“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trinity Sunday

(Invite the children to join me).
“So, I have a riddle for you.”

“How do you make the number one disappear?”

“You add a 'G' to it, and it's 'Gone'”

“What kind of a bean can you not grow?”

“A jelly bean.”

“What goes up a stairs but does not move?”

“A carpet.”

“Can you help me understand
what it sounds like
to clap our hands together?” (clap, affirm their effort).

“Now can you help me
understand what it
sounds like to clap one hand?”

“Oh, now that is a
curious riddle isn't.

Thank you for helping me,
you can go sit down now.”

Asking the question,
“What is the sound
of one hand clapping?”
is a spiritual question
used by Zen Buddhist teachers
with their students.

Questions like this
are called “Koans.”

The intent of giving a student
a koan is to aide that student
in deepening
their spiritual awareness
and insight.

A koan is a question
which has no absolute answer,
although sometimes
the meaning is very simple.

For example
the meaning of,
What is the sound
of one hand clapping,
is silence.
It’s a koan
inviting the student
into silence.

But silence
can have all kinds
of meanings and intentions
for the person
entering into it.

Koans are like
a can-opener
for the Heart/Mind (kokoro).

They are like
a door-knocker,
they are of no use,
unless used properly
as a tool
to knock on the door
of one's Heart/Mind.

The only volition appropriate
in Koan work is
calling the question gently
but repeatedly to consciousness.

Do not waste any time
trying to figure the koan out.

Let it stretch your mind
through the questioning alone,
make no effort to solve it.

Any analysis is a waste of time.

Koans are a devilish instrument
because they deliberately tempt us
to make an interpretation,
explanation, imitation or analysis;
and yet,
it is only when we exhaust
or give up these lines of investigation
that a deeper level of inquiry
becomes possible.

Often when we are able
to admit in frustration
that we don't know anything,
can true koan practice begin.

All religions
have words of wisdom, koans.

In the Hebrew tradition
we find these
in the Book of Proverbs
and the Book of Ecclesiaticus.

In Christianity
we know it most fully
in the idea of the Trinity,
that confusing
and mind stretching concept
of one God,
three persons.

The early church
held council meetings
over the course of
about four hundred years
debating the nature of God,
the nature of Jesus,
and the nature of the Holy Spirit.

The debates were often fierce,
with one side winning
and one side losing,
sometimes
losing ones life
in the process.

People were called
heretics and shunned.
It was brutal.

But in the end
the debate
has left us with
the Nicene Creed
as the historical
statement of faith
that attempts
to articulate
what the church means
by one God,
three persons.

In reality
the nature of the Trinity
is like a koan –
not something
we can ever fully
understand
in concrete terms –

but a concept
that is intended
to say something
about the Christian understanding
of God
as a God of relationship.
As Christians
we are called
to enter into the
mystery of the Trinity
and allow it
to grow within,
shaping and forming
who we are
and how we
are in relationship
with ourselves,
with God,
and with others.

Not only
do we celebrate
the Trinity today,
and each year
on the Sunday
that follows Pentecost,
but this day
ushers in
the long season
of Ordinary Time.

From now
until the end of November
we celebrate
the ordinary circumstances
of daily life.

Our reading from Genesis
reminds us
that God created
all the world,
all of life,
in some manner,
and in some way –
perhaps not exactly
as Genesis suggests.

But God
is the source of all creation,
and in creating
all the world,
God also blesses
the world
and us.

And so our koan
for this time
might be
“God has blessed our lives,
and made them good.”

How might we
understand this truth,
even when life feels
like nothing but
pain and sorrow?

How is it
that in fact,
life
is blessed?