Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Presence of God

One thing I've noticed about the nature of mind is that it likes variety.  It wants to keep experiencing different things, never quite content with what it has.  Always moving from one thing to the next, it is rare to have a moment of pure presence. 

Let us think a moment about the Western idea of God.  In a sense, God is the perfect being.  All present, all knowing, God simply rests in the moment.  The classic western idea of God is as this great being who we turn to to change things, to make them better.  A Holy Santa Claus waiting to grant wishes on the deserving.

When I was younger, I had an incredibly powerful experience of God.  God was not, as I had been led to believe, a person, but rather a presence.  A constant, steady, unyielding presence.  This was not a God of wishes and miracles, but a God of being.  I knew instantly that this was the true God of the mystics. 

Strange as it may seem, the true name of God implies this.  In Exodus, Moses asks God his name, so that he can tell the others.  God says his name is I AM.  In Hebrew, the sense is I Am, I was, and I will be, a sense of being that transcends all time.  Of course, the people, unsatisfied with this God of presence, constantly turn to man-made idols to worship.  They wanted a god they could see and talk to. 

A true mystic seeks to become like God.  It is taught in Western religions that all humans have a spark of the divine within, a godlike part of them.  Most people, in an idolatrous fashion, imagine some sort of subtle soul.  Yet to me, this spark of God is actually our inner presence.  This presence is formless yet existent, a complete paradox.

The idea of God will lead to different forms of religion.  If you imagine God as a powerful judge, then the religion will be narrow and judgmental.  If you imagine God as love, then religion will be one devoted to compassion and service.  The God of presence, however, neither judges nor serves.  The God of presence simply Is, and Is available always to those who seek Him.

How, then, to be like God?  Develop a sense of presence that is open and aware.  God does not interfere with our everyday lives.  God does not seek to destroy or suppress people.  Likewise, we should not seek to destroy or suppress our inner thoughts and energies, but rather bring a sense of presence to them.  This presence, in itself, is transformative.  Like the Tao, it does nothing yet leaves no thing undone.  

In the words of a Tibetan Buddhist, Jamgon Kantrul Rinpoche:

With constant, vigilant mindfulness, sustain this recognition of empty, open, brilliant awareness.
Cultivate nothing else.
There is nothing else to do, or to undo.
Let it remain naturally.
Don't spoil it by manipulating, by controlling, by tampering with it, and worrying about whether you are right or wrong, or having a good meditation or a bad meditation.
Leave it as it is, and rest your weary heart and mind.

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