Resolution of Love

To be loved is to receive power. If you are loved, you should feel stronger every day.

Don’t fall in love.

To fall into love is to surrender to mutual emptiness.

Awaken to love.

Awaken to new perspectives. Awaken to new feelings. Awaken to new possibilities.

Eyes open, clear-headed, self-controlled.

But most importantly:

Awaken to JOY!

Why Priests are Celibate

At all-hands meeting on Wednesday, I shared with a colleague that I had spent the Holiday weekend with a cold, lying on the floor watching movies. He himself had taken in “Lawnmower Man,” with it’s “gratuitous sex.”

Before remarking upon the similarities to “The Kids Are All Right,” I let slip: “As much as I remember about sex.”

I am single, but women make it obvious that I am attractive. It’s the sudden pause in their activity when I come around a corner, the frown and determination in their eyes when they look away, the staring when I dance.

It happened twice at the store on Christmas Eve: coming around the corner of an aisle to receive a woman’s astonished regard, frision all over my extremities focusing inwards as she fell into my heart.

As David Koresh did, I could make a real mess in the world. But I understand it this way: it’s not me. They are falling into the light that shines from me. They hunger for it because it promises surcease from the dirt that the world pours over them – the lust, the sloth, the greed. Freed from those burdens, they can manifest their most virtuous aspirations.

What I recognize, though, is that I can’t guarantee that to them. It is their right, but it is a right secured only in relationship with the Most High.

I am only a window that they can look through. They are responsible for securing the relationship.

And so I am single because I refuse to submit to their desire that I be responsible for that relationship.

The Clock is Ticking!

Women have a biological clock: menopause, the point beyond which they cannot have children.

This is my version:

For about a decade, whenever I entertain romantic aspirations, I gravitate toward a vision of lying on the couch with my head in her lap while she strokes my hair.

I’m 57 1/2, ladies! Will I have to settle for a scalp massage?

Christmas Teaching, 2017

In the years from 2006, I made every effort to be down at the LA Cathedral for Christmas Midnight Mass and Easter morning services. Having given my heart to Jesus “for healing” back in 2002, on first encounter I was pretty direct upon approaching the crucifix set behind the altar. Looking into the serene visage, I gestured to the twisted limbs and observed, “It’s time to clean all of this up.”

My interaction with the brotherhood has been complex, and sometimes contentious. So when I moved another twenty miles up the freeway into Ventura, it was with some relief that I decided to spend Christmas down at the local parish, rather than making the trip to Los Angeles.

Though my mother asked pointedly whether I intended to go.

I also passed on Easter.

For some reason, I feel a greater receptivity now. I’ve had a number of dreams about Christmas Eve down at the Cathedral, including sharing words with the community. I began this writing before Thanksgiving, but became mired in theological resistance.

I sent out the message that love won’t manifest against resistance. It must be welcomed. A breakthrough of sorts happened last weekend, and I felt the resistance melt away. The words come forth easily.

I was down at the Ventura Government Center for jury duty, and worried through the last of the wording this morning. I do tend to become a little abstract. I hope that it conveys the meaning.

We are so very close. I do my best to mark the way.


The Age Upon Us

Hello, dear friends.

May all the blessings of this day be upon you.

Summoned by the cry of broken hearts, I first came here fifteen years ago. Thus it was to the sweet virgin, witness to the suffering of her people, praying that the Father might bring forth a savior from among her sisters. After Gabri-el revealed her role, the jewel of feminine compassion said simply, “Here am I.”

So I say now: “Here am I.”

That is all the introduction I have for you. The rest is not important, for the gifts of this day descend from a greater source.

In Genesis, when God arrives, the earth is declaimed as “formless and void.” That is to say: nothing found there had any purpose, nor any soul. The molten lava flowed and cooled. Rock ground against itself, creating nothing. Water washed against the rock, forming beds of clay, but no life sprang forth.

The Love that is God seeks to make relationships marvelous, and the Bible records His gifts. The first were simple: light, ground and rain.

Of these gifts God sought to raise creatures that loved as He did. Three billion years later, He crouched on the ground, remembering, and bestowed upon Adam the ability to love. Having compassion on Adam’s loneliness, God found a companion, and Eve was given Adam’s heart to tend, and bore witness to Adam’s virtue.

I remind you of these things to clarify the gifts of this day. Jesus lived forty years on this Earth. He walked among us, and we remember this day because he died to give proof to the undying power of love. But we should set that forty years against the three billion that preceded it. If we are amazed at what Jesus accomplished in forty years, how can we describe the tenderness, strength, and determination of the Father? Can we even begin to grasp it?

Three billion years. As it is said: “I am less than a worm.”

But the Father finds joy in us. Look around you. See the rock, polished and cast. We give form and purpose to it. Our gratitude secures a sanctuary for the burdened. Our souls expand, filling the world with the love we receive.

That is to say – as he is love – that we fill the world with God.

That is the specific gift of this day. Love descended to us. Secure in Mary’s incorruptible womb, love joined flesh, and walked among us.

This sounds simple, but is not easy to understand. What did it mean for Christ to descend from heaven? Why did he need to come in the flesh? Why did he need to suffer and die on the cross?

We come together tonight not only to honor Mary and Jesus, but because on this night the Most High comes closer to us. We see beauty, we hear it in voices and instruments, we see it in the faces of those we love. This beauty washes against our troubles and strife, and if we raise our faces and hearts in gratitude, we feel the Most High fill our cup to the brim.

There are those among you that know this to be true. You are near to the saints.

But is it for you that Jesus came?

Why would that glorious spirit, replete in the presence of his Father’s love, descend for the saintly? Would they not be served better if he stayed to prepare a place for them?

Let me remind you: there are those among us that dare not raise their hearts. They are like Peter on the boat after the fish rush to fill the nets, fallen to his knees, pleading “Go away from me, master, for I am a sinner!”

How many of us have felt that shame? Feared that God would turn away from us?

“Oh, you of little faith!” was the rebuke from Jesus. That was to say “Believe in yourself! Believe that you are beloved by the Most High! Believe that you should share the joy of my service to Him!”

St. Theresa of Avila wrote:

O Lord of my soul and my Good! There are souls so determined to love you that they gladly abandon everything to focus on nothing but loving you. Why don’t you want them to immediately ascend to a place where they may receive the joyful gift of perfect love?

The answer being: because God needs us here to fill the world with love.

Not only on Calvary. Not only on Christmas Day. Not only in this church. But everywhere, every day.

In this Age, Jesus commanded that we “pick up our cross.” But that is not the goal of love. Let us talk of the New Age: A day will come without suffering, without fear, without grief. It is the day from which the power of the love that surrounds us will chase those experiences from our lives.

In that future we will find, like the five thousand, that when we gather what little we have, it is multiplied until it is more than enough. Illness will fade when our sister gazes upon us with compassion. Conflict will flee when our brother prays that our ambition be tempered by good will.

Can we glimpse that day? Here? Now?

Let us try!

Oh, you saints, remember the grace of those two: the woman and the child that were touched by heaven, yet chose to serve us. Take the hands of those you love, and lift your hearts to the Most High. Feel his gaze upon you. Feel the tenderness, the patience, the strength. Behind it the unending ocean of his love. Allow that love to fill your heart.

Thus was the Sacred Mother. Thus was the Lamb.

Rest there, you saints, for now I must address others.

Oh, you weary and burdened. You that bear witness to the sorrows of the world. You are not forgotten.

They descended to serve you. Mary and Jesus: they became flesh so that they might feel your anguish, and bear witness to the sin that oppresses you. It is you that matter, you weary and burdened, for you test the submission of the saints to the love of the Most High.

Lean your sorrows upon me, oh you weary and burdened.

Here am I.

Oh, you saints, do you feel them among you? This is the purpose for your hearts: that as did Jesus, you might share your love. Open your hearts and minds now, and robe the weary and burdened in your grace. See in your hearts that they will find, in the coming year, all that they need, because those that have means to comfort them will receive something in exchange: the certitude of the New Age prophesied by Jesus. Not as a distant promise glimpsed from 2000 years ago, but as a palpable nearness in the heart.

That will be an age when the rich will not hoard their wealth, because they will have the security of fast friendship. It will be an age in which no one asks “What’s in it for me?” because they know that in sharing what they have, their hearts expand to receive ever more of the limitless power of the Most High.

Do you not feel it, oh you saints? Is there not still more? Let it pour out from you into the world! Through the streets, into the dark corners. Across rivers, plains and oceans. Into every heart that craves the hope birthed on this day.

Jesus was not born into comfort. Mary did not labor in a feather bed. This is the gift of this day: they brought love to the world so that we might know that all the world is sacred, that we were meant to be sacred, and that the Most High is determined that all should be redeemed.

Mold with the redwoods. Worms with the eagles. Shepherds with kings. And those oppressed by sin with the saints.

Oh my friends! Let us be worthy of our brother! Let us worship with every breath, with every touch. Let us worship in the temple of the Most High. Let us worship in the temple of our hearts.

Merry Christmas! And blessings be upon you all!

Poverty Loves

Just down-wind from the sewage treatment plant in Port Hueneme, the last fence on the road marks a demolished factory. The concrete pads still roll back from the entrance, and a long brick wall runs perhaps a tenth of a mile, as though trying to hold back the dunes and the sea.

The city council members bitch about the need to force the vagrants out of town, but the owner of the property pays for a chemical toilet and allows the homeless to stay. The leaders of my Monday Bible study group have been coming there for nine months now. With my video blog at Love Returns completed, I’ve joined them the last two Saturday mornings. Camp residents can receive Christian teaching and encouragement, lunch, and as much clothing and food as they can carry.

My role is pretty passive – standing watch to ensure no arguments break out. I’ve not seen evidence of such behavior, but yesterday even less so: Pastor Sammie’s church brought out a service team, and we outnumbered the camp attendees by at least two-to-one. My concern was actually that the wall of men standing at the edge of the pad would be a barrier to the less assertive.

I do my work quietly, offering to the beaten-down couple “Have some food and take some strength of heart as well.” Offering to guard a bicycle and new bedding while the owner was occupied.

But the real heart of the camp was revealed to me at the end of the service. An older woman was carrying an eight-pack of muffins away with her, and I asked if she didn’t need anything else. She said that she was cooking that night, and sure might. She had started with six, and two more heard and asked to come, and then they invited friends and she was expecting as many as sixteen.

“God bless you for your service.”

That struck her. She said that she was good with God, but he was challenging her. There were times, when the guns and violence got out of hand, that she spoke to him with words that weren’t so respectful. She didn’t know if that was allowed.

“That’s just fine. He needs to know what you need.”

She was one of the original camp members, having brought almost her entire neighborhood there. Her fiancé had been a boxer back on the East Coast, and then got mixed up doing work for a couple of crime families. She had seen him change his heart, taking pride in cooking and caring for others. But the doctors had loaded him up on psych meds. That morning, it was almost like he was on heroin, he was so dopey. She was going to call his lawyer and the doctors, because she had been in the industry for forty years, and knew what the proper doses and combinations were, and what they were giving him made no sense. They said that he was a violent man, and needed to be kept sedated, but she knew differently.

Sammie called the prayer circle, and we stood just outside the edge. I rubbed her back gently, asking her heart to soften. With the closing complete, I asked if I could pray for her.

I took her hands and invoked the Father. When clarity had filled the air between us, I prayed that the doctors would have the courage to see her man as she did, and allow him to continue to shine his redeemed light into the camp. I prayed that others would honor her charity and wisdom, and work together to solve their common problems, rather than taking for themselves.

When I finished, she held on, and exclaimed that her angels had been working overtime, and God had sent her me. There was no doubt that I had seen into her life, or that those that troubled her mind would be confronted with her hope. She had faith that the Father had spoken through me.

And as she left, I looked up and realized that the rest of the gathering had been frozen by the power of the love that we had honored between us.

Nothing to Fear but Your Self

At Bible study last night, Pastor Sammie asked us why we were afraid. We struggled to produce a good answer. Buddhism puts a point on this: because of our attachment to material things. Christianity goes the other way. It asserts that we find the strength to resist fear only in embracing God.

But in the interval between surrender of materiality and the embrace of God, we feel pain. This is not just because the world tries to punish us for abandoning it. As Christians, we feel pain – we “pick up our cross” – because it is only through our pain that love knows where it must bring healing.

Even Jesus struggled with this:

Father, if it is possible, take this cup away from me.

Followed by the humiliating:

But not my will, but yours be done.

To avoid that pain, we choose to try to love ourselves. We pass judgment upon others. This one is fallen. That one is genetically inferior. All the -isms and -alities that divide us, and justify our reservation of our power for people like us.

In doing so, we make a grave error. The Most High loves all things, so in choosing not to love someone, we divorce ourselves from love.

The devil does not corrupt us. The devil only attempts to convince us to choose to reject love. He heaps pain upon the weak, and then whispers in our ear that God does not love us.

But if we lift our heads, the strong realize that in beating us down, Satan has loosened his grip on those around us. We receive their wonder and gratitude. We become meaningful. We become powerful.

Surrender your self. Be weak in the face of evil, and find strength in the Most High.

Slippery Slope

I’ve been home with a prostate infection, of all things, and so managed to get through all except the last two chapters of Judith Simmer-Brown’s Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. It’s been a difficult but enlightening read. I have some concerns with the methods of the path as she describes it.

First, though, the positive: Tibetan Buddhism has a deep model of the manifestation of sacred principles in the world. Simmer-Brown traces that through secret, inner, outer, and outer-outer manifestations.

I related the essence of the secret dakini in my last post. Prajnaparamita manifests as space, wisdom and knowledge. As she builds the lore, Simmer-Brown explains that possession of these qualities makes the feminine principle dominant in Tibetan Buddhism, for skillful means (the use of compassion to transform experience) is both inspired by and guided by them. The secret dakini can be neither visualized nor understood, only known.

The inner dakini manifests as the deity Vajrayogini. Vajrayogini confronts the practitioner with the fear of death, and transforms it into acceptance and freedom. As a deity in Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayogini is depicted in mandalas that define her relationship with the world. The most important elements in her depiction are the instruments of the charnel ground: skulls, flames and sharp implements. The logic of this depiction reflects the hazards of the sacred knowledge known to Tibetan practitioners. To advance, an acolyte must find a living guru that channels the sacred experience into the world, a yidam (devotional deity) to meditate upon, and a protector of the teachings that guides or violently transforms the personality to prevent corruption by residual grasping of the self.

The outer dakini mediates the transformation of the subtle energy system, similar to the system of prana or acupuncture. In Tibetan lore, all of our bodily functions are manifestations of energy flow through these channels. The central channel flows along the spine, but has two side channels that focus masculine and feminine tendencies. The goal of the practitioner is to merge the side channels into the central. In this process, the practitioner must cultivate relationships with twenty-four dakinis that originate the energies of the subtle body system. In a sense, the practitioner becomes a living mandala, and calls these energies into the world to create and transform experience.

The outer-outer dakini is the dakini in human form. In this section, Simmer-Brown celebrates the female figures in history that contributed to development of Tibetan wisdom. Here is where tantric sex comes to the fore, as well as validation of authority through esoteric action (magic). Both are cast in a positive light. Tantric sex is a method for mutual inspection and transmission of traits that facilitates personal growth. Magic is described as the means by which the physical infrastructure of the tradition is protected, including the bodies of practitioners meditating without food or shelter.

Through this summary, I hope that I reveal my respect for this tradition, whose richness and depth reflects a careful construction of interlocking elements that ensure the outcome of practice is compassionate engagement with all living beings.

However, I perceive certain issues.

First and most important is the conflation of space and mind. Mind existed long before this reality came into being, and is the realm of pure spirit to which we will return. Space exists in this realm only as a means to protect compassionate personalities from experiences more intense than they can mediate. To serve in this way, space was designed to capture and localize mind. Where that occurs, we find matter. This is the truth that Tibetan wisdom shares as the secret and outer dakinis.

Secondly we have the sense of privilege accorded to advanced practitioners. This manifests itself in the characterization of them as heroes rather than servants (the term used in Christianity) of humanity. The thanotic imagery of the inner dakini is particularly troubling. Death maintains the disintegration of spirit, something obvious in the description of the outer dakini. It’s adoption as a protector of privileged knowledge seems a dangerous compromise.

Personal privilege also seems evident in the rather sterile rendering of the relationship between tantric consorts. The gurus celebrate commitment, but not monogamy, each relationship broken off when the mutual benefits are exhausted.

This flies in the face of the most serious problem with the tradition. Simmer-Brown recounts that the assignment of a yidam (devotional deity) is driven by the tensions that exist in our lives. Meditation on the yidam resolves obstructions in the subtle energy system that manifest as perceptible heat in the body. Simmer-Brown refers to this in the title (warm breath), but never stops to wonder what tension is attendant to that heat.

Simmer-Brown gnaws at the bone of the problem throughout the book, defending Tibetan Buddhism against charges of patriarchy while postulating that its dominant spiritual forms arose from a prehistoric matriarchy. She decries the traps of feminine physicality that bring life into the world, seeing them as simultaneously a personal and cultural impediment to spiritual advancement.

This error is the cause of the warmth felt by those that meditate on Parjnaparamita, the secret dakini.

From the Christian perspective, the answer to this dilemma is obvious: all things are joined in love. Coitus is not necessary to transmission of masculine and feminine virtues, only love. Relationships persist because the love between the couple expands to include the society, and their shared experience is essential to greater service to humanity. And the dangers of esoteric knowledge are lessened because love – the source of all creative power – is unknown to those that would abuse its energies.

In patterning the female path to enlightenment on the masculine path, Tibetan Buddhism does women a terrible disservice. These are precious gifts: the ability to bring life into the world, the determination to preserve it, and the social rewards for their devotion. Any proclaimed feminine spirituality should provide practices that strengthen those gifts, rather than sacrificing them on the altar of death.

Contrast that with the promise of Spirit and his Bride:

“Come! And let all that hear say: ‘Come!’ Let all who desire come and drink of the free gift of the water of life.”

Considering the  filters and constraints of Tibetan Buddhism, this confidence is marvelous!