Mercy is not Strained

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath." (William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)

I am a HUGE fan of William Shakespeare. Just ask my mom. She took me to Shakespeare in the Park in Boulder, Colorado when I was two or three years old and I sat there completely engaged and focused on the play the entire time. Love the Bard! ;-)

Anyway, this quote from Shakespeare basically means that mercy should be freely given and is not "forced". Seems to me that this thought is very much like the Mercy and Forgiveness that God showers upon us at all times. It is always there - just waiting for us to partake of it - it's not forced. It is a gift and a blessing because of God's love for us.

Thing is, we are not always able to actually receive this amazing gift of love. In many of the world's religions God tells us how much He loves us, but he also says that unless we love Him, His love cannot reach us. To me, this is an extremely important concept to take under advisement.

Think about it. How often are we caught up in our own affairs and completely forgetful of God? Or how many times are we so overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of this life that we turn our backs on Him? Or we just aren't interested in what He has to say and live our lives without heeding the wisdom that He provided for us. Maybe we're just scared to trust Him completely because we've been hurt in the past.

So we put up barriers between ourselves and God that we feel protect us from getting hurt, when in reality they inhibit our ability to receive his Grace and Love. It is like the umbrellas at the top of this post, warding off the rain and keeping us from getting wet. If you took it as a metaphor, then all those people protecting themselves(w/umbrellas) are actually depriving themselves of receiving God's love(rain).

So I say leave those umbrellas at home and let yourself get drenched! It takes trust, it takes focus, it takes faith, it takes dedication, but it is well worth it. Remember, that the only way His love will be able to reach you is when you show your love for Him. God's love for us is always right there, unconditional and all-encompassing, just waiting for us to love Him back so we can actually tap into it and receive the amazing blessing that His love will bring to our lives.

Below are some very brief posts from a handful of world religions on this concept. Please share your thoughts and quotes as well. Happy Sunday everyone!

Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant."(Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

"I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me."(King James Bible, Proverbs 8:17)

"Say, 'If ye would love God then follow me, and God will love you and forgive you your sins, for God is forgiving and merciful.'"(The Qur'an (E.H. Palmer tr), Sura 3 - Imran's Family)

"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."(King James Bible, John 14:21)

The Divine Within Others

Sunday, January 23, 2011

As a Baha'i, I love and appreciate the shining spark of truth that I believe flows through all major world religions. One phrase that really touches me from the Buddhist tradition is the term "Namaste" which is often used in greeting and/or Yoga practice. Namaste has been translated in many different ways, but they all basically amount to the same thing...

"The Divine within me bows to the Divine within you"

Beautiful, right? Today's blog is very similar to last weeks blog in that the main focus is still "The Divine Within". But last week I just focused on the concept itself, now I want to discuss a little more about what it means. If I believe and recognize that there are attributes of God within me, how should that change the way I relate to others and the world around me? Or does it? Check out this video...

I think this video demonstrates the concept of compassion and love for all creation in a very simple way. If we can recognize the Divine within ourselves and appreciate and see the Divine in everyone around us, the world would be a much better place. We truly are all one. And it only follows that if God created us all and endowed each and every one of us with the ability to mirror forth his attributes, then we should honor the divine within every individual who crosses our path.

So, my personal answer to whether recognizing the Divine within me changes the way I relate to the world is "YES! Absolutely!" How could it not? There is a part of God in everyone! I would be a fool not to honor that. Easier said than done, you say? But people are rude and obnoxious and selfish, you say? Yes, sometimes. But I say, you can still find the Divine within them.

It is just a matter of changing focus. The more I remember to focus on looking for the Divine in myself and others, the more often I see it. And when I am successful at retaining this type of focus, I see beauty everywhere and in everyone. I'm not saying I see those warm globes of light like in the video (LOL!), but it feels kinda like that inside. It can be challenging to do for sure, but when it happens, it feels AMAZING!

Here are some quotes on this concept. Please share your own thoughts and quotes!

"Be in perfect unity. Never become angry with one another. Let your eyes be directed toward the kingdom of truth and not toward the world of creation. Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92)

"He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye." (Buddha)

He who thus vows
His soul to the Supreme Soul, quitting sin,
Passes unhindered to the endless bliss
Of unity with Brahma. He so vowed,
So blended, sees the Life-Soul resident
In all things living, and all living things
In that Life-Soul contained. And whoso thus
Discerneth Me in all, and all in Me,
I never let him go; nor looseneth he
Hold upon Me; but, dwell he where he may,
Whate'er his life, in Me he dwells and lives,
Because he knows and worships Me, Who dwell
In all which lives, and cleaves to Me in all." (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (King James Bible, 2 Peter)

Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

The Divine Within Us

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"He hath known God who hath known himself" (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 178)

Knowing God by knowing ourselves - this is a concept that has always really struck a chord with me. It is fascinating to think that by truly knowing exactly who I am, I somehow gain a better understanding of the Almighty. Isn't that extraordinary?

Don't get me wrong. I think that God is ultimately Unknowable. There is absolutely no way that we will ever fully comprehend Him. How could the created ever truly fathom the Creator? But I do believe we can strive to learn and know more about God, and one of the ways we do that is through knowing ourselves. But how do we do that? Where would I find God within me?

In the Bahá'í Faith, Baha'u'llah teaches that God "...hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes" upon humanity and made us like "a mirror of His own Self" (full quote below). Ultimately this means that we have the potential to mirror forth the infinite qualities of God - patience, humility, compassion, trustworthiness, love, etc. When we see these qualities within ourselves and strive to embody them, we become closer to God and begin to know Him. We recognize the Divine within us.

In fact, this is the way in which I personally interpret the Christian teaching from Genesis that we were created in the image of God. Our likeness is spiritual, rather than physical. That just makes more sense to me. Obviously, this "likeness" isn't always apparent. It takes time to truly mirror forth these attributes of God. We have to struggle against our baser, more selfish nature. But the more I am able to develop and incorporate spiritual qualities into my daily life, it only makes sense to me that I would know at least a tiny bit more about God. What a gift.

Each religion teaches the concept of "God Within" in one way or another as the quotations below can attest. Read through them and let me know your thoughts.

I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (King James Bible, 1 John 4.16)

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (King James Bible, Ephesians)

"Yea! knowing Me the source of all, by Me all creatures wrought,
The wise in spirit cleave to Me, into My Being brought;
Hearts fixed on Me; breaths breathed to Me; praising Me, each to
So have they happiness and peace, with pious thought and speech;
And unto these- thus serving well, thus loving ceaselessly-
I give a mind of perfect mood, whereby they draw to Me;
And, all for love of them, within their darkened souls I dwell,
And, with bright rays of wisdom's lamp, their ignorance dispel." (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

"The Prophet said that God has declared,
"I am not contained in aught above or below,
I am not contained in earth or sky, or even
In highest heaven. Know this for a surety. O beloved!
Yet am I contained in the believer's heart!
If ye seek me, search in such hearts!"
He said also, "Enter the hearts of my servants
To gain the paradise of beholding Me, O fearer of God" (Mathnavi of Rumi (E.H. Whinfield tr), The Masnavi Vol 1)

"Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him -- a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation.... Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.

These energies with which the Day Star of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. The radiance of these energies may be obscured by worldly desires even as the light of the sun can be concealed beneath the dust and dross which cover the mirror. Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. It is clear and evident that until a fire is kindled the lamp will never be ignited, and unless the dross is blotted out from the face of the mirror it can never represent the image of the sun nor reflect its light and glory." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 65)

The Next Great Adventure

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"To the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure." – Albus Dumbledore

Life after death is a fascinating subject to me, and an important one in general I would think, no matter what you believe. This week I am much more interested in what everyone else has to say on this subject than I am expounding on it myself. There is so much mystery around the afterlife.

What will it be like? Look like? Feel like?

Who will be there? Will you recognize them?

How will you spend your time? Will time even exist any more?

I know what I think and what I believe, and I'll share them later, but what do YOU think?

Here are some thoughts from various world religions on the subject. Enjoy...

"To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes, is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage. Our body is like the cage, and the spirit is like the bird. We see that without the cage this bird flies in the world of sleep; therefore if the cage becomes broken, the bird will continue and exist: its feelings will be even more powerful, its perceptions greater, and its happiness increased. In truth, from hell it reaches a paradise of delights, because for the thankful birds there is no paradise greater than freedom from the cage." (Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 326)

"Learn thou! the Life is, spreading life through all;
It cannot anywhere, by any means,
Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.
But for these fleeting frames which it informs
With spirit deathless, endless, infinite,
They perish. Let them perish, Prince! and fight!
He who shall say, "Lo! I have slain a man!"
He who shall think, "Lo! I am slain!" those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for
ever" (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

"O my people! this present life is only a passing joy, but the life to
come is the mansion that abideth." (The Qur'an (Rodwell tr), Sura 40 - The Believer)

"Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. Consider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 153)

"Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." (King James Bible, Psalms 73:24-26)

"Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of 156 God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. The movement of My Pen is stilled when it attempteth to befittingly describe the loftiness and glory of so exalted a station." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 155)

Tis' the Season for Resolutions

Sunday, January 2, 2011

So 2011 is here and many people are making New Year's resolutions - to stop eating junk food, to exercise more, to quit smoking, etc. For whatever reason I've never really gotten into making resolutions in the New Year. Might be because I was never really successful at it. Is anyone?

Don't get me wrong, I have definitely made resolutions and adhered to them, just never successfully on New Years Eve. I stopped smoking August 8th, 2003, I became Vegan July 9th, 2009 - to name just a couple. When I get in my mind that I am going to do something differently or approach life in a different way - then I do it. But it always ends up being on my own terms, in my own time.

I have to work through it you know? And sometimes there are a lot of false starts along the way. But if I am committed, then I always get around to it. Here is a really cool quote on resolutions I found...

"Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle." - Eric Zorn

So if I come up short again and again at conquering whatever it is I want to change or maturing into what I'd like to become, that's ok. I just have to pick myself up and try again. It is normal to break resolutions. The important part, I think, is to keep recommitting yourself, striving to be better. And of course, we probably shouldn't wait to re-evaluate ourselves once a year on December 31st either.

Shouldn't we constantly be evolving and maturing - working at becoming better versions of ourselves than the day before?

What say you people out there in cyber space? While you think about it, here are some additional quotes to ponder from some sacred scriptures.

"Arise, O people, and, by the power of God's might, resolve to gain the victory over your own selves, that haply the whole earth may be freed and sanctified from its servitude to the gods of its idle fancies -- gods that have inflicted such loss upon, and are responsible for the misery of, their wretched worshipers. These idols form the obstacle that impedeth man in his efforts to advance in the path of perfection. We cherish the hope that the Hand of Divine power may lend its assistance to mankind, and deliver it from its state of grievous abasement." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 93)

"Those who meditate with perseverance, constantly working hard at it, are the wise who experience Nirvana, the ultimate
freedom from chains.

When a man is resolute and recollected, pure of deed and persevering, when he is attentive and self-controlled and lives
according to the Teaching, his reputation is bound to grow.

By resolution and attention, by discipline and self-control, a clever man may build himself an island that no flood can
overthrow." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 1 (tr. J. Richards))

"Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.

Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." (King James Bible, Proverbs 6:4-11)

"He who has committed a sin and has repented, is freed from that sin, but he is purified only by (the resolution of) ceasing (to sin and thinking) 'I will do so no more.'

Having thus considered in his mind what results will arise from his deeds after death, let him always be good in thoughts, speech, and actions." (Hindu, 231-232 Laws of Manu)

"This is a brilliant century. Eyes are now open to the beauty of the oneness of humanity, of love and of brotherhood. The darkness of suppression will disappear and the light of unity will shine. We cannot bring love and unity to pass merely by talking of it. Knowledge is not enough. Wealth, science, education are good, we know: but we must also work and study to bring to maturity the fruit of knowledge.

Knowledge is the first step; resolve, the second step; action, its fulfillment, is the third step." (Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 54)

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