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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

The Whole Universe Is Here | July 24, 2022 by Rev. Dr. Kathryn Benton

Lotus Heart Centre: Sound Walk With the Guardian Willows

In the center of the castle of Brahman, our own body, there is a small shrine in the form of a lotus-flower, and within can be found a small space. We should find who dwells there, and we should want to know them.

And if anyone asks, ‘Who is the one who dwells in a small shrine in the form of a lotus-flower in the center of the castle of Brahman? Whom should we want to find and to know?’ We can answer:

‘The little space within the heart is as great as this vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars; fire and lightning and winds are there; and all that now is and all that is not: for the whole universe is here and the divine dwells within our heart.’

It is my hope that the calming, peaceful Walk With the Guardian Willows put you in a state of mind that was receptive to the words from the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads. I often go to this spiritual wisdom in times of need…when I am struggling to find a sense of peace and stability amid daily trials. These words are especially comforting to me…they tell me that there is no need to be overwhelmed with the state of my life or even of the world…if the whole universe dwells within, then all may be as it should be…we were made to be capable of the universe, according to Thomas Aquinas.

This is an important realization to make in our troubled times. To know that we are part of something so big and so beautiful can be of great comfort. The following film explains, much better than I can, our universe story…how we have come to this point.

In December, the James Webb telescope was launched and we have received beautiful images of our universe…our home. The following clip explains to some degree how it works. It is a camera taking images of our history.

This telescope is providing a visual documentation of our beginnings, with the hope of shedding light on how we can proceed in our own times…how we can solve the deep problems facing us. Thurman wrote of beginnings:

It is natural that man should concern himself with beginnings. This is a part of the curiosity of the mind. Without it there would be no exploration of the world and there would be no growth…Contemplation concerning origins is a part of the curiosity of the [human] race.

Curiosity is a foundational part of our being that is perhaps in a state of atrophy today. I see the vibrancy and life it gives to my almost-two-year-old grandson. I learn from him because I realize that he is closer to that lotus of the heart…it has not even been enshrined there yet…he wears it on the outside and it is, I think, felt in every fiber of his being. It is fundamental to his work in the world. Some of our work, then, is to reawaken this curiosity in order to do our work in the world. Contemplating…and indeed appreciating our origins…and the creator of this universe, can encourage us to be grateful to be here…in this universe of an estimated two trillion galaxies on our beloved Mother Earth. Gratitude might inspire and invigorate our plans for changing our ways. This gratitude may save us from exterminating the landscapes and the creatures of earth, including ourselves.

A teacher of mine, Joanna Macy wrote a book with Molly Young Brown in 1998 entitled, Coming Back to Life. It is clear that our progress since then has been slow when we read the words:

The realizations that we make…save us from succumbing to either

panic or paralysis.

They help us resist the temptation to the stick our heads in the sand.

They also help us withstand the temptation to turn on each other, finding scapegoats on whom to vent our fear and rage. But when we know and revere the wholeness of life, we can stay alert and steady.

WE know there is no private salvation.

WE join hands to find the ways the world self-heals –

and see the chaos as seedbed for the future.

Have we made any realizations? Sometimes I wonder. We are, as Macy points out, succumbing to panic or paralysis. Panic I understand, it is an epidemic in this country. We only need know a tiny piece of our current shared situation on earth to react with panic. Most of us do not know that we are reacting, not only to our personal fears, but to our fears as a species. We think it is our own personal situation, and in some cases it is that too, but as Macy points out, We know there is no private salvation for we are part of this shared space we call the universe.

Listening to one of Howard Thurman’s sermons on fear, I heard these words:

…the answer to fear for the weak and the oppressed, for those who stand on the tilted edge of rational grounds for emotional security and those who are at the center of power: ‘You are God’s child and you are responsible to God.’

Wow! We are God’s children and we are responsible to God! We are responsible to that divine universe that dwells within each one of us…the disinherited, as well as those who are ‘at the center of power’. This is a good reminder that we are all equally responsible for the troubles of the world…even if we are at this instant in power. We are spinning and orbiting…in a perpetual kind of cosmic motion on the same planet, in the same solar system, in the same galaxy.

Thurman continues in a profound way…he says,

So be careful how you live.

Thurman knew that we would have to hear this again and again before we were able to take it in. We are clearly beings that can be paralyzed by the fear we experience…and we have become very good at ignoring and denying what Al Gore called, The Inconvenient Truth.

Poet and potter M. C. Richards has commented on what she called a palpable disunion that occurs when there is a denial of this truth. We actually split off the part of ourselves that is conscious. Richards says,

The inner soul withdraws, goes underground, splits off from the part that keeps walking around. Vitality ebbs. Psychic disturbance is acute. Suicide may be attempted.

Of course this is happening today…the lack of hope and the growth of despair is firm evidence that psychic disturbance is acute. We are overwhelmed by the realization that we are part of this immense universe and at the same time, our actions matter…we matter. If we are capable of the universe, then there may be some hope that we can get to the work of healing that Macy spoke of…we must, she says, join hands to first find the way the world self-heals and then to do our part in helping that along…by being careful how we live.

Well, I don’t want to leave you with this sense of despair…this situation that we are either panicking over or are trying to avoid. The underlying message here is that we are in this together. This is good news! We have each other, our divine curiosity, our contemplation and gratitude and even the entire universe to see us through our work. We are not as small and weak as we think and we are not alone. In the words of Rumi:

Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside of you. Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.

May we move forward is ecstatic motion. People Get Ready!

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