Saturday, March 24

Seeking Enlightenment

As some of you will recall - the youth Sunday School class that I lead is studying world religions. Although that may be an unusual choice for a United Methodist - no one has ever accused me of being usual.

We have traversed the Abrahamic faiths of Islam and Judaism and begun Eastern religions. I found Hinduism to be confusing (one God or many gods? Yes.) (What??). And tomorrow we begin a two week section on Buddhism.

So I chose to come to the Riva Howse to do my preparation. It is indeed an interesting faith system. To call it a religion both overstates and understates it. It is a way of being. A way of connecting to all things and to all beings.

At its beginning is Siddartha Gautama, a man born to the Hindu ruling class. When he was born a sage told his father he would either be an aesthetic or a powerful monarch. Since aesthetics tend to wander the Earth with few possessions, practicing self-denial and seeking truth...his Daddy sought to push him toward Door #2.

Life intervened and as a young man - Siddartha exited the palace gates and saw what we all see. Life. The good, bad and ugly. He saw old people and sick people and suffering. Big wake up call. But he also saw a man with a look of serenity and peace. When he asked his chariot driver how a man could have such peace in the midst of this nightmare - he was told that it was a holy man who was on the path of enlightenment.
From that point on - that was what he wanted. So he fasted and denied and generally became what his father didn't aesthetic. But what he didn't find was enlightenment. So, after one of his periods of fasting he broke the big Hindu rules of aestheticism and accepted a bowl of rice cooked in milk by a woman. I'm not sure which rule was broken (food? Milk? Woman?) But he was then shunned by the others. He had HAD it with this process so he went and sat under a Bodhi (bo dee) tree and said he wasn't moving until he had achieved enlightenment. And he sat there for 7 days.

And at the end of the 7 days he had something: that all beings have a sense of enlightenment, some just don't recognize it. And so this is what he began to teach.

I cannot imagine sitting for 7 days without moving - so I set myself an alarm and tried it for 7 minutes. This is what I found: that I have a hard time disconnecting. I had an Easter anthem running through ny head, thoughts of tax returns, wondering about the tires of a passing vehicle which then made me wonder when the inspection is due on the car I'm driving...

The list goes on. But in between the chaos in my brain...there were moments of being completely present in the moment. Hearing a bird, feeling the cold water on my feet, sun on my face. And for the briefest of seconds...I had it.

A good exercise. Maybe next time I can make it 15 minutes.

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