As the theme for YWM is 'new beginnings', I began contemplating the essence of what that means. There is a teaching in Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism I've heard from my teachers that shines light on the idea that we should never lose the connection to being as a child who has entered the temple for the first time. I understand this to mean it is healthy to maintain an awareness of the present moment; for our perceptions not to be profaned by the past or future, and to be free from concepts. I recall the bible speaking of a similar idea but do not recall the passage. Would you share that with us?
Your words bring to my mind a few different passages.
There was a time when Jesus' followers were arguing among themselves and came to Jesus to ask him which of them was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom. Dramatically he called a little child to him to get the attention of these men vying for power and he said:
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
On another occasion Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
On another he said “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
On another he said to a national leader and teacher of the law, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
One thing Jesus seems to be doing is lifting up the children as an example of humility, untainted by the pride of assuming you have figured it all out, and the presumption of being better than others.
He is also telling us to be open to learn, able to receive things with new eyes, a fresh view, and able to stand in awe. Awe is the sense of being in the presence of something much larger than one's self and one's ability to understand it fully. Some other characteristics of children that have been seen in these verses are innocence, vulnerability, dependence, and willingness to trust.
There are many other passages that point to the importance of awareness of the NOW. I had never before connected this idea of being fully aware of the present moment with these passages about children, but I think that there is something valuable to that connection. When we retain, or reclaim, a childlike curiosity, and an ability to be fascinated by what is right in front of us, right here and right now, our eyes are opened to see things that are hidden from dull and tired eyes, and hidden from eyes that are grasping for position of honor.
I think the phrase you used, ‘dull and tired eyes’, connects to what I am pointing to and to what you are pointing to. A dull mind is lethargic and becomes lazy to be awake. And being awake, or aware, is the only way to be in the present moment. The idea of grasping and vying for power, or attention, I would interpret as the ego-clinging of a person. In Buddhism all suffering comes from grasping, or holding on. It is understood that grasping is the energy of the ego’s desire to maintain a permanent state of the ‘I’. Because everything is impermanent, grasping onto anything will inevitably cause us to suffer.
Where we may differ are the characteristics of a child in relation to being in a state of the present moment. In Buddhist teachings, from my understanding, being as a child entering the temple is not suggesting one be vulnerable, dependent, or innocent. I digest the teaching as a lesson to be free from conceptual thought so as to allow the inherent light and wisdom from inside to be unblocked and thus, to be aware of reality just as it is without this concept or that concept to muddy the waters.
When I read the biblical passages I can easily see that Jesus is saying what the Buddhists are saying. However, I realize I am interpreting the passages from my view and could be layering meaning where none was meant to be.
I am enjoying these exchanges more each time we have them. They help me to open my “dull and tired eyes” and look at stories that have been so familiar to me, with new eyes of a child, and hearing the words with new ears. Your talk of “grasping” and “impermanence” reminds me of Solomon’s words about how everything in this world is like “vapor”. You can see it, but when you try to grab it, this is as futile as “chasing after the wind”. We must pursue that idea in a future edition of the blog.
Your Wondrous Mind
Conversations between two mindfulness teachers, one Christian the other a practitioner of Vajrayana Buddhism.