I searched for meaning in the existence of suffering, but I found none.
I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross and therein I found Him not.
I went into the ancient temples of idolatry; no trace of Him was there.
I entered the mountain cave of Hira and then went as far as Qandhar but God I found not.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Caucasus and found there only ‘anqa’s habitation.
Then I directed my search to the Kaaba, the resort of old and young; God was not there even.
Turning to philosophy I inquired about him from ibn Sina but found Him not within his range.
I fared then to the scene of the Prophet’s experience of a great divine manifestation only a “two bow-lengths’ distance from him” but God was not there even in that exalted court.
Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else.”
I understand the desire to find God, the tendency to search for meaning beyond what is in front of our faces. We want to understand the chaos. We want to make sense out of the tragedies and triumphs of life.
When Rumi is talking about God, as in the above quote, he is not talking about the wrathful and angry Abrahamic God, he is talking about the God that Jesus of Nazereth talked about — the God of Love.
It is not so far fetched to set aside the highly controversial term of “God” and stick with the idea of “Love”. The idea that empathy and compassion can replace the idea of religion.
I say, ‘You are gods; you are all children of the Most High.
What is the highest ideal that we hold? Selfless compassion. What is the lowest standard that we despise? Selfish narcissism. On our small planet we have saints and we have psychopaths. The mere reality of this absurd assemblage causes us all to question and wonder: Why is it this way?
The other day I had a revelation: If even one child is abused and suffers terribly, than there cannot be any such thing as the Abrahamic God of Justice. There is no justice in even one child dying at the hands of a psychopath, let alone the millions that died in the concentration camps in Auschwitz, or the thousands that die each day because of preventable causes.
“About 29,000 children under the age of five — 21 each minute — die every day, mainly from preventable causes. More than 70 per cent of almost 11 million child deaths every year are attributable to six causes: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth.”
The very startling fact that 21 children die each minute should be enough for us to question the existence of any type of Omniscient God that cares about us humans. If there was a God, apparently it would have to be unconcerned with the fate of thousands of literally innocent children every day.
I cannot accept that.
But that is not the real question. When Rumi searches for God, he finds God in his own heart. When Jesus tells us we are all gods, he is telling us that we have a divine agency like himself.
The problem is that when you parse out phrases that include the words “divine agency” or “god” you generally find them indicating a “higher power”, when in reality the highest power that we have is our own agency.
How does that jibe with the reality that sometimes it feels like we are working with the universe rather than against it? Christians call that Grace.
“The word ‘grace’ literally means ‘favour’ In Hebrew it is CHEN from a root word CHANAN — to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior.”
So Grace then can be seen as teh practice of bowing to the divine within the world, and to the divine within eachother. I have written recently about the idea that bowing is the ultimate path to empathy and compassion. Here is a selection:
“Love is the bridge between you and everything.”
We can calculate everything to a precise degree but we cannot calculate love.
There is only one thing that transcends the absurdity of reason and that is love — but the word “love” remains an absurdity until we truly know it.
Love is the ties that bind us together, love is the thread that weaves the universe together into the fabric that we can see.
Love is the connection between all sentient beings , all feeling creatures — we are all the same: we all experience suffering and seek joy. We all live and die.
But why, but why, the philosophers cry?
There is no “Why”. To question why is absurd in itself. There is no “reason” to ask nonsense questions. There is no meaning to living a life without love, and to love we have to open up to the realities of all other beings.
Bowing is a very serious practice. You should be prepared to bow, even in your last moment. Even though it is impossible to get rid of our self-centered desires, we have to do it. Our true nature wants us to.
-Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Master
What if we simply learned how to bow to each other?
The word “Namaste” echoes across yoga rooms all over the planet. Perhaps it is the most important word that we can utter.
This is what it means:
“The divine in me bows to the divine in you.”
We live in a culture that does not value bowing. It makes us think or feel that we are not powerful, that we are weak. But in reality, the bow is the ultimate conference of our shared plight on this planet. We bow to say “Hello, we are both the same, and our fate is the same.” We bow to acknowledge that all things deserve the same respect as ourselves.
When we wake up we should bow to the world. When we go to sleep we should bow to our beds and our partners. When we eat we should bow to our food. When we work we should bow to our tools. When we do anything, we should do that thing with reverence and respect, as well as understanding that all work is equal.
Before we speak, we should bow. Before we write, we should bow.
Before we create or destroy we should bow.
When we care about something more than we care about ourselves, and when we bow to it, that is when we start to find God.
What about those 21 children that die each minute of diarrhea and malaria? What about those children that are separated from their mothers at the border and detained in child concentration camps? What about that one child that suffers at the hand of a psychopath? How do we reconcile this with any concept of a God of Love?
We don’t want to feel that reality. So we look to an idea of a higher power, a God of Justice, for relief. But instead of looking away and up toward the heavens, and becoming distracted with thoughts of heaven and hell, we should bow to those children that suffer. We should bow to the divine which is in them, that we also share in our own suffering and our transcendent moments.
And then we should fucking do something about it.