection and belief made it more bearable.

But the flip-side to this worldview is very, very dangerous, especially to a kid permeated with the guilt and sin teachings of the Catholic Church. Believing that my suffering would prevent someone else’s also meant that if I was happy, I was actively causing someone else to suffer.

By the end of the year, I’d fallen into a pretty deep depression that I only made it out of because of a wonderful experience that year at Arthritis Camp.

But the desire to take on another’s suffering is at the heart of the Bodhisattva vow I took a month ago. The difference now is that I’m a lot more spiritually and emotionally capable of doing so; though even now, I’m not fully able to take on the suffering of all beings, as my vow requires. I know that, in a very real way, I–and all others–are already Buddhas, we already have bodhichitta/Buddha-nature within us, but I, like most others, have not fully realized that. I have not, as Quakers would say, come to know that experientially.

The other difference is that I don’t believe in the same worldview. I don’t believe that my happiness actively causes someone else to suffer, or that my pain prevents another from suffering, nor that there is a finite, definite amount of suffering and happiness in the world.

The point I want to make is that finding balance is essential. One cannot take on the pain of the world before one is able. So often, we try to do too much. This is especially true of people who volunteer their time who often feel obligated to do more than they can because someone has to do it. But one cannot offer more than one is able to do. For example, if a charity needed someone, for whatever obscure reason, to perform a handstand and I volunteered to do so, I would then be put in a position to do something that’s not physically possible for me to do, no matter how much I desired to help out and do it.

And there’s the other side of this, also, when we refuse to do what we can because we assume there are others who are more able or more willing to do so… or because we just, ultimately, don’t want to get any more involved.

I am lucky that both of my religions offer concrete, solid practices for finding this balance. As a Buddhist, meditation allows me to gain Right Understanding. And as a Quaker, waiting on God, meditative listening, and the process of discernment allows me to figure out what I can and can’t do.

And there’s always the push, also, that thrusts one out of one’s comfort zone and into a whole new place, that makes one realize that one’s limits are quite a bit further away than one thought.

What methods of finding balance do you use?

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Filed under arthritis camp, buddhism, catholicism, daily life, discernment, faith, meditation, quakerism

Competive: a Slogan Post

Today’s slogan is “Don’t try to be the fastest.”

This reminds me of an experience I had a couple of months ago. My massage therapist (and friend) made a passing reference to my competitive nature, and I was immediately taken aback.

“Wait,” I asked her, “what makes you say that I’m competitive? I’m just asking because I don’t think of myself as a competitive person.”

She chuckled and said, “T, you are one of the most competitive people I know!”

And as we talked about it more, the truth of her words sunk in. My ego flailed at the assault–after all, competitiveness is neither a Buddhist nor a Quaker ideal trait. Surely, I felt, I’d gotten “past that”… hadn’t I?

Casual competition, such as in a game, is, I feel, okay, as long as it stays casual and doesn’t become aggressive. But competition in general is rooted in ego’s power; it’s all about stroking your ego or making yourself feel more important. Even when one feels like one is less than someone else, the more one harps on the competition, the more involved one becomes with one’s Self.

This is a real problem with me, one that’s so rooted in my character that I was completely unaware of it until my friend mentioned it to me. I enjoy winning. I enjoy being “better than”. I enjoy “being more spiritually-accomplished”. I enjoy being “more educated”, “more intelligent”, “more more more”.

More than what, exactly? We all suffer. We all die. We all want to be happy. We all want to be loved.

Lord, may I come to know experientially the truth of emptiness and compassion.

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Filed under buddhism, compassion, daily life, emptiness, quakerism, slogans

John Woolman on Common Humanity

As a brief continuation of my last post, I’d like to share this passage from the Journals of John Woolman:

When we remember that all nations are of one blood, that in this world we are but sojourners, that we are subject to the like afflictions and infirmities of body, the like disorders and frailties in mind, the like temptations, the same death, and the same judgment, and that the all-wise Being is Judge and Lord over us all, it seems to raise an idea of general brotherhood, and a disposition easy to be touched with a feeling of each other’s afflictions…

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Christ and the Way of Non-Self

As often happens to me during Meeting for Worship, this morning I found my thoughts turning to Jesus. In particular, I found myself reflecting on Jesus’s statement that one must lose one’s life in order to gain it:

“Then summoning the multitude together with his disciples, he said to them: If anyone wishes to go after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For he who wishes to save his life shall lose it; and he who loses his life for the sake of me and the gospel shall save it. For what does it advantage a man to gain the whole world and pay for it with his life? What can a man give that is worth as much as his life? He who is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous generation, of him will the son of man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels.”

(Gospel of Mark, 8:34-38)

And again in the Gospel of Matthew:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: If anyone wishes to go after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For he who wishes to save his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it. For what will it advantage a man if he gains the whole world but must pay with his life? Or what will a man give that is worth as much as his life? The son of man is to come in the glory of his father among his angels…”

(Gospel of Matthew, 16:24-27)

The first ministry that was offered in Meeting for Worship today was about how Third Haven encouraged this Friend to love God with all his being:

“But when the Pharisees heard that he [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together, and one of them who was versed in the law questioned him, making trial of him: Master, in the law, which is the great commandment? He said: That you shall love the Lord your God in all your heart and all your spirit and all your mind. That is the great commandment, and the first. There is a second, which is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments all the law and the prophets depend.”

(Gospel of Matthew, 22:34-40)

Here’s the point: one cannot worship God if one is too busy worshiping oneself. If one is too caught up in ego, in the life one wants and feels one deserves, one cannot love the Lord with all one’s heart, one’s spirit, and one’s mind, because one is too caught up in one’s self.

But what does losing one’s life and one’s love of self have to do with the second commandment, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Buddhism has two core teachings (in addition to the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path), that of emptiness and compassion. Here is how the logic works in Buddhism: when one finally realizes that the Self is merely an illusion of the mind and does not have an independent, permanent existence, the distinction between Self and Other vanishes. Thus, one can literally love your neighbor as yourself, because there is no longer a difference between the two.

To be able to love God as He deserves–with all your heart, mind, and spirit–one must give up one’s life and one’s attachment to one’s self. (As Jesus says in many of the Gospels, “No one can serve two Masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”) And in the process of losing one’s life and sense of individual self, one can come to another realization: that we are, all of us, children of God, equally worthy of His love, and as worthy of our own love as we ourselves are.

The first step, though, in both Buddhism and Christianity is to give up the idea of one’s individual self. And this I struggle with. I’m very attached to Me. I have such a tendency to turn my spiritual growth into accomplishments that bolster my ego: “Look how many times I’ve read the Bible! Look at how I’ve taken my Vows at such an early age! Look how spiritual I am!”

I want to love others as myself, to follow where God leads me, to truly KNOW the way of emptiness and compassion as taught in Buddhism, but the truth is that I am too bound up in love and pride of my own Self.

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