Monday, January 22, 2007

Spitting into the wind...

When grandfather was still live, he had a habit that backfired for my mother one day when she tried to imitate it. Granddad had a habit of spitting, but the only time he did so was when he was driving. He would roll down the window of his car and spit out the window. Then came the day my mother tried to imitate the same habit. She rolled down the window and promptly forgot the old adage “don’t spit into the wind.” She spit out the window, into the wind, and the spit flew back and hit her right in the face.

That is what false pride is like – spitting in our own faces. That is also what today’s column is about.

It is one thing for someone like George W. to play God with other people’s lives. It is another for some to think they ARE God. Yet that is what has happened. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked. After all we live in a world where this has certainly happened before. It is just that it has never happened in a manner that it directly affected my life. But like the song said…

“Woop there it is…”

Oh no, it didn’t happen all at once to be sure. It happened slowly and insidiously. First, for those of you out there who may not quite understand what a saint is, let me offer a brief explanation. In the Catholic sense of the word, a saint is a special Heavenly being that serves God. You have heard of them I am sure – St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila are two I have written about in this column. When someone prays and asks a saint for help, it is not a matter or worshiping that saint. It is just a matter of asking that heavenly being for their intercession. One day someone walked up to me in the hallway at work and, seeing the rosary I had, said, “You don’t pray to Mary do you? She’s dead.” My reply was simply, that was the point. She is dead. Who better to ask to bring something to God’s attention than someone who can simply lean across the dinner table and say “Son, let me bring something to your attention.” An important point here is that no one EVER expects the saint to take the place of God, or stand between mankind and God. Think of it as nothing more than putting an octane booster in one’s prayer gas tank.

When I became a Buddhist I learned a lot about embracement – about celebrating other people’s path to God – about understanding there are many different paths to God. I learned about myself. I learned about prayer and meditation. Without an understanding of Buddhism, I never would have been able to understand the work on prayer by Teresa of Avila called “Interior Castle.” It is Buddhism that allowed me to understand it.

But in this case the silver cloud had a black lining in its future.

The founders of the Buddhist order or “church” (as I will call it through the remainder of the article) I belong to lived and died for embracement – acceptance of everyone’s path to God. But now that they have died, and their daughter has elevated to the position of head of the church, that embracement has eroded. It has changed so much that as a matter of dogma, the Buddhist church will NOT permit it’s members to pray directly to God. In a faith once based on embracement and acceptance, its members became required to pray to the founders of the church, now dead and considered the Buddhist equivalent of saints. It reached the point where members where told that if they did not pray to these individuals that God would not hear their prayers.

There is a difference between asking for someone’s help and putting yourself between mankind and God.

It reached the point where the focus of the church no longer became God, instead it became the “sainted” parents of the head of the church. In other words, it slowly became about ancestor worship – about worshiping someone else’s ancestors.

But this last weekend the other shoe dropped – and dear readers it is ONE BIG SHOE – say about size one million and a half.

The head of the Buddhist church to which I once belonged had announced over this last weekend, all over the world in a sermon that was taped and broadcast, that she is to be worshipped as a Buddha.

This, my friends is the zenith of false pride. It is the very pinnacle of lack of humility and it goes against everything that the Buddha taught. Someone who is truly saintly in their behavior will be the first one to say they are not. Marie of the Trinity, a novice of St. Therese of Lisieux, once came to Therese and fell down on her knees in front of the soon to be saint. “You are a saint,” she told Therese, “and one day people will pray, asking for your help.” Therese’s reaction was simple and immediate – she laughed. She told Marie to get up off her knees, quit being such a child and to quit making fun of her (Marie of the Trinity, however was serious).

But now this particular Buddhist church has asked its members to worship the head of the church as a Buddha.

My reply is also simply and immediate. Yes, there are many paths up the mountain, but they all lead to the summit. WHAT I EXPECT TO FIND WHEN I REACH THE SUMMIT IS GOD.

Not the long dead parents who founded the order…

And certainly not the current head of the church, a Japanese woman who is very much alive…

Some one who substitutes themselves for God not only spits in their own face, she spits in the faces of every member of the church, and shames her mother who lived and died to embrace everyone’s path to God.

The Sisters of Embracement will continue to embrace and celebrate (not just accept) everyone’s path to God – no matter what that path may be.

My prayer will continue to be the same as St. Francis of Assisi -that prayer will be prayed directly to the Lord God almighty….


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