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Meditations on Mercy

Be merciful, therefore, even as your Father is merciful.  Do not judge, and you shall not be judged; do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive and you shall be forgiven; give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they pour into your lap.  For with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you.

Luke 6:36-38

At the beginning of time the entire universe was compressed into a singularity.  Everything was intimately unified.  This was the garden of Eden where God and man lived together without shame and God and man (and the garden) were one.  But within this singularity there was an impulse to separate, to experience individuality.  Call this impulse the serpent.  In order for the serpent to affect its desire it had to convince more of the singularity to join in with it.  So it tricked Eve to eat of the Tree of Life.  She did and convinced Adam to eat of it also.  Their eyes were opened, they became ashamed and covered their genitals with fig leaves and they hid from God.  The singularity exploded.  This was the Big Bang.  The universe expanded at an accelerating rate.  There was separation but it was no longer perfect.

And so we now find ourselves on this Earth at this unique point in time.  We are all a piece of God from that original singularity.  Some of us are more aware of this than others.  We all possess a nostalgic yearning to return in some fashion.  Again, some more than others.  And even ourselves are divided.  There is the part of the mind that wants pleasure, and safety and wealth and power.  There is the part of the mind that tells us not to give into those desires.  There is the part of the mind that observes these other two parts and is aware of itself when it does not sleep.   Perhaps it is this last part of the mind where the nostalgic yearning resides.

I have found that judgment goes both ways.  If I judge other people it was because I was judged by others and I judge myself with constant criticism.  But if I learn to be merciful to myself I can begin to be merciful to others.  This does not happen all at once.  But with effort and mercy from others it slowly begins to happen.  And the acceleration of the universal expansion begins to slow.  And mercy and forgiveness beget more mercy and forgiveness measure for measure.

Because even in this state, within this seemingly infinite expansion of the universe the totality of all that comprised that initial singularity exists.  That is God.  We are each a cell of organism called God.  From the perspective of one cell, the entire organism is a mystery.  And yet each cell contains a strand of DNA which in turn contains the blueprint for the entire organism.  How much more vast is the seemingly infinite universe than a seemingly finite organism?  How much vaster and incomprehensible is the mystery?

If God is love then it is God that binds us together both with others and ourselves.  Love, the binding agent, is the recognition of the self in others.  It is the flashing memory of the singularity before the separation.  This is why you must forgive the other and forgive yourself.  This is also why when you forgive yourself and you forgive others, the others forgive you and themselves.

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The Universe is Solipsistic

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion,...

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, 16th century image from Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is an idea I have about the nature of the universe.  The idea is that the universe is solipsistic in that there is one mind and we as individuals experience an illusion of separateness.  All consciousness comes from the same source.  Perhaps there was some event like the Big Bang that set the illusion of separation into motion.  This is not such an original idea,  however, I think the way I approach it is a little different than anything else I have heard or read.

I got the idea in law school reading hand written criminal appeals written by uneducated murderers.  It occurred to me that the criminal would do anything he could to get out of prison.  He would research the law and hand write a complex legal document.  Even if he knew he was guilty he had infinite compassion for himself — because he was himself.  When we look at murders in prison we probably think they should be there.  But if you or I were the murder we would want our freedom.  Why?  Because on some level we all have infinite compassion for ourselves.  This is not to say that we are never self critical, but rather to illustrate that underneath the self criticism there sits a place of self compassion.

According to this model, to the extent we have compassion for others it is because we recognize ourselves (the universal solipsistic mind) in the other person.  We see ourselves quite strongly in our children (for obvious reasons) and therefore have more compassion for them than strangers.  The same is true for family members, fellow countrymen, teammates and friends we associate with.

In this model the forces of evil in the world attempt to perpetuate the separation through judgement, shame and perhaps even the concept of altruism.  When we judge a person we say we are better than them and we separate ourselves from them.  When we shame a person we make them feel inferior and separate.  The same holds when we judge ourselves.  We then become separate from ourselves.  This really is the ultimate illusion.  We can see that we are one whole and yet when we judge ourselves we act and feel as if this is not the case.  The same is true (according to this model) for the universe as a whole.

Now, one might argue that this view of compassion is actually selfishness and that it is morally superior to have compassion for a complete stranger unconnected to ourselves for other reasons rather than having compassion for someone because you recognize yourself in them.  This is altruism.  But I suspect this point of view comes from a place of shame.  It is judgmental and attempts to separate those who love themselves from those who think the purest form of love can only be directed to another person.  Anything else is selfishness and selfishness is by that altruistic definition bad.  But if the universe is solipsistic then the love of the self is the actually the highest good and altruism is an illusion of separateness.

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