the embodiment of love

If we wish to use our life to benefit the world,
then we must become of the world.
– Barry Briggs, ‘Generosity and Transparency

Every year, at this time of year, I am re-drawn to, and re-connect with, the religious tradition of my personal and cultural heritage. I am glad of it and I welcome this amazing time to learn from others, because there is so much good stuff in Christianity that I can draw from and which can enliven my Buddhist practice, especially in the central Christmas image of the Nativity.

Because Buddhas are born kings, in palaces, sheltered from suffering, wheras Bodhisattvas, those beings that embody Love and Compassion, can take on any form. Bodhisattvas are closer to us, we can imagine them as shepherds or carpenters, with dirty robes and work-hardened hands, or as a baby born in the toughest of circumstances come to show us how to live.

I went to a carol service this week at the small Anglican church here in Bangkok, and in one of the teachings someone quoted a passage from a writer called Max Lucado setting the Nativity scene, which I later looked up. Lucado writes: “The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce.”

The beauty of the Christian message is, for me, this very real embodiment of the otherwise abstact notions of Wisdom and Compassion. How else are we to understand these ideas if not in our very lives? Jesus’ birth represents the unfailing possibility of love, kindness, and understanding right where we are. It’s always here, we simply have to wake up. As Max Lucando writes, “Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.”

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth
And by greed and pride the sky is torn –
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
 – Madeleine L’Engle

Happy Christmas to all you Christians, to all you Buddhists, to all you Bodhisattvas (and that’s all of you) everywhere!
– From everyone at Wake Up and Laugh!

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Links:
Barry Briggs: Generosity and Transparency
Max Lucado: God Came Near

Picture:
The gorgeous image used here, with permission, is by the artist and Pastor John Stuart. His amazing art blog is well worth checking out: http://stushieart.wordpress.com/

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4 thoughts on “the embodiment of love”

  1. Nice reminder, Marcus. Thanks. I grew up in a home where there really was no religion practiced yet because of the culture we always celebrated Christmas. It was more about pausing, being together as a family, appreciating good food and practicing a little generosity and kindness. Christmas is still about these things for me but it is nice to be reminded of its true spiritual origin.

  2. “The beauty of the Christian message is, for me, this very real embodiment of the otherwise abstact notions of Wisdom and Compassion. How else are we to understand these ideas if not in our very lives? Jesus’ birth represents the unfailing possibility of love, kindness, and understanding right where we are.”

    Some of the Pentacostal types here in Korea really come down hard on Buddhism, and will cite Christ, but invariably they cite instances when he was addressing other Jews. Whenever he dealt with people of other religions, he was incredibly compassionate.

    In reading more about how people thought at the time, and what they believed, it was interesting for me to discover what a huge upgrade in thought and behavior Jesus’ teachings were. I think that’s part of the reason they spread so quickly in the region.

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