My Contribution to a German multi-faith service led by the Director of South Africa’s Institute for the Healing of Memories

Below is my contribution this week to a multi-faith service to be held in Germany. It is based on Matthew 6:19-34, which comes first – followed by my contribution to the service.
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Matthew 6:19-34 (NRSV)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes
and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than
they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

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My Zen Master, Guy Mokuho Mercier (from France), considers the author Eckhart Tolle to be a Zen Master too (although Tolle would probably not say so himself).

When I hear these words Jesus said, I am reminded of a story Eckhart Tolle recounts in his Findhorn Retreat book. The story he recounts goes like this: “A woman found a scroll in an old box. It was ancient, and as she started to unroll it she saw some writing on the left and some on the right, and she heard a voice saying, If you read what is on the left, you will know the past, and if you read what is on the right you will know the future.

She looked to the left and the right, and then she rolled the scroll back to the beginning, where there was a central panel on which was written, God is. She said, This is all I am interested in. I don’t want anything else. And the voice said, Congratulations. You made it this time.

Her focal point had become the present moment.”

The present moment is not the “tomorrow” Jesus refers to. It is the eternal present. It is right now. It is the only place to experience life, and the only place to experience the divine. You can’t go back or forward in time to find divine life! So why spend so much mental time troubling yourself about past events or future concerns!

Being present with the present, life can unfold and become very beautiful and simple – even when it is very complex and full of pain and suffering. And this is truly seeing life for what it is. Without any illusion. Suddenly the gift of it becomes very clear. Lillies are just lillies and yet see how splendid! Already perfect. Just like you.

Do you get the sense that Jesus is saying the same thing in different ways here? I do. He is asking you what is in your heart. Is your heart filled with light, compassion, and joy? Or is your heart grabbing, wanting, worry, and darkness? He is also saying that it is very simple to change what is in your heart; it does not require any effort. The reverse! Removal of effort, and letting go to what is! The Lillies of the field just get on with it. So why can’t we! Splendid and perfect and bobbing in the breeze.

The kingdom of heaven is always just around the corner. Just like this.
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“Charitable Acts” and “Compassionate Acts”

When a homeless person is given soup, they eat soup, and then they can stay on the street a bit longer. The person who is the soup giver can feel good that they have given the soup, but the person who is homeless simply eats the soup because it is there and goes away again until next time. The soup keeps him on the street for another day.

When a homeless person is asked what one thing they want above all else; what one thing they need most of all to help life get better, and then that one thing is given to them, they can start to feel better and things can start to mend.

In the first illustration, soup is subjecting one human being to another human being’s need to feel good.

In the second illustration, one gift is empowering one human being to start to see life differently through one gift freely given only once. But if the gift giver goes out intending to empower the gift receiver, then we are back to square one; there is the one who can give the gift, and the one who has nothing to give; immediately it is an act of disempowerment. And if the act is done compassionately the first time (so that the receiver does not feel like a person with no gift to give) but egotistically the second time – it is disempowering again. The giver feels good, but the receiver feels the opposite of what the giver originally intended to achieve in the life of the receiver.

It is not quite so much the action as the energy behind the action. If the energy is right then the action will be right, and the energy can only be right with compassion. One mind proceeding clearly.

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When we give money to charities to feed people who are starving in other countries, our giving has the potential to be brutal. It is very easy for us to want people around the world just to live like we do, as if not living like us is wrong.

People have been stripped of their Jungle village habitats so that we can have palm oil or soya milk. Once they are starving in slums Westerners take photographs and build a campaign around the photographs so that we give them money so that they will not starve. How does it give them back their Jungle village in which they sustained a living for a thousand years?

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If you have slept on a street, even for one night, you will know that you wake up feeling fuzzy. Homeless people are often fuzzy not because of drug taking but because they are homeless and have to sleep on the street. Have you tried to do it? It is very hard to achieve good sleep. So it is difficult to think clearly for yourself if you have slept on the street. It will affect your thinking and your behaviour. You may not come over as being polite and nice enough to fit the bill as a sweet poor person who just wants some soup. Who cares? You are hungry and tired!

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John Daido Loori says that compassion is something that just happens. There is no doer who is doing the good, and no receiver who is receiving the good. It is like breathing.

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I can not ever let myself feel like a rich person who has riches to give to someone who is poor ever again. It simply does not compute. The guilt does not compute. The appeal to a high morality of philanthropy does not compute. The energy behind the appeal does not compute. It is always almost, but not quite, right. The energy behind it does not quite feel persuasive and leaves me doubting. And then doubting my doubt. And then feeling guilty. And then giving in and paying money.

I suggest that when a campaign is not quite persuasive it is because the energy behind it is not quite right. And when this happens to me, rather than feeling guilt, it is a wake up bell prompting me to ask myself what the outcomes are likely to be if I give this money or sign this petition, as opposed to not giving this money or signing this petition. At first perhaps bad. Later on perhaps better. Not much difference. Perhaps worse to do something that is not sustainable. Is there something else that I can do?